Once you've printed your first few objects, no doubt you will notice many slight (or maybe not so slight...) imperfections. In this article, I'll give you all the resources I have for improving your print quality. With these resources, you'll be able to troubleshoot bad prints, and make modifications to your printer or your slicer to avoid the problem in the future.
Once again, my printer is a Monoprice Maker Select Plus (aka "Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus"). Most of these resource will be generic, but a lot of the upgrades may be different for your model of printer. The Monoprice Maker Select ("Wanhao Duplicator i3") is very similar to the Select Plus, so a lot of these things will "just work" or have very similar STL files. Bottom line - if you don't have a Monoprice Maker Select Plus, double check these resources before you commit to any of these upgrades.
Thanks for your support! Links to third party websites in this article may contain affiliate IDs. If you purchase something from these links, the blog might get a small percentage as revenue. We use that money to offset the cost of creating and hosting our content. If you'd prefer not to participate in this program, don't click these links.
Troubleshooting Bad Prints
There are a wealth of resources out on the internet for doing bad print troubleshooting, so I just want to collect my favorite links here.
- Simplify 3D Print Troubleshooting - Definitely my favorite guide. Some of it is specific to Simplify 3D, which I don't use, but a lot of the info here is generic enough that you can use it with Cura if you wish. The best part is that there is a picture to go with every print defect, so you can learn what people call the thing your printer is doing. That helps immensely when asking or searching for help.
- Ultimaker 3D Print Troubleshooting Articles - This resource is pretty decent, not as comprehensive as the Simplify 3D website.
- FixMyPrint Subreddit - A great place to ask questions about your 3D print issues. Again, knowing your print issue and doing some research can go a long way.
Monoprice Maker Select Upgrade & Tweak List
Warning We're getting back into a riskier section of this guide, so it's disclaimer time again. I'm an engineer with years of experience in motorized embedded systems. That said, I'm still a 3D printing newbie. Following my instructions, even 100% correctly, might still lead to you damaging your printer in some way. Any operations you carry out on your computer/printer are done at your risk. I make no guarantees and won't be liable if you do damage to yourself, your gear, burning your house down, etc as a result of the notes presented on this page.
The best thing about these inexpensive 3D printers is that they're easy to tweak and upgrade. The 3D printer is capable of improving itself, basically. I've looked around the internet and picked up a variety of upgrade/tweak lists. These are the ones I consider to be essential:
Why? - Clipping the filament to the spool before you unload the extruder will prevent it from snapping back to the spool and possibly causing a knot, which will ruin your print.
What do I need? - A STL file for a clip that fits your spool, there are tons on Thingaverse.
How do I do it? - Print the clip, attach to your spool, and clip it before you unload.
How hard is this? - Simple!
Flashing Custom Firmware
Why? - Way more options, including a lot of calibration routines that can improve print quality significantly.
What do I need? - A microSD card, plus the ADVi3++ software
How do I do it? - Flash the software to your LCD and main board, the ADVi3++ user's guide has a detailed walkthrough.
How hard is this? - Not particularly hard, although you will have to disassemble the front panel.
Why? - Makes the hot end temperature more stable, leading to more consistent extrusion and less of a chance of burning filament.
What do I need? - ADVi3++, the custom firmware from the previous entry.
How do I do it? - ADVi3++ has this built-in, just run its PID tuning option and it will take care of the rest.
How hard is this? - Simple!
Calibrating your E-steps
Why? - This procedure ensures that your extruder motor is properly calibrated. This will help you avoid problems with under or over-extruding.
What do I need? - ADVi3++ has this built-in as well, you'll need a ruler or tape measure.
How do I do it? - There are step by step instructions in ADVi3++.
How hard is this? - Simple!
XYZ Stepper Motor Calibration
Why? - This will adjust your printer to take into account variations between stepper motors. It will lead to more consistent dimensions on your finished prints.
What do I need? - A 20mm calibration cube STL, like this one. You'll also probably want some digital calipers, which are good general tools to have when doing 3D modeling of objects anyhow. They run about $15-20.
How do I do it? - Print the calibration cube, then use the "Tune" menu in ADVi3++ to input the actual dimensions
How hard is this? - Simple!
# X-Axis "Blueprinting"
Why? - This helps "square up" your X- and Z- axis so that they are consistent across the entire range of Z-axis movement.
What do I need? - Nothing, really. You're just going to loosen and then tighten some screws.
How do I do it? - This video explains it better than I can. Basically, move the Z-axis up as far as it will go, then remove the tension on the X-axis belt. Loosen the X-axis set screws, then wiggle the X-axis rods, then tighten the set screws again. Retighten the belt, and your printer is good to go.
Custom Hot-End Blower
Why? - The stock cooling is insufficient and inefficient to boot. Upgrading it will give you more consistent prints that have less of a chance of showing overheating defects.
What do I need? - The most popular cooler is probably the Diii Cooler. You'll need some hardware and a radial fan, plus an object you can print. If you have the Plus, you need a 24V fan, if you don't have the plus, you want a 12V fan. On my plus, these fans worked great.
How do I do it? - Unscrew and unhook the stock fan and fan mount, and replace it with the radial fan and the new mount. There are complete instructions on the Thingiverse page.
How hard is this? - Pretty simple, I found it hard to mount the cooler to the bracket on the extruder because the nuts kept turning inside their holes. But overall, it wasn't hard.
Pro Tip I printed my Diii Cooler in PLA+ ('cause that's the only material I have!) and I've only noticed some very minor warping over hours of printing. If you end up printing the cooler in something that has a low melting point, be sure to check it occasionally to ensure it is holding its shape.
Vibration Damping the Stepper Motors
Why? - You find the printer is too noisy (especially the high frequency/high pitched noises while moving)
What do I need? - Enough NEMA 17 Vibration Dampers for all your motors that lack one. (On my Monoprice Maker Select Plus, the Z-axis was already vibration damped).
How do I do it? - Take apart the Y and X axis motor mounts, and install the dampers between the motor and the frame. Adjust the gears on each motor so they stick out a bit more to compensate for the thickness of the damper. On my unit, I had to disassemble the entire Z axis to fit the X motor damper, and I had to leave the bottom cover off the printer to fit the Y axis damper. I also printed a shim for the stepper motor damper, but the stepper motor tends to be the quietest of the bunch so I'm not sure that it is worth the trouble. If you want to damp your extruder motor nonetheless, let me know and I'll put my shim on Thingiverse.
How hard is this? - Pretty darn hard, comparatively speaking. Be ready to take almost the entire printer apart.
Why? - The Z-axis on a lot of these printers is not 100% straight, leading to "leaning" in the Z-axis when you print tall objects.
What do I need? - About $5-10 worth of hardware, some way of measuring a 90 degree angle, plus a bunch of printed parts found here, for the Maker Select Plus.
How do I do it? - Print 4 corner pieces, plus 2 pieces for the uprights, and 6 adjustment balls. Go to the hardware store with the list in the Parts to Buy section of the Z-brace page. Follow the assembly instructions to make your braces.
How hard is this? - On the easy side, just a bunch of screws to remove.
Pro Tip The instructions call for a total of 4 of the "ball/nut" combos, one above and one below each of the two "top" pieces. I suggest adding two more - just above the bottom ends of the rod, to hold the bottom end of the rods in place.
Why? - For better bed adhesion and release, glass is the choice of many 3D printer owners. It's also a lot more durable than the standard print mat that comes with the printer.
What do I need? - A pane of borosilicate glass that is approximately 200 mm x 220 mm, like this one. You'll also want some silicone thermal pad to go between the bed and your glass. Finally, you can optionally add some binder clips or you can print your own corner clips for added stability.
(Note: I'd advise against using "normal" hardware store glass - borosilicate glass (aka "Pyrex") is much better at handling heat and temperature changes.)
How do I do it? - First, cut the pad. Some people say a few small squares for the corners and the middle is enough, or you can cover the whole bottom of the glass with it. Put the pad and glass on the bed, and then secure with your choice of clip if desired. Hairspray or glue stick can be used to adjust the bed adhesion. Here's a YouTube clip showing the process.
How hard is this? - Pretty simple.
Pro Tip If you add a glass bed, I highly suggest you do the Y-carriage mod (see below) as well. The stock Y-carriage plate is just too flexible. I use glue stick on the plate before the print for smaller items to keep them adhered to the bed.
Y-Carriage Plate Upgrade
Why? - The stock Y-carriage plate on these printers tends to warp, leading to a bed that can't be properly leveled or that goes out of level easily.
What do I need? - A Y-carriage plate for the printer. These can be harder to come by than some other parts. I often find them out of stock, but you can try this listing on Amazon. If Amazon fails, you might have to order from Aliexpress.
How do I do it? - You'll have to remove the heated bed and the carriage plate, and disconnect the heated bed from the control board, since the wires for the bed pass through the carriage plate.
How hard is this? - Moderately difficult.
Assuming you read all three parts of this guide, you now know how to get your printer set up, how to design new parts for printing, and how to improve your print quality through calibration and upgrades. If you want more to read, or need more help, here are some very useful resources:
- /r/3dprinting - My favorite general-purpose subreddit for 3d printing. This is a great place to ask questions, show off your prints, or read up on what others are doing. You can also find info on a variety of printer models and vendors to buy from.
- /r/wanhaoi3 - A great place to find support and useful links that are specific to the model(s) of printer I based this guide on. You can ask questions about the Wanhao Duplicator i3, the Monoprice Maker Select, the i3 Plus, or the Maker Select Plus here.
- Wanhao Duplicator i3 Facebook Group - A ton of experts hang out here and answer questions about this printer! Just make sure you read the rules before you post.
- 3dprinterwiki Wanhao i3 Page - Contrary to the name of the site, this is a blog and not a wiki. There's a lot of broad info here on a wide variety of printers, so you might be able to find some additional information here.