The frustration is real. Right when you thought you had a perfect benchy off your recently calibrated 3D printer you realize there is a large hanging rim around the base of your 3D print which in 3D printing is often called an elephant’s foot.
There are many solutions for reducing or removing elephant’s foot from your 3d printer, some are very simple and others can take a bit more time to diagnose.
There are three common solutions for fixing elephant’s foot on a 3D printer; adjusting the Z offset, calibrating your e-steps, and adjusting your bed temperature. There are also less common causes for elephant’s foot such as your cooling settings and Z axis rod damage.
1. Adjust Z Offset.
The Z offset being off is the most common cause for elephant’s foot. If the Z offset is causing the nozzle to be too close to the bed it can cause the first layer too squished, which will cause that layer to bulge out and create an elephant’s foot.
Most printers allow you to adjust the Z axis directly from the machines interface but if your printer does not allow the adjustment from the interface you can also increase the initial layer’s layer height in your slicer settings.
2. Calibrate E-Step.
Calibrating your E-steps is one of the most important and overlooked things to adjust on your 3D printer to ensure high accuracy 3D prints.
If your E-Steps are over extruding material this may cause bulging on the first layer, which can result in an elephant foot.
The best way to know if your printer’s e-steps need to be adjusted is under extrusion that usually looks like gaps in the walls, or over extrusion that usually looks like the part has less definition then required or a slightly rough “fuzzy” outer wall.
If you need help calculating new E-Steps for your 3D printer check out my E-Step calibration guide. How To Calibrate Your E-Steps. Simple guide and calculator.
3. Adjust Bed Temperature.
Similar to the hot end temperature if your bed temperature is too hot this might cause your filament to not cool properly and potentially will cause your material to flow and expand beyond the desired shape.
It is always advised to follow the filament manufacturers recommendations when printing which can often be found on the filament Technical Data Sheet (TDS).
4. Level The Bed.
The level of the bed can cause elephant’s foot in a few different ways. The best way to tell if your elephant’s foot is caused by the level of the bed is if the elephant’s foot is not uniform all around the perimeter of the print.
If the elephant’s foot is bulging on one side and barely exists on the other then you probably have a slight bed level discrepancy.
If you do not have auto leveling and need help adjusting your bed level your can follow my bed leveling guide. How To Level A 3D Printer Bed. Manual leveling made simple.
5. Adjust Hot End Temperature.
If your hot end’s temperature is too hot for the material that you are 3D printing your filament may not cool properly or might come out in an overly fluid form.
If your filament is too fluid when extruding it may flatten upon extrusion and cause the first layer and the subsequent layers to bulge against the bed causing an elephant foot.
Follow the filament manufacturers recommended settings for the best and most accurate hot end temperatures.
6. Adjust Cooling Settings.
Lack of cooling on your first layer might be the cause for elephant’s foot on your 3D print. If the material requires cooling when printing (such as PLA) your print might expand on the first layer and cause an elephant’s foot on your print.
Typically the cooling setting will be established in the slicing settings but most 3D printers do have the ability to adjust the fan speed settings directly from the printers interface.
7. Clean Z Axis Rod.
If your Z axis rod is dirty and causing excess force against the motor it is possible for the Z axis to bind which will make your layer heights inaccurate. If your Z axis binds and causes the nozzle to be too close to the bed this will cause a similar effect as the Z offset being off.
To clean the Z axis rod you can wipe the rod down with isopropyl alcohol and lubricate it with oil. I typically use Hoppe’s 9 lubricating oil for pretty much everything I need oiled. If it works for my guns it will work for my 3D printer.
Best Price For Hoppes 9 Oil – Amazon.
8. Adjust Z Axis Eccentric Nuts.
If the Z axis Eccentric nuts are too tight it can put tension on the Z axis motor and might affect the accuracy of your Z axis. The eccentric nut being over tightened can actually cause the Z axis to bind and not move at all.
To loosen the eccentric nut hold the hex with a crescent wrench and loosen the bolt with an allen wrench. Most of the time the tools that you need to adjust the eccentric nuts will come with your 3D printer.
9. Adjust Initial Layer Horizontal Expansion.
Initial Layer Horizontal Expansion is a setting found in Cura under the “Walls” tab. The initial layer horizontal expansion setting will increase or decrease the size of the first layer depending on if you use a positive value or a negative value.
If you are experiencing elephants foot you can measure the highest point of the elephants foot and subtract the should be condition of your print.
For example if your print should be 12.7mm (0.5 inches) in diameter and it measures 12.9mm (0.508 inches) you can put a negative .2mm in the initial layer horizontal expansion field.
10. Decrease Flow.
Flow is a setting that honestly does not need to be adjusted very often and is the last thing that you should adjust when dealing with elephant’s foot on a 3D print. Flow is a setting controlled within your slicer but can sometimes be adjusted on the 3D printers interface as well.
11. Manually Remove The Elephant’s Foot.
The last and final way to rid yourself of the elephant’s foot is to remove it manually with a hobby knife or a triangle scraper knife. I don’t typically use sand paper because it can damage the finish of your 3D print if you use too coarse sandpaper.
My go to for removing imperfections from 3D prints is a triangle machinist scraper.
What Is Elephant’s Foot In 3D Printing?
Elephant’s foot in 3D printing is a condition on a 3D print where the first few layers of the 3D print bulges out and are larger around than the rest of the print. This increased size causes imperfections in the side wall, as well as dimensional discrepancies on the print.