Getting the perfect first layer squish is important for 3D printing success, so I decided to write an article about how to get this done, along with the best Cura settings.
To get a perfect first layer squish, you must first make sure you have a clean and well-leveled print bed. This makes it easier for the first layer to stick correctly to the print bed. You’ll also have to modify the first layer settings in the slicer to their optimal values.
Keep on reading for more information to get the perfect first layer squish.
How to Get the Perfect First Layer Squish – Ender 3 & More
To get the perfect first layer squish, you must get your hardware and software settings just right.
Here’s how to get the perfect first layer squish:
- Level The Print Bed
- Clean Your Print Bed
- Use Adhesives
- Optimize Your Print Settings
- Advanced Settings For The First Layer
Level The Print Bed
A level bed is the most important key to laying down a perfect first layer. If the bed isn’t level all the way around, you’ll have varying squish levels, leading to a poor first layer.
This user provided a great visual of how different nozzle distances affect the first layer.
You can see the way the poorly leveled sections produce substandard first layers.
Here’s how you can level your Ender 3 bed properly using the YouTuber CHEP’s method:
Step 1: Download the Bed Leveling Files
- CHEP has custom files you can use to level an Ender 3 bed. Download the files from this Thingiverse link.
- Unzip the files and load them on your 3D printer’s SD card or slice the Squares STL file
Step 2: Level Your Print Bed with a Piece of Paper
- Select the Ender_3_Bed_Level.gcode file on your printer’s interface.
- Wait for the print bed to heat up to compensate for thermal expansion.
- The nozzle will automatically move to the first bed leveling location.
- Place a piece of paper under the nozzle and turn the bed screws at that location until the nozzle drags slightly on the piece of paper.
- You should still be able to pull the paper out easily from under the nozzle.
- Next, press the dial to go to the next bed leveling location.
- Repeat the leveling process at all corners and the center of the plate.
Note: For more accurate leveling, you can use feeler gauges instead of paper to level the bed. This Steel Feeler Gauge is a favorite in the 3D printing community.
It has 0.10, 0.15, and 0.20mm feeler gauges that you can use to accurately level your Ender 3 printer. It’s also made from a hardy alloy that enables it to resist corrosion quite well.
Many users have mentioned that once they started using this to level their 3D printer, they never went back to other methods. Make sure to wipe off any oil that they use to reduce the gauges from sticking since it can affect the bed adhesion.
Step 3: Live-Level Your Print Bed
Live leveling helps fine-tune your bed level after using paper methods. Here’s how to activate it:
- Download the live leveling file and load it up on your printer.
- As the printer starts laying down filament in a spiral, try and smudge the filament slightly with your fingers.
- If it comes off, then the squish isn’t perfect. You might want to adjust the bed screws at that corner until it properly adheres to the print bed.
- If the lines aren’t that clear or they are thin, then you need to back the printer off from the print bed.
- Repeat the process until you have clear, defined lines sticking correctly to the print bed.
Clean Your Print Bed
Your print bed must be squeaky clean for the first layer to adhere to it perfectly without lifting. If there is any dirt, oil, or leftover residue on the bed, you’ll see it in the first layer as it won’t stick correctly to the plate.
If your print bed is detachable, most users suggest cleaning it with dish soap and warm water. After cleaning it, dry the bed properly before printing on it.
If it’s not, you can wipe it down with isopropyl alcohol to eliminate any stubborn stains or residue on the plate. Make sure you use at least 70% concentrated IPA to wipe down the print bed.
You can use a lint-free microfiber cloth or some paper towels to wipe the bed.
When wiping down the print bed, using a lint-free cloth like microfiber is important. Other fabrics can leave lint residue on the build plate, making it unsuitable for printing. A great fabric you can use for cleaning is the USANooks Microfiber Cloth.
It’s made of absorbent, top-quality materials that won’t leave lint on your print bed.
It’s also quite soft, meaning it won’t scratch or damage the top coating of your print bed while cleaning it.
Note: Try not to touch the build plate with your bare hands after washing or cleaning it. This is because your hands contain oils that can interfere with the adhesion of the build plate.
So, even if you must touch it, it’s advisable to wear gloves. You can use these Nitrile Gloves to avoid leaving oil on the bed.
You can check out this video from Tomb of 3D Printer Horrors on how you can wipe down your bed with alcohol.
The print needs to adhere correctly to the print bed to create a perfect squish for the first layer. Most times, print beds are made out of certain materials that offer great print adhesion, like PEI, Glass, etc.
However, these materials can age, get scratched, or wear out, leading to poor print adhesion. To fix this, you can add a coating of adhesive to your print bed to help it stick better.
Here are some of the more popular adhesive options available:
- Glue Sticks
- Special Adhesive
- Blue Painter’s
You can use glue sticks to coat the print bed to increase the build plate adhesion. They are a popular option because they are easy to apply to the print bed.
Make sure you cover every print bed area with a light coating. One of the best glue sticks you can use for 3D printing is Elmer’s Disappearing Purple School Glue Sticks.
It works perfectly with a wide variety of bed materials and filaments. It is also quick drying, odorless, and water-soluble, meaning it is easy to clean.
One special adhesive you can use for 3D printing is the Layerneer Bed Weld Glue. The entire product is designed for the purpose of 3D printing, so it performs great with all types of materials.
The Bed Weld Glue even comes with a special applicator that makes it easy to apply an optimal glue coat to the bed. Furthermore, it is water-soluble and non-toxic, making it easy to clean off from the bed.
Blue Painter’s Tape
Painter’s tape is another excellent option for increasing your build plate’s adhesion. It covers your entire print bed and provides a sticky surface for printing. It’s also relatively easy to clean and replace compared to other adhesives.
Be careful when buying printer tape, as substandard brands can curl up from the plate once it’s heated. A great quality tape you can use is the 3M Scotch Blue Tape.
It sticks well to the print bed, and many users report that it stays securely in place even at high bed temperatures. It also comes off quite cleanly, leaving no sticky residue on the bed.
Hairspray is one household you can use in a pinch to make your prints stick better to the bed. Many users prefer it because it is easier to get a more even coat over the bed when applying it.
This user was getting warped corners due to an uneven build plate adhesion across the print bed. After using hairspray, all the corners stayed down perfectly. It’s advised to apply it every few prints and clean it regularly so it doesn’t build up.
Optimize Your Print Settings
The print settings are the final factors you must take care of to get a perfect first layer. Slicers usually take care of this part when you slice the model.
However, there are a few basic settings that you can tweak to get a better first layer.
- Initial Layer Height
- Initial Line Width
- Initial Layer Flow
- Build Plate Temperature Initial Layer
- Initial Layer Print Speed
- Initial Fan Speed
- Build Plate Adhesion Type
Initial Layer Height
The initial layer height sets the height of the printer’s first layer. Most people print it thicker than other layers to ensure it sticks better to the print bed.
However, some people recommend against changing it. Once you level your bed properly, you do not need to change the layer height.
However, if you want a stronger first layer, you can increase it by up to 40%. Just ensure you do not raise it to the point where you begin to experience elephant’s foot on your prints.
Initial Line Width
The initial line width setting makes the lines in the first layer thinner or wider by a set percentage. By default, it is set to 100%.
However, if you’re having trouble getting the first layer to stick to the build plate, you can increase it to 115 – 125%.
This will give the first layer a better grip on the build plate.
Initial Layer Flow
The Initial Layer Flow setting controls the amount of filament the 3D printer pumps out for printing the first layer. You can use this setting to increase the flow rate at which the printer prints the first layer, independent of other layers.
If you’re having problems with under-extrusion or build plate adhesion, you can turn the setting up by about 10-20%. This will extrude more filament to give the model a better grip on the bed.
Build Plate Temperature Initial Layer
The build plate temperature initial layer is the temperature that the printer heats the build plate to while printing the first layer. Usually, you’re better off using the default temperature specified by your filament manufacturer in Cura.
However, if you’re using a thick bed made of materials like glass, and your prints are having trouble sticking, you might need to increase it.
In this case, you can increase the temperature by about 5°C to help build plate adhesion.
Initial Layer Print Speed
The Initial Layer Print speed is quite important to get a perfect first layer squish. To get optimal adhesion to the build plate, you must print the first layer slowly.
For this setting, you can go as low as 20mm/s without running the risk of under-extrusion. However, a speed of 25mm/s should work just fine.
Initial Fan Speed
When printing the first layer of almost all filament materials, you need to turn the cooling off as it can interfere with the print. So, make sure the initial fan speed is at 0%.
Build Plate Adhesion Type
The build plate adhesion type offers a variety of options to add to the base of your print to help increase its stability. These options include a:
A skirt helps prime the nozzle before printing to avoid over-extrusions. Rafts and brims are structures attached to the base of the print to help increase its footprints.
So, if your model has a thin or unstable base, you can use either of these options to shore up its strength.
Advanced Settings for The First Layer
Cura does have some other settings that could help you further tweak your first layer to get it even better. Some of these settings are:
- Wall Ordering
- Initial Layer Horizontal Layer Expansion
- Bottom Pattern Initial Layer
- Combing Mode
- Max Combing Distance Without Retraction
The Wall Ordering determines the order in which the inner and outer walls get printed. For a great first layer, you should set it to Inside to Outside.
This gives the layer more time to cool, resulting in greater dimensional stability and preventing things like elephant’s foot.
Initial Layer Horizontal Layer Expansion
The Initial Layer Horizontal layer modifies the first layer’s width depending on the value. If you set a positive value, it increases the width.
Conversely, if you set a negative value, it decreases its width. This setting is quite helpful if you are suffering from elephant’s foot on your first layer.
You can measure the extent of the elephant’s foot and input the negative value to help counter it.
Bottom Pattern Initial Layer
The Bottom Pattern Initial Layer specifies the infill pattern the printer uses for the first layer that rests on the print bed. You should use the concentric pattern for the best build plate adhesion and squish.
It also reduces the chances of the bottom layer warping as it contracts uniformly in all directions.
Note: You should also enable the Connect Top/ Bottom Polygons option. This combines the concentric infill lines into a single, stronger path.
The combing mode prevents the nozzle from crossing the print’s walls while traveling. This can help reduce the number of cosmetic imperfections on your prints.
You can set the combing mode to Not in Skin for the best results. This is particularly helpful when making single-layer prints.
Max Combing Distance Without Retraction
This is the maximum distance the 3D printer’s nozzle can move without retracting the filament. If the nozzle moves more than this distance, the filament will be automatically retracted into the nozzle.
If you’re making a single-layer print, this setting can help get rid of surface stringing on the print. You can set the value to 15mm.
So, anytime the printer has to move more than that distance, it will retract the filament.
Those are the basic tips you need to get a perfect first layer. Remember, if you get a bad first layer, you can always remove it from your build plate and start again.
You can also check out the article I wrote on How to Solve First Layer Problems for more troubleshooting tips.
Good Luck and Happy Printing!