Common problems

[Problem] Layer Shift – Main Causes and Solutions

Start dealing with the age-old problem of layer shift. To do this we have to keep in mind that most 3D printers have no feedback on the exact position of the extruder on the plate. The printer simply moves the extruder to a specific position. In most cases this system works well because the stepper motors that drive the printer are powerful. And they must not make excessive efforts to move the extruder assembly. However, if something goes wrong from time to time, the printer has no way of detecting it.

Layer Shift

Only a few lucky people have never gone back to checking the printer and finding the print strange. As if it had slipped (it just gives the feeling of having been cut at a certain point). And the printer, as if nothing had happened, continues to print. Unfortunately, once these errors occur, the printer has no way to detect and resolve the problem. That’s why we’re gonna try and analyze the causes and remedies.

We will see a good overview of layer shift problems, from the most frequent to some very rare. When a layer shift occurs, single (for a single layer) or repeated (for multiple layers), the most common cause are mechanics. So the first check we will have to make is on the mechanical movement.

Layer Shift: The most frequent reasons

    • belts not pulled with the right force. Too tight belts can prevent the smooth movement of the plate and the extruder block, loose belts can slip on the pulley, even if they should be really very soft and we would notice it by eye. To test the force with which the straps are pulled we can press a finger against. The strap should move easily for about half a centimeter and then have some resistance, when we remove the finger should return to position immediately. If
      the belt behaves differently, check and pull/roll it.Try also reinforced GT2 belt:

  • demolishing of the screws that anchor the Layer shiftpulley to the crankshaft, resulting in a vacuum movement of the crankshaft. You can carry out this check visually and is very simple. It occurs when the shaft turns and the belt does not move. In this case just pull the screws (usually 2) of the pulley.
  • the extruder frictions against the print made by straining the motor and in some cases can even make it lose a step. It may happen that in some prints, especially if you start with the first layer well coated on the plate, the extruder touches the print while moving. Some prints rise if not perfectly anchored (ABS) and constitute.
  • an obstacle for the nozzle with the same consequence, loss of steps. To solve this problem you can try to increase the distance between the nozzle and the plate either manually or through the Offset or if the print has points where the extruder rises, you can increase it through the parameter Z-Lift or Z-hop, by how much the nozzle rises (the two parameters are for Cura and Slic3r).

Layer Shift: Other Causes

  • the too high printing speed could be a cause. More likely the speed increasing with a motors not powerful enough or too much weight of the extruder group. Easily solvable by making a test with the slowed printing speed.
  • a mechanical case, although rare, is the detachment and change of position of the object you are printing. It is rare because the object should no longer move. In the case of the slip of layers, nothing more easily solvable, a little ‘hairspray, a control of the leveling of the plate and an increase in temperature of the plate during printing and you should resolve it.  In addition, you can try a thin layer of glue stick, heated and dried by the heat of the plate.


Layer Shift: Engine Setting

Another common cause of print slippage is insufficient power or overheating of the printer engines.
Layer Shift

Another common cause of print slippage is insufficient power or overheating of the printer motors:
The Drivers, chips integrated or however inserted in the main electronic board, control the engines. With the specific function of power/speed control of stepper engines. They deliver the power that is allowed by the step-drivers. If the current is correct, neither too low nor too high, then the engines do not lose steps and perform the movement correctly, without overheating. If the current is too low, the engine will not make the correct movement and we say that it “loses steps”. On the contrary, if it is too powered, it will overheat more than it should.


You can see in this mini-guide how to calibrate the steppers of the engines in complete autonomy so that they have the best power consumption ratio. To know that the most used engines in KITs are nema 17. Depending on the production, they work with a maximum of 1.7 or 2.0 A (Ampere). Check on the web what is the maximum power of the engines in use and calibrate them following the above guide.

The last common cause is defective, poorly formatted or too full/old SD cards.
On the SD Card there are all the commands that the printer must execute. If for some reason the card does not report the right paths here we are having a problem. This problem sometimes coincides with the slip of the layers.

You can analyze the Gcode with a printer command program (e.g. Repetier Host we talked about it and you  can download from here). Alternatively try to replace or format the SD.


Layer Shift: rarest cases:

Electrical problems:

Electrical problems can be of a physical nature, poorly connected or sheared wires to be checked and reconnected, or of a properly electrical nature. Such as voltage fluctuations in the home network, which can be solved by installing an uninterruptible power supply. Or the false contact of an end-stop that could have failed and therefore must be replaced.

Layer Shifting

Among the very rare cases, we can mention an error in the slicing software or in the firmware of the machine. In the case of the slicer you can check the integrity of the STL with software such as Meshmixer or Netfabb, or check the skipped layer, viewing layer by layer.


If you have significantly modified the firmware, in terms of speed of movements, then obviously we can evaluate this hypothesis. When the problem occurs only after making substantial changes. We do not need any guide to understand the cause of our problem. We only need to take our cue from our good old Windows and return to a working configuration.


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