How to Fix the 3D Printing Elephant Foot Issue in Cura?

Problems in 3D printing can occur for many reasons, no matter how small or insignificant some of them may seem at first look, due to the process of 3D printing being a complex one where even the most minor issue can snowball and cause negative results.

While it’s possible to fix such issues almost instantly by simply changing the values of some parameters in the settings of your printer or slicer, the process of finding the appropriate fix is usually the challenging part, especially when there are multiple potential factors involved in the occurrence of the issue.

In today’s article, we will be looking at the potential solution paths we can follow in the Cura slicer to fix the elephant’s foot issue that plagues many 3D printed models, which is one of the fairly common problems in 3D printing that essentially causes the first layer to get squished under the weight of the object and expand as a result. 

So, what can you do to prevent the elephant foot issue from occurring on other prints in Cura?

Below, we have listed the fixes you can apply in Cura to prevent the elephant foot problem:

  • Increase the first layer height
  • Lower the bed temperature
  • Increase the initial layer fan speed
  • Decrease the first layer print speed
  • Use the Initial Layer Horizontal Expansion feature
  • Print the 3D model with a raft

In the upcoming sections, we will be diving deeper into the process of fixing the elephant foot issue by adjusting the necessary settings in Cura, taking a look at the potential causes behind the problem’s occurrence, and finding out whether Cura offers a specific feature for elephant foot compensation. 

How to Fix the 3D Printing Elephant Foot Issue in Cura?

There are a few things that we will need to configure in Cura to fix the elephant foot issue, as it’s not very possible to attribute this problem to a single factor that we can directly remedy by targeting a specific parameter.

Below, we have listed the potential solutions that we can apply in Cura to remedy the elephant foot issue, along with their detailed descriptions to make the process easier to follow:

  • Increase the height of the first layer. Increasing the first layer height will allow the first layer to have more plastic, making it less squished and more resistant to the physical tension applied from the upcoming layers. A slight to moderate (20-40%) increase should work fine.
  • Decrease the temperature of the heated bed. A lower bed temperature will allow the first layer to cool down faster, allowing it to solidify quickly enough not to get crushed by the upcoming layers. We recommend decreasing the temperature in increments of 5 degrees Celsius and not going too far down to avoid bed adhesion problems.
  • Increase the fan speed for the initial layer. Cooling fans working harder during the initial layer will provide the cooling that the layer requires to solidify quickly enough and establish structural integrity before the following layers come. Cooling too much will create bed adhesion issues, so we recommend bumping up the fan speed by about 5-10%.
  • Decrease the print speed for the initial layer. Decreasing the print speed during the initial layer will give the layer more time to cool down before the upcoming layer makes its way above it, reducing the chance of the elephant foot issue occurring. While the optimal value depends on the filament, a good rule is to set the initial layer print speed to 30% of the regular print speed.
  • Configure the Initial Layer Horizontal Expansion parameter. Passing a negative value to the Initial Layer Horizontal Expansion parameter acts as a way to compensate for expansion caused by the elephant foot problem by reducing the initial size of the layer. We would recommend reducing this value in increments of 0.1.
  • Add a raft via the Build Plate Adhesion Type parameter. Adding a raft below the first layer will save the first layer from getting squished into the bed, and can be used as a workaround against the elephant foot issue.

What Causes 3D Prints to Have the Elephant Foot Issue?

Having a better grasp of the potential causes behind the elephant issue will make the solution process way more accessible to navigate by allowing us to pinpoint the actual reason behind the problem as quickly as possible.

The culprit behind the elephant foot issue is a pretty straightforward one, which essentially is the first layer of the print getting crushed by the layers that come after it, preventing it from being able to hold its shape and expand from the edges as a result.

Such a situation primarily occurs due to the first layer not being able to cool down quickly enough to solidify and maintain its structural integrity under pressure, as plastic that is still in its melted state is a lot more likely to deform due to physical tension.

While temperature-related factors make up most of the cases, applying too much squish to the layer by using a too low initial layer height value or a Z-offset value that causes the nozzle to print way too close to the print bed can also play a role in the occurrence of the elephant foot problem.

Does Cura Have a Specific Feature for Elephant Foot Compensation?

As elephant foot is a reasonably specific problem, some slicer software include features that are specially designed to prevent this problem from plaguing your 3D prints without you requiring to go through other parts of the configuration.

The parameter called Initial Layer Horizontal Expansion is the Cura feature specifically designed to combat the issue of elephant foot, even though the name itself doesn’t say much about how it relates to the problem, especially at first look.

In a nutshell, the Initial Layer Horizontal Expansion feature is the initial layer-only version of the Horizontal Expansion feature, allowing you to offset the model’s dimensions directly in either direction.

When you pass a negative value to the Initial Layer Horizontal Expansion parameter, the first layer will shrink compared to its original size, compensating for the increased first layer area that appears due to the elephant foot issue.

Please note that you will need to set the print setting visibility to Expert or All to be able to see the Initial Layer Horizontal Expansion parameter.

Wrapping Up

While elephant foot is an irritating problem that can take the enjoyment away from 3D printing, the fact that it’s fixable directly in the slicer software, such as Cura, means that the solution process shouldn’t be too troublesome regardless of your technical expertise.

To quickly recap, what causes the elephant foot issue is the first layer getting squished under the rest of the model, meaning that anything that can strengthen it before the following layers come in, such as increasing its height, printing it slower, and cooling it faster by adjusting the corresponding Cura parameters can be helpful to prevent the problem from occurring.

On the other hand, if adjusting the core parameters doesn’t work, options such as adding a raft or using the Initial Layer Horizontal Expansion feature of Cura, which is designed to solve the elephant’s foot problem, should most likely solve the issue at hand.

Happy printing