No matter what 3D printer you buy, or how good it is supposed to be, Z banding or ribbing is something that you will almost always experience.
It is an issue that most 3D printers will encounter at some point in their lives and it is annoying. It’s a little issue, but something that can make the end result of your printing incredibly frustrating.
There is nothing more annoying than waiting a lengthy period for your 3D printing to be complete, only to remove it from the machine to find it covered in Z banding.
It can sometimes take a long time for 3D printings to print, and even more frustratingly, the materials are often expensive. So when something goes wrong it really does make you mad.
When this happens, it is easy to ask ‘are there any easy solutions to this?’, but a lot of people forget the problem soon after it has happened. That is until they go to use their 3D printer again and the same problem occurs.
If you are one of those people who simply do not have the time to research fixing this common issue, we’re here to help.
We’ve completed in-depth research into Z ribbing and banding in 3D printing to find 5 easy solutions to this issue. So next time your printer has this problem, follow this guide to find out how to fix it.
What is Z banding in 3D printing?
If you are new to owning a 3D printer then you may be lucky enough to have yet experienced Z banding in your prints.
There are a lot of common issues which 3D printers experience and Z banding are very high up on the list. Just like all other problems that you might encounter with your 3D printer, Z banding is also named after what it looks like.
This means that you can easily identify if your print work has been a victim of Z banding as it will take on an appearance as if multiple horizontal bands have been placed around the finished product, leaving it with lines that damage the picture-perfect finish.
Unlike some other issues with 3D printing, Z banding is easy to diagnose because of this reason. Just like with any issue, some experiences of Z banding will be more severe than others with some printings being coated with deep dark dents, while others just have slight lines covering them.
Some people don’t mind Z banding, after all, in some print works, it can add more character to it and give it a fun finish. But more often than not, Z banding is a major inconvenience.
In most cases, it will ruin the finish of your work and give it an unprofessional appearance. As well as this, Z banding can also damage the structural integrity of the print work and make the structure weak and more prone to breaking.
So as you have probably guessed, Z banding isn’t ideal. This is why when it begins to concern it is usually a cause for concern for most people.
But there’s no need to worry because there are some easy ways that you can fix this problem. Before we look at that though, let’s have a look at what causes Z banding.
What Causes Z Banding?
So you know what Z Banding is now, but what is it that causes it? This issue is commonly caused by a couple of main issues in your 3D printer, and all of these issues link directly with what you do to fix it, so we’ll take a deeper look at what they are later on.
But just briefly, these issues commonly are:
- Instability in the Z-Axis Rod
- Microstepping in Stepper Motor
- Temperature Fluctuations in the Printer Bed
- Poor Alignment of the Z-Axis
Fixing all of these issues revolve around having a good and solid understanding of what these problems are.
So, to help you fix these issues with your 3D printer let’s take a further look at what they are and how you can correct them to solve the Z banding problem with your 3D prints.
Ways to Fix Z Banding in your 3D Prints
There are lots of different ways with which you can fix Z banding in your prints, some of these are more effective than others, and some methods simply do not work.
From the range of different possible solutions, there are 5 main options that we recommend as these tend to be the most successful in fixing this issue.
These methods include:
- Stabilizing the Z-axis Rod
- Correctly aligning the Z-axis
- Stabilizing the Bearings and Rails
- Enabling a Consistent Bed Temperature
- Using Half or Full Step Layer Heights
To identify which fixing method is best then you need to look at the Z banding on your prints.
If the banding is uniform throughout then the issue probably lies in heights or temperature, whereas if the banding layers shift then the issue might be down to stability.
Looking at this gives you a better idea of which methods might be more effective, but there’s no harm in looking at all of these methods to ensure that your 3D printer is working perfectly.
Method One: Stabilize the Z-Axis Rod
One common cause of Z-banding is the shaft of the printer not being straight as this can cause the shaft to wobble which can then cause inconsistencies in your printings.
To figure out if this is a possible cause, you need to pay particular attention to the Z-axis as this is what can cause the shaft to become unstable.
To check the stability of the Z-axis rod, you need to check the bearings. The rods on the Z-axis have great potential to be unstraight which can also lead to inconsistencies in your printings.
This combined with the wonky shaft can cause layers in your print work to become misaligned which in turn causes the Z-banding that you are experiencing in your finished product. So it is clear how important these non-straight rods on the Z-axis are in causing Z-banding.
To fix this issue you need to replace all of the ineffective rails and the bearings which are causing the rods to become unstraight.
For the best results, we would recommend replacing these rails and bearings with top-quality bearings and hardened rails as these are a lot more durable and should promise no Z-bearing in your printings for a longer period than other options.
When doing this, you should also be trying to get an equal angle on both sides of the shaft to minimize the risk of this becoming unstable, and limit the risk of Z-banding as much as possible.
Method Two: Correctly Align the Z-Axis
As well as stabilizing the Z-Rods, another good way to remove Z-banding from your work is to correctly align the Z-axis. This all revolves around the Z-carriage bracket and the manufacturing process that this component went through.
If the bracket was poorly manufactured then it might not be square enough to do the job perfectly, in which case it can cause Z-banding in your printings.
Ironically, correcting this issue in your printer actually involves using your printer to do the job. The good thing about 3D printers is that they can be used to print lots of different things, stepper mounts included.
You should use the internet to search for a stepper mount appropriate for your printer and use your printer to create this stepper mount.
Once it is produced you can connect it to your printer’s Z-axis, along with a flexible coupler and this will correct the alignment issues that you have been experiencing.
With this corrected, the components of your printer will be under less stress when you set something to print, allowing the drive parts and motor to do their job.
Now that the alignment has also been sorted, your printer will be able to complete the job without any wobbling, ensuring that the finished product encounters no Z-banding and that it has a perfect finish.
Method Three: Stabilize the Bearings and Rails
Earlier on we spoke about replacing the bearings and rods on the Z-axis near the shaft of your printer as a possible way to fix Z-banding.
The next solution that we are looking at includes stabilizing the bearings and rails on the other axis in the printer and the print bed to correct the Z-banding issue.
Even though Z-banding is called ‘Z-banding’, the Y-axis of the printer can actually cause this to occur too. So when you look at solving this problem, you mustn’t focus all of your energy on the Z-axis.
To check the Y-axis components of your printer, you should begin by giving it a wiggle test. This includes grabbing hold of the hotend in your printer and wiggling it to assess the level of movement that you get in return.
It is normal to get a small amount of movement when you wiggle the hotend, especially if you shake it with any force. But it is not normal for you to get a large amount of movement from the hotend, especially if you get a lot of movement when you use barely any force to shake it.
You should also complete the same test on the print bed, and the same principle of movement applies. If you notice any large amount of movement in either the hotend or the print bed, then you should tighten the bearings so that they are in better alignment. This is a completely technological-free fix, with no firmware updates needed.
Depending on the type of 3D printer that you own, this can actually be incredibly effective in solving the problem of Z-banding in your print work. So it is always a good idea to try this out if you are experiencing an issue with Z-banding.
Method Four: Enable a Consistent Bed Temperature
Another way to solve Z-banding in your 3D printer is to enable a consistent bed temperature. A common cause of Z-banding is fluctuating temperatures in your printer bed, so this is an easy way to solve the problem.
It is also easy to identify if this is the cause of the issue by printing with adhesives or on paint that does not require the heated bed as part of the process. If you experience no Z-banding when the printer bed is not being used, then the issue must lie in this area of your printer.
Your printer bed completes two processes: PID bed-heating and Bang-Bang bed heating. In PID bed-heating the heat of the bed is regulated through software and there is no possibility of huge heat fluctuations as it is always monitored. But in Bang-Bang heating your printer bed will heat up to the desired temperature then simply stop heating up.
As soon as it stops heating, the temperature of the printer bed will begin to cool and will continue to cool until it reaches a designated temperature at which the heating process will restart until it hits the desired temperature once more. So in Bang-Bang heating, the printer bed is in constant fluctuation.
One way to prevent Z-banding caused by inconsistent temperatures is to use PID bed-heating rather than Bang-Bang heating. There are some obvious benefits of Bang-Bang heating, but depending on the piece of work that you are trying to print, this might not be the most appropriate type.
So to avoid Z-banding, we would recommend researching what you are printing and using the appropriate type of bed-heating to ensure that the bed remains at a consistent temperature throughout the printing process.
Method Five: Use Half or Full Step Layer Heights
Finally, you can solve your Z-banding problem by altering the layers that you choose for your printing.
If you choose incorrect heights of layer in comparison to the Z-axis of your 3D printer, then this can cause Z-banding to occur. This is an easy error to make and is very common when you are first using a new type of printer.
One of the key things to remember when it comes to Z-banding is that it is more likely to be obvious when the thing that you are printing is made with smaller or thinner layers.
This can be compounded when incorrect microstepping values are used, and when this happens it can make it trickier to solve the Z-banding problem.
To solve Z-banding using this solution, you have to understand how precision motors operate. These devices work in rotations within the 3D printing to produce the finished article that you receive.
Every single movement made by every single motor is very specific, so even if these movements are minimally wrong, it can make a huge difference to your printing.
This is why a lot of issues with Z-banding tend to occur on smaller and thinner printings as these motors have to move incredibly intricately. This requires the motors to use a movement method known as micro-stepping which can, ironically, cause the movements to become less precise.
So to solve the Z-banding issue in your 3D printer caused by this, you can choose to only use either half or full values when printing. This will remove the risk of micro-stepping and will ensure that your printings will be more precise, with no Z-banding involved.
Other Options to Consider
If all of these methods have not fixed the issue of Z-banding in your 3D printer then there really is no need to worry.
These are the most efficient methods for solving the problem, but you do have some other options if these do not work.
These methods include:
- Checking for any cold drafts that could be impacting your printer’s ability
- Putting corrugated cardboard underneath the printer bed
- Increasing the minimum layer for cooling issues
- Changing filament brands to a different company
- Greasing your printer’s internal components to make it smoother
- Decoupling the smooth rods from the threaded rods
- Checking for any loose screws or bolts inside of the printer, and tightening them when necessary
- Securing the printer bed in the correct place using paper clips
All of these methods do seem quite strange and compared to the other methods we have looked at they are quite straightforward. But even though they appear slightly off, they are actually incredibly effective in solving the Z-banding issue that your printer is experiencing so it is definitely worth giving them a try.
In short, in this guide, we’ve told you absolutely everything that you need to know about Z-banding issues in your printer including what they are, why they happen, and how to fix them.
So if you are experiencing this issue, check out this guide to find out how to fix it.