What Can Cause Layer Shifting on the Ender 5 (Pro/Plus)?

3D printing is a process that is pretty vulnerable to even the slightest of problems, where a simple malfunction of a component or even environmental factors that would never come to mind can suddenly cause your prints to be affected negatively or even entirely fail.

As a result, it’s vital to create the right environment for your 3D printer and perform frequent maintenance, both for the software and the hardware side of things, which will significantly reduce the likelihood of any problems occurring and causing you to waste time and material on failed prints.

In today’s article, we will be diving into one such issue that can happen out of nowhere, known as layer shifting, particularly on the Ender 5, which is a critical problem that will cause your prints to fall in quality significantly, and in more severe cases, entirely cause your print to fail and render the model unusable.

So, what can cause your prints to have the layer shift issue while printing with the Ender 5?

Below, we have listed the most common culprits that can cause your Ender 5 to suffer from the problem layer shifting:

  • Loose timing belts & timing pulleys
  • Too high print speed
  • Unstable build plate
  • Unstable 3D printer 
  • Stepper drivers not operating as intended
  • Overly tightened eccentric nuts

Moving forward, we will take a more in-depth look at the factors that can cause the layer shift issue on the Ender 5, go through the appropriate solution methods to fix the problem, and finally, discuss the signs and symptoms that appear as a result of the layer shift issue.

What Can Cause Layer Shifting on the Ender 5 (Pro/Plus)?

As the layer shifting issue essentially causes your 3D printed model and the models you will be printing afterward to become unusable in most cases, it’s one that you will need to solve before moving forward with another print.

Here are the most likely factors that can cause your Ender 5 to have the layer shifting problem, along with detailed explanations that clarify the reasoning:

  1. The timing belts and the timing pulleys are loose. The timing belts and pulleys are fully responsible for transferring the motion generated by the stepper motor to the axes, and in cases where they are loose, they might lose some steps of the motor and cause the axes to end up in the wrong positions. 
  2. The print speed is way too high. Using a way too high print speed can cause the stepper motors of your Ender 5 not to be able to keep up, creating an inconsistency between the actual position and the calculated position of the axes. In this case, you can hear clicking sounds coming from the motor.
  3. The build plate is unstable during the printing process. When the build plate is not tightly attached to the print bed, the movements of the print bed can cause the build plate to vibrate and shake, throwing off the positioning.
  4. The 3D printer itself is unstable during operation. In cases where your Ender 5 itself is not set on a stable surface, such as a table that shakes easily, the movements that occur during the printing process can create vibrations that introduce inconsistency to the positioning of the axes.
  5. The stepper drivers are not functioning correctly. Problems with the stepper driver wiring, overheating stepper drivers, or even stepper drivers that are not correctly tuned can cause the stepper motors to receive incorrect signals, creating inconsistencies.
  6. The eccentric nuts are overly tightened. The eccentric nuts are responsible for adjusting the tightness of the rollers that bridge the printhead and the print bed to the rails, and when they are way too tight, the rollers won’t be able to move freely on the rails. As a result of this, the axes may lose some of the motion generated by the stepper motors, causing them to end up in the wrong positions.

How to Fix the Ender 5 (Pro/Plus) Layer Shift Issue?

Fixing the layer shift issue comes down to going through all the potential factors and their solutions if you don’t already precisely know what’s causing the problem in your case, which will require some patience and commitment.

Below, we have listed the fixes that correspond to the common issues that can cause your Ender 5 to have the layer shifting issue:

  1. Tighten the timing belts. To tighten the timing belts, all you will need to do is to loosen the nuts on the belt tensioner, pull the belt with your hand until it’s correctly tensioned, and tighten the nuts once again. If the belts are optimally tensioned, they should have some give that allows you to pull them, but they should snap right back to their original position on release.
  2. Tighten the timing pulleys. The timing pulleys should have a grub screw that allows you to adjust their tightness, which you can quickly tighten with the hex key that came with your Ender 5.
  3. Lower the print speed. While the optimal print speed you should be using depends on various factors, the maximum print speed that the Ender 5 technically can reach is 180 mm/s. If you have no idea where to start, we recommend trying with a print speed of 50-60 mm/s, assuming you’re using PLA filament.
  4. Stabilize the build plate. To stabilize the build plate, you can use the straightforward solution of attaching the build plate and the print bed together with some paper clips, which will prevent it from shaking and vibrating.
  5. Stabilize the 3D printer. To stabilize your Ender 5, we recommend setting it up on a surface that isn’t prone to vibration and adding some vibration dampers, which should quickly and easily solve the problem at hand.
  6. Maintain the stepper drivers. For stepper driver maintenance, the main points to look at are ensuring that the wiring between the stepper drivers and the stepper motors isn’t damaged, that the stepper drivers aren’t overheating, and that the VREF values are correctly tuned.
  7. Loosen the eccentric nuts. The eccentric nuts are located behind the rollers of the corresponding axes, which you can turn with a wrench to tighten and loosen. As eccentric nuts don’t work the same way as regular nuts (turning 360 degrees in one way will put the eccentric nut back in the same position, whereas a standard nut would either entirely loosen or tighten), we recommend applying slight turns while controlling the tightness of the rollers.

How to Identify the Ender 5 (Pro/Plus) Layer Shift Issue?

Layer shifting is one of the more pronounced issues that you can face in 3D printing with effects that you can instantly detect with the naked eye, which makes the process of identifying the problem a pretty straightforward one.

The most apparent sign of your Ender 5 shifting the layers on your 3D printed model is the appearance of layers that look out of place compared to the rest, such as a few that are sticking out from one side and being tucked in from the other.

In more severe cases, where the printhead completely loses its position at a certain point a large chunk of the model can be completely misaligned compared to the rest, creating a very odd look as if a portion of the model was printed based on an entirely different origin point.

Wrapping Up

With plenty of potential culprits behind it, finding the one that’s causing the problem in your case and applying the appropriate fix to resolve the layer shifting problem will definitely require some time and effort on your part as it’s not the most straightforward process.

To quickly recap, while mechanical reasons, such as loose timing belts and pulleys, unstable build plate or 3D printing area, and overly tightened eccentric nuts are most likely to cause your Ender 5 to have the layer shifting problem, electrical issues related to the stepper driver, and even something as simple as using a too high print speed can also be the culprit.

Among all the potential culprits, we believe that an issue related to the stepper drivers is the only one that can be hard to fix due to the possible technical complexity involved, with the rest of the problems being relatively straightforward to resolve.

Happy printing!