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Pillowing In 3D Printing: Causes And Solutions

Makers, engineers, and professionals alike may now bring their ideas to life with the help of 3D printing, which has completely transformed the manufacturing and prototyping processes. But there are also some difficulties, like with any technology. The condition known as "pillowing" can cause 3D prints to have unsightly lumps, holes, or uneven surfaces in their upper layers, which is a very annoying issue.

Author:Darren Mcpherson
Reviewer:Anderson Patterson
Jun 12, 2024
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13.5K Views
Makers, engineers, and professionals alike may now bring their ideas to life with the help of 3D printing, which has completely transformed the manufacturing and prototyping processes. But there are also some difficulties, like with any technology. The condition known as "pillowing" can cause 3D prints to have unsightly lumps, holes, or uneven surfaces in their upper layers, which is a very annoying issue.
Pillowing is a waste of time and material since it doesn't show up until after the print is finished, unlike other printing problems that show up early on. Discover the reasons behind 3D printing pillowing and find out how to fix it in this post.

Understanding 3D Pillowing

The term "pillowing" describes an issue that arises in the uppermost layers of a three-dimensional print. When pillowing takes hold, the print model's topmost layer becomes distorted, with bumps, holes, or an uneven surface all throughout. 3D printing services all over the world have this problem, and it's not specific to any one model or kind of filament.
Particularly frustrating in the world of 3D printing is pillowing, which affects the top layers of the print and is thus difficult to fix. So, to avoid defective results where the print surface shows the unmistakable symptoms of pillowing, it is essential to take precautions before each print.

What Are The Causes Of 3D Pillowing?

To successfully manage and prevent pillowing, it is vital to understand its core causes. For people who are familiar with 3D printing, the phrase "warping" is familiar; pillowing is comparable. The main difference between the two events is where they occur within the print, but both involve distortion.
Unlike warping, which happens at the bottom of the print, pillowing happens at the very top. The failure to adequately cool the upper layers is a common denominator between the two problems. Layers often distort around the infill structure during improper cooling, resulting in a pillow-like appearance on the print surface.

1. Top Layer Distortion

Anyone who has experimented with 3D printing before would recognize distortion as the primary cause of pillowing. Disfigurement here results from top-layer distortion. The filament material in the top layer isn't evenly distributed since it gets pulled around the infill layer just below it. Occasionally, the distortion can reach a point where holes appear in the upper layer, which in turn exposes holes in the lower layer.

2. Filaments At High Temperatures

Printing using high-temperature filaments exacerbates the already noticeable issue of pillowing, which is mostly a warping concern. The two most prevalent filaments that cause issues in this area are nylon and ABS. Warping, which you likely encountered on the first layer of the print, becomes more noticeable due to the huge temperature decrease that occurs during the extrusion of these filaments.
On the one hand, it's frustrating because warping is still an issue at the end of the printing process. Conversely, this merely indicates that you are better prepared to handle the identical issue.

3. Delicate Filaments

Pillowing problems are more common with soft filaments, such as TPU, even when printed at lower temperatures. The main issue here is that the top layer isn't getting stiff enough to keep its form and avoid warping.

4. Inaccurate Infill Settings

Even though it is not a direct reason for pillowing, inadequate infill can cause the issue by making your top layer loosen and sag. This is especially true when you add additional layers.

How To Resolve 3D Printing Pillowing Issue?

1. Putting On A Heavier Top Coat

Increasing the thickness of the top layer is a great way to strengthen it and reduce pillowing. A more robust surface, less prone to deformation due to cooling, is the outcome of a thicker top layer. This method, considered as one of the simplest remedies is similar to dealing with warping difficulties.
The general rule of thumb for deciding on the ideal thickness of the top layer is to make it around five to six times thicker than the other layers. The standard layer height may require an adjustment beyond six times if it is rather thin. Finding the optimal configuration for your print piece requires some trial and error with the slicer software's top layer settings.

2. Boosting The Filling Ratio

It is common for covering layers to be too light, which causes material to leak into the spaces between them and cause pillowing. To reduce the likelihood of pillowing, raise the infill percentage so that the material cannot expand to fill these spaces. While 12% fill is usually adequate, increasing it to 25% may be necessary if pillowing continues.
A minimum of six layers should be present on top in most instances. When you are printing with a layer height of 0.1 mm, you should adjust your bottom/top thickness to 0.6 mm. This is because this is the recommended setting.
In the event that this does not resolve the issue, try increasing the bottom/top thickness option to 0.8 mm. Typically, in order to adequately cover the infill on your item, you will need more top layers if your layer height is thinner.
There are trade-offs, but overall, this method is simple. Printing takes more time and uses more filament when the infill percentage is higher. Users who are looking for a solution that allows them to print quickly and save money by using little filament may not be as interested in this one.

3. Slowing Down The Printing Speed

Reducing the printing temperature for the top layer alone can help reduce the effects of holes that cause pillowing. This makes sure the layer dries fast, sealing any gaps without sacrificing its ability to stay put. To address this particular issue of pillowing, the slicer software allows users to adjust the printing speed for the top layer.

4. Customising The Cooling System For 3D Printers

One more thing you can do to stop your 3D printer from pillowing is to change the cooling settings. Accelerating the cooling process helps the top layer to cure more quickly, which in turn decreases the likelihood of deformation. To get the most out of the cooling system, tweak the fan settings and, if needed, think about getting a second desktop fan. When standard printer cooling isn't cutting it, this technique really shines.
Before you print and while you're laying down the top layer of your project, double-check that your cooling fans are working properly. Verify that the airflow is directed toward the object you are printing by adjusting the movement of the fans.
When dealing with filaments that melt at high temperatures, it is absolutely necessary to keep the cooling process consistent. As an example, some filaments reach their melting point faster than ABS, which takes longer to reach 105°C (221°F). The time required for it to cool and solidify is likewise longer.
Pillowing in the print top layers is possible without proper control of the heating and cooling stages.

5. Widening The Space Between The Printing Head And The Building Plate

Raising the gap between the print head and the construction plate is a nontraditional but effective strategy. Because the high temperature of the nozzle has less of an effect on the environment, the top layer cools down more quickly. Poor layer adhesion and other problems can result from a lack of 3D printer skills, so this procedure is not for the faint of heart.
Having looked at the pillowing in 3D printing, it’s also important to have a look at the best 3D printing software. There are many that are available, but we recommend using SelfCAD. SelfCAD is an easy-to-use 3D designsoftware created for both beginners and professionals. It comes with various tools like freehand drawing and sketching that you can use to create your files from scratch. There is also image to 3D model for converting images to 3D models.
SelfCAD is also a great STL to Gcode converteras it comes with its own slicer. The slicer of SelfCAD is easy to use and you don’t need to have previous experience to use it. If your files have issues that needs to be fixed before slicing, you can use the magic fix tool of the program. SelfCAD also comes with many resources for learning like the interactive tutorials, SelfCAD academy, and many YouTube videos. It is also affordable, and there is a free version that you can use to test the software and see if it’s great for your project.

Tackling Pillowing For Perfect 3D Prints

Ultimately, tackling 3D pillowing calls for a mix of tactics designed for different printing situations. Through the exploration of these cutting-edge methods, users can conquer the obstacles of pillowing and accomplish prints of exceptional quality with enhanced surface finishes. With the rapid advancement of 3D printing technology, consumers have access to an ever-growing arsenal of options. This creates a constantly changing landscape that is exciting for both hobbyists and professionals.
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Darren Mcpherson

Darren Mcpherson

Author
Darren Mcpherson brings over 9 years of experience in politics, business, investing, and banking to his writing. He holds degrees in Economics from Harvard University and Political Science from Stanford University, with certifications in Financial Management. Renowned for his insightful analyses and strategic awareness, Darren has contributed to reputable publications and served in advisory roles for influential entities. Outside the boardroom, Darren enjoys playing chess, collecting rare books, attending technology conferences, and mentoring young professionals. His dedication to excellence and understanding of global finance and governance make him a trusted and authoritative voice in his field.
Anderson Patterson

Anderson Patterson

Reviewer
Anderson Patterson, a tech enthusiast with a degree in Computer Science from Stanford University, has over 5 years of experience in this industry. Anderson's articles are known for their informative style, providing insights into the latest tech trends, scientific discoveries, and entertainment news. Anderson Patterson's hobbies include exploring Crypto, photography, hiking, and reading. Anderson Patterson's hobbies include exploring Crypto, photography, hiking, and reading. In the Crypto niche, Anderson actively researches and analyzes cryptocurrency trends, writes informative articles about blockchain technology, and engages with different communities to stay updated on the latest developments and opportunities.
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