Understanding Temperature Tower Results

One of the first things you will hear people suggest when using new filament is to run a temp tower to find the optimal settings.

There is one problem—most users only visually inspect the temp towers. In a nutshell, if your prints are strictly for cosmetic purposes then visual inspection might be enough. If on the other hand, you are going to use your prints for functional prototypes and your parts need to perform, you might want to consider how you evaluate your temp tower.

Step 1: Setup Gcode and Print

Download a temp tower 3D model (we like this one). Use your slicer to set up the different temperature zones based on the recommended range found on your filament packaging. We like using 5-degree increments. In our case, the PLA we are using has a range of 180-225C. Next, it is important to input the actual parameters you tend to print with so don’t just use generic Gcode you found someone else using. These values can include: print speed, travel speed, bed temp, retract distance/speed, jerk, acceleration, and fan profile. Skipping these parameters will likely give you incorrect results when compared to “real” prints.

Step 2: Visual Inspection

Using the method most people follow, look at the tower and decide which zone visually looks the best. Look for things like bridging capability, small feature printing, and overhangs. This will help you decide at which temperature your parts are going to look their best. Write down the value you come up with based on visual inspection. 

 For our example, we will assume the 190 zone looked the best overall 

Step 3: Layer Adhesion Inspection

One of the most important criteria users forget to analyze is proper layer adhesion. The good news is you can do this with any temp tower through destructive testing after you have done a visual inspection of the results.

Starting from the coldest zone (in our case, 180) try to separate the layers manually with your hands or pliers if needed. You will likely find that the coldest zone suffers from easy delamination because the layers were extruded too cold to properly bond together. Work your way down the tower until you are no longer able to separate the layers easily. Parts should break in a random pattern as opposed to breaking at the layer lines. Write down the zone where you are happy with layer adhesion and are no longer getting delamination. 

For our example, we will assume the 210 zone is where we started getting good layer adhesion 

Step 4: Evaluate Results

After analyzing we have found that 190 looks the best while 210 will likely perform the best. So which one should you choose? It’s all about finding the balance that meets the requirements of your project. In our example, if we simply want our prints to look their best, we would go with 190 (or the value you came up with in step 2). If it’s a functional prototype that needs to be durable and we aren’t overly worried how it looks, we would go with 210 (or the value you came up with in step 3). 

The other scenario is your project is somewhere in between those two extremes. In this case, you need to decide where in between those values will you be most happy. In our example, we might find that 200 is a good compromise which will give us a good balance between appearance and performance. This step is up to you to decide. 

Step 5: Document Results

We like to use a simple spreadsheet that we print out to document our findings. The idea is that you can use this as a tool when selecting printing parameters for future projects. At first, it may seem time-consuming, however, it will save a lot of time and headache in the future! By taking a few seconds to document your findings you will begin building a usable database that allows you to feel confident with each print your start.

Download our sample temp calibration form and begin building your database! 

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us! 

-3DMaker Engineering

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