In addition to the nuances of the benefits 3D printing offers, there are also some complications. These issues can be frustrating and lead to failure in the printing process. One of these issues, which is not often discussed, is the layer shifting. It is a serious problem, often described as the "staircase effect". In this case, the layers begin to shift, and in the end, the objects bend or fall. It results in a complete deformation of the model printed accurately in the beginning. Users confronted with this predicament know how troublesome such results can be.
A 3D model that is printed correctly at the start can go out of alignment within minutes. The damage can be immense, and all efforts can go in vain. So, it is crucial to understand the cause and how to remedy the Staircase Effect in 3D Printing. Otherwise, it would be a challenge to get good prints in the future.
Staircase Effect in 3D Printing
Due to the discretized nature of the layered structures, 3D printed models every so often have approximation deviations from the actual model, such as the staircase effect. These aberrations can be particularly noticeable on surfaces with horizontal slopes. With multi-layer printing in any 3D printing method, this phenomenon can affect the quality of the object surface. This impaired finish perturbs the appearance and damages the overall print. The resultant appearance is similar to that of a ladder or staircase, which is why it is called the "staircase effect."
Usually, the problem occurs somewhere on the sides of the model. However, it destroys the overall look of the print. The frustration reaches its peak when you see a section of the model correctly printed, while the rest of the model has changed due to shifting layers. Then, the only question that comes to mind is why it occurred towards the end? It is a shame to throw away the printed item after considerable time has been exhausted.
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As for the problems, they can be trivial if some layers shifted, resulting in a wrong and distorted model. Or, a big problem if it is something like the nozzle extruding the filament mid-air. Either way, these issues can put the machine out of commission.
How To Reduce Staircase Effect in 3D Printing
Let's take a look at some of the ways you can fix the issue of the staircase effect in 3D printing.
The layer height is, as the name suggests, the precise height of every cured layer. The thickness of the layers influences the printing speed or time and the quality of individual prints. As the layers required to generate a 3D model of an item decide the print speed, they also impact the needed time. With thinner layers, more time is required to create an object at a given height. On the contrary, thinner layers allow for better print quality, smoother surfaces, and more accurate detail in height or z-direction of the object.
Overall, different printers produce layers of varying height due to technical differences. Some printers may have layers of lower height as compared to others. The thickness of the layer is calculated in millimeters (mm), and sometimes given in micrometers (µm). Typically, SLA, DLP, and LCD 3D printers have a minimum layer height of 25 µm (0.025 mm) and a maximum layer height of 100 µm (0.1 mm). You can adjust this setting to fit your SLA, DLP, or LCD 3D printer with a slicer software. If you do not know how to select the right one, you can try 50 µm (0.05 mm) slice height first.
The quality of prints in resin 3D printing is also impacted by light intensity and exposure or curing time. Different resin 3D printers have varying resin curing times. For most resins, the exposure time of six seconds is sufficient. These settings can be changed later, depending on the situation. For the bottom exposure time, the recommended duration is 8 to 12 times more than the regular layer's curing time. In general, the lengthier the exposure time of the lower layer, the closer the raft comes to contact with the build plate.
Lifting speed measured as (mm/min) is the rate at which the build plate emerges from the resin container. If the lifting tempo is too high, the model may get damaged. The supports may also break due to deformation stress between the FEP film and the build plate at the base of the container. However, if the speed drops considerably, it will increase the print time. When changing the speed setting, both print quality and time should be taken into consideration.
Changing the orientation can have a significant impact on print quality. Rapid changes in the structure from smaller cross-sections to larger cross-sections can lead to large volumes of change in each layer. Considering that the volume of resin has a massive impact on the shrinkage of the cured layers.
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Sudden alterations in the structure of the model not only affect its integrity but often lead to the appearance of visible lines on the surface. In addition, orientation changes also affect surface quality, since the pattern is printed as a small part in the z-direction.
Essentially, aliasing is a staircase effect that arises when curved or diagonal edges and lines appear on the screen in from rectangular or square pixels. The anti-aliasing is used to smoothen edges of objects by lowering the number of vertical artifacts and lines that appear on printed 3D models. Different slicing programs provide varied levels of anti-aliasing. They use unique algorithms to make the model more fluid and thinner, effectively reducing aliasing of edges. These are a few of the ways you can improve the print quality and get rid of the staircase effect in 3D printing.
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