Master 5 Fixes for Pillowing: Perfect Your 3D Print Tops Now!

Hello tech lovers! I’m Carolina, your resident tech-enthusiast, here to talk about a common hiccup in the world of 3D printing. Ever been in a situation where you’ve calibrated your printer, enjoyed flawless printing, but then, the uppermost layer of your output doesn’t quite hit the mark? Oh, I’ve been there too!


Many 3D printer enthusiasts encounter this. Imagine a print going just right, only for the last bit to disappoint with pillowing leading to a bumpy finish. So, for my awesome readers, I’ve crafted a straightforward guide to troubleshoot top layer problems, especially that notorious pillowing. Let’s dive in!

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Pillowing Defined: It’s the unpleasant event where the topmost layers of your prints come out uneven, bumpy, and rough. So not cool! It’s like being a pastry chef and the icing goes haywire at the end.

It’s easy to confuse pillowing with warping, but while warping happens at the beginning of a print, pillowing, true to its name, creates a cushion-like pattern at the end, particularly on prints with a broad, flat top.

The Culprits Behind Pillowing:
1. Insufficient Cooling: When the filament doesn’t get adequate cooling, it tends to warp away from the infill, resulting in pillowing. Your cooling fans might also not be up to the task, preventing proper temperature regulation.

2. Lacking Support Material: If there’s not enough material at the top, the print can’t close well, making pillowing easier to occur.

At its core, pillowing often stems from incorrect print settings or ineffective cooling.

Combating Pillowing in 3D Prints:
1. Boost Top Layer Thickness: Start by adding more top layers in your slicer settings. Aim for a top layer thickness about six to eight times the layer height. It can act as a cushion against pillowing.

2. Augment Infill Density: By increasing the infill density, you offer more support to the top layers. If you’re printing with low infill levels like 5% or 10%, pillowing is more likely to happen.

3. Reduce Printing Speed: Slowing down gives layers adequate time to cool, preventing peeling.

4. Upgrade Your Cooling System: If your existing fan isn’t doing the trick, consider upgrading to a high-efficiency one, like the Noctua NF-A4. It’s a game-changer!

5. Adjust Printing Temperature: Sometimes, lowering the temperature might help. However, this is a hit or miss and should be a last resort.

Achieving a Silky Smooth Top Layer:
To get that impeccable finish, activate the ironing feature in your Slicer. It prompts your nozzle to glide over the top layer, evening it out.

Optimal Cura Ironing Settings for Pristine Top Layers:

Ironing Flow: Though the default in Cura is 10%, a bump to 15% might yield better results.

Ironing Speed: Cura’s default is 16.6667mm/s, but aiming for 70-90mm/s can be beneficial.

Ironing Line Spacing: Start with Cura’s default of 0.1mm and adjust as needed. A spacing of 0.2mm combined with tweaked Ironing Flow & Speed can work wonders.

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