When it comes to 3D printing, there are a variety of steps that can be taken to help improve the quality of its performance.
From making sure there’s enough ink to following online tutorials, though it can seem daunting, learning the ropes of a 3D printer will change your experience for the better.
One of the best ways to improve your 3D printing skills is by ensuring that you have the correct retraction length.
Though this is a factor that all too often goes easily overlooked by many, the right retraction length is often the difference between poor print quality and exceptional, so it’s important to get right.
How do you achieve the correct retraction speed and length, though? If this is a question you’ve been asking yourself recently, rest assured that you’re in the right place.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about retraction length and speed settings, so you can take your 3D printing skills to the next level. Read on!
What is Retraction in 3D Printing?
Whether you’re new to the world of 3D printing or not, at some point or another, you’re bound to come across a variety of confusing technical terms, ‘retraction’ being one of them! Don’t stress it, though, because the definition of retraction is actually pretty simple.
In a nutshell, retraction is a feature that is found most commonly within 3D printers in order to help optimize the amount of filament that the printer’s nozzle releases, as well as the speed that the nozzle is capable of recoiling itself while in operation.
The reason that this function has been named ‘retraction’ is that it is able to retract any and all unwanted/excess filament from the nozzle, in order to optimize the printing process quality of the print. Let’s unpack the differences between retraction distance and speed:
- Retraction Distance
Retraction distance is essentially the length at which the filament will be released from the 3D printer’s nozzle.
It is very important that the retraction distance is accurate because if the retraction distance is too short or long, it can cause printing issues, such as inaccurate dimensions or distortion to the design.
When correct, the distance set will ensure that the printer’s operating system will be able to correctly release the correct amount of filament at the specified length, all while ensuring that there is no stringing.
As a general rule of thumb, it is widely considered within the 3D printing industry that the best results come from a retraction distance of between 2mm to 7mm and that it should never be more than the length of the printing nozzle.
If you’re just setting up or aren’t confident that you can set the correct length yourself, we recommend gently toggling the distance, increasing and decreasing it slightly until you find that you achieve the most accurate length.
Additionally, you should also be aware that the filament you use will greatly affect the length/distance required.
- Retraction Speed
Retraction speed works in conjunction with the retraction distance and is the speed at which the filament will be able to be extracted from the 3D printer.
Just like how the retraction distance needs to be correct in order for the printer to work, the speed also needs to be correct to achieve the best results.
For instance, if the retraction speed is set at too low a rate, then it’s possible that the filament could begin to leak from the nozzle before it is supposed to, causing the printed design to be imperfect.
In contrast, if the retraction speed rate is set too high, then it could mean that the extruder motor will on to the next step faster than the other working components, causing the filament to be released after a short delay.
To carry on, another way that the wrong retraction speed can negatively affect the printer is by causing the filament to get ground up. This most commonly happens when the speed is set too high, causing the retraction to create too much rotation.
Luckily, more often than not the default speed settings that your printer has should work just fine. However, as we mentioned above, you may need to adjust the speed settings according to the type of filament that you are using.
Why is Retraction Important?
Retraction is especially important in 3D printing because it helps to keep the quality of the finished print pristine.
The way that it is able to achieve this is by helping to prevent any unwanted filament from leaking out of the printer nozzle, as well as stringing, which is something that occurs when excess filament affects the design dimensions, causing the finished print to look distorted.
In this way, retraction also helps to stop any excess ink from leaking out of the printer’s nozzle and making a mess.
Additionally, the function of retraction also helps to stop any stringing by effectively ‘pulling’ back any excess filament, so that it cannot be released.
It is also able to prevent any melted or partially melted filament from exiting the nozzle, to ensure that the finished print result stays perfect.
In contrast, if you use incorrect retraction settings, it can bring about a variety of negative results, such as a clogged nozzle, or being unable to release any filament at all.
How do you get the best retraction length and speed settings?
So, this brings us on to the most important bit of our guide: how to achieve the best retraction length and speed!
Let’s take a look at two simple ways that you can get the best retraction length and speed for you, regardless of your level of experience:
As you start to use your 3D printer more and more, you’ll probably notice yourself starting to use different kinds of filament for different reasons.
In turn, you’ll also begin to notice that you’ll need to adjust the retraction settings, depending on which type of filament you have decided to use.
Therefore, every time you need to change over your filament, you should be sure to double-check the retraction settings and then recalibrate it to suit the particular filament type.
In addition to this, if you find that you are encountering any problems even after adjusting your retraction settings, then you may need to consider repurchasing a more flexible type of filament, as these kinds are known for working very well across multiple retractions speeds and lengths, as compared to others.
Another way to achieve the perfect retraction speed and length is through trial and error.
Like we’ve mentioned above, as picking the right retraction speed can be so tricky and dependent on a number of factions, you’ll likely find that the most effective way to get the best speed and length is simply by tweaking the settings until you are totally satisfied with the way that the printer is performing.
Start off by switching your 3D printer on. Then, go to the settings and begin carefully tweaking the speed and length settings, pausing to print a design in-between each setting change.
Keep repeating this until you have reached the desired printing result, and you are totally happy with the way that your prints are coming out.
How do retraction settings improve 3D printing?
One of the most important problems that a 3D printer will fix is stringing, which is the most common issue all 3D printer owners face.
Just to recap, stringing is when excess filament accidentally leaks out of the top of the printer nozzle, causing it to spill onto the printed design and surrounding area, making a mess and potentially ruining the print. This is caused when a print has filament captured between two printing points.
As they’re between printing points, it can cause the print’s finished look to appear distorted and imperfect, which will not only mean you’ll have to re-print but that you’ll have wasted the product, too.
However, when retraction settings are correct, you will not have to worry about this occurring, which is why it’s such an important feature.
Additionally, retraction is also important because it will help to speed up the printing process, ensure consistency across all designs and help you to achieve professional-level prints that you can be truly proud of.
So, there we have it! Now you know all there is to know about retraction length and speed, and why it’s fundamental to the smooth running of your 3D printer.
Remember, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or expert, it’s likely going to take you a little trial and error to get your printer to the best retraction settings, so keep that in mind when you try it out for yourself.
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