3D Printing Raft: The Ultimate Guide

1. What is a 3D Printing Raft?


A 3D printing raft is essentially a horizontal latticework of filament that is printed directly beneath your actual 3D print. Imagine it as a safety net for your 3D print, providing a solid foundation and ensuring that everything stays in place during the printing process. This initial layer, or series of layers, acts as a base, enhancing adhesion and stability, which are crucial for achieving high-quality prints.

Rafts are typically printed with the same material as the object, ensuring compatibility and optimal support. The structure of the raft consists of a grid-like pattern that covers the entire base of the print. This grid pattern creates a larger surface area that sticks to the build plate, thus improving the initial layer’s bond.


The primary purpose of a 3D printing raft is to enhance the adhesion of the first layers of your print to the build platform. This is particularly important when dealing with materials that are prone to warping or when printing objects with a small footprint that might otherwise struggle to stick to the build plate.

2. Why Use a Raft in 3D Printing?

Understanding what a 3D printing raft is and its purpose can significantly improve your 3D printing experience. It’s a useful tool for enhancing adhesion, preventing warping, and ensuring that your prints turn out with the highest possible quality. However, it also comes with its set of challenges, such as increased material use and extended print times, which you’ll need to consider when deciding whether to use a raft for your next project.


  1. Improved Adhesion: The raft increases the contact surface between the print and the build platform, which helps the first layers adhere better. This is essential for prints that have small contact points with the bed or intricate details that require a stable foundation.
  2. Warping Prevention: Warping occurs when different parts of a print cool and contract at different rates. A raft can help mitigate this by providing a uniform cooling base, thus reducing the chances of warping and improving overall print quality.
  3. Enhanced Stability: For tall or complex prints, a raft can provide the necessary stability to prevent shifting or dislodging during the print process. This stability is particularly useful when printing with materials like ABS, which tend to contract and warp more than others like PLA.
  4. Better Print Quality: By providing a stable and well-adhered foundation, a raft can lead to cleaner and more precise prints. This is especially beneficial for detailed or intricate designs where any movement or shifting could ruin the final result.


  1. Increased Material Use: Since a raft involves printing additional layers beneath your object, it naturally uses more filament. This can lead to higher material costs, especially for large prints or when using expensive filament types.
  2. Extended Print Time: Printing a raft adds extra layers to the print job, which increases the overall print time. This can be a significant factor for very detailed or large prints, adding hours to the total print time.
  3. Post-Processing Needs: Once the print is complete, the raft needs to be removed. This can sometimes be challenging and might require additional post-processing steps like sanding or cutting away the raft remnants.

3. How to Create a Raft in Your 3D Prints

How to Create a Raft in Your 3D Prints

Creating a 3D printing raft is a crucial step to enhance the quality and stability of your 3D prints. The process involves adjusting specific printer settings and utilizing slicer software to customize the raft according to your needs. Here’s a detailed guide on how to create an effective raft for your 3D prints.

Printer Settings

To create a 3D printing raft, you need to adjust several printer settings. These settings are essential for ensuring that the raft performs its intended functions effectively. Let’s delve into the key settings:

Raft Layers

The number of layers in a raft determines its strength and stability. Typically, three to five layers are used to provide a sufficiently strong base for your print.

  • Three Layers: Suitable for smaller prints with less complex geometries.
  • Five Layers: Ideal for larger prints or those with intricate designs, providing extra stability and adhesion.

Adjusting the number of layers helps balance the need for stability and the amount of filament used.

Raft Air Gap

The raft air gap is the space between the top of the raft and the first layer of the actual print. This gap is crucial for balancing adhesion and ease of removal.

  • Smaller Gap: Ensures better adhesion between the raft and the print, but might make raft removal more challenging.
  • Larger Gap: Makes it easier to remove the raft after printing but can reduce adhesion.

Finding the right balance is key. A common setting is around 0.2mm to 0.3mm for the air gap, but this can be adjusted based on your specific needs.

Raft Extrusion Width

The extrusion width of the raft should be slightly wider than the standard layer width. This adjustment helps create a stronger and more stable raft.

  • Wider Extrusion Width: Provides a more robust base and better adhesion, but uses more filament.
  • Standard Extrusion Width: Conserves filament but may not offer the same level of stability.

Experiment with extrusion widths to find the optimal setting for your printer and filament type.

Software Tips

Utilizing slicer software is essential for customizing the settings of your 3d printing raft. Most slicer software, such as Cura, PrusaSlicer, and Simplify3D, provides options for raft customization.

Slicer Software

Familiarize yourself with the slicer software you are using. Each software has specific settings and options for creating rafts. Here’s a brief overview of popular slicers:

  • Cura: Offers detailed settings for raft density, air gap, and layer height. It’s user-friendly and widely used.
  • PrusaSlicer: Known for its precision and advanced features, PrusaSlicer allows for in-depth customization of raft settings.
  • Simplify3D: Provides extensive control over raft parameters, including extrusion width, air gap, and layer count.

Exploring the settings in your chosen slicer software will help you make the necessary adjustments to create an effective raft.

Adjusting Parameters

Experimenting with different raft settings is crucial to find the optimal balance between adhesion, print quality, and ease of removal. Here are some parameters to consider:

  • Raft Density: A higher density increases adhesion but also increases material use.
  • Raft Print Speed: Slower speeds can improve adhesion and stability but increase print time.
  • Layer Height: Thinner layers can improve adhesion but also extend print time.

By tweaking these parameters, you can tailor the raft to meet the specific requirements of your print job. For instance, if you’re printing a large object with complex geometry, you might prioritize stability and adhesion over print speed.

4. Types of Rafts in 3D Printing

When it comes to enhancing print quality and stability, understanding the different types of rafts and their alternatives is crucial. In 3D printing, a “raft” refers to a horizontal grid of filament that serves as a base layer for your print, but there are also other similar techniques you can use depending on your specific needs. Here, we’ll delve into the various types of rafts and their alternatives, including their uses and benefits.

Standard Raft

The standard raft is the most common type used in 3D printing. It provides a solid foundation beneath the print, ensuring better adhesion and stability.

  • Structure: A standard raft consists of multiple layers of horizontal filament lines laid down before the actual print begins. These layers are printed directly onto the build plate.
  • Benefits:
    • Improved Adhesion: The larger contact area with the build plate enhances adhesion, reducing the risk of the print detaching during the process.
    • Warping Prevention: The raft helps in distributing heat evenly, preventing warping of the print due to uneven cooling.
    • Stability for Complex Prints: For prints with small footprints or intricate details, a raft provides the necessary stability to ensure successful printing.

Using a standard raft can significantly improve the success rate of your prints, especially when working with challenging materials or complex geometries.


A skirt is another technique used in 3D printing, but it serves a different purpose compared to a raft.

  • Structure: A skirt is a single or multiple lines of filament printed around the perimeter of the object, but it does not touch the object itself. It essentially outlines the area where the print will occur.
  • Benefits:
    • Priming the Extruder: The primary function of a skirt is to prime the extruder, ensuring that the filament is flowing smoothly before the actual print starts.
    • Checking Bed Leveling: A skirt allows you to check if the bed is level and if the print is starting correctly.
    • No Additional Material Use: Since it doesn’t touch the print, it doesn’t consume much extra material or require removal after printing.

A skirt is ideal for simple prints where adhesion is not a major concern but ensuring that the filament is extruding properly is essential.


A brim is similar to a raft but focuses on enhancing adhesion around the edges of the print without covering the entire bottom surface.

  • Structure: A brim is a series of additional lines printed around the base of the object, extending outwards from the edges.
  • Benefits:
    • Enhanced Edge Adhesion: By increasing the surface area around the edges, a brim helps to keep the edges of the print from lifting and ensures better adhesion.
    • Easy Removal: Unlike a raft, a brim is easier to remove since it’s only around the edges.
    • Minimal Material Use: A brim uses less material than a raft, making it a more economical option for enhancing adhesion.

Brims are particularly useful for objects with large, flat bottoms where edge adhesion is crucial but full bottom support is not necessary.

Choosing the Right Technique

Selecting the appropriate technique—whether a standard raft, skirt, or brim—depends on your specific printing needs:

  • Use a Standard Raft:
    • When printing with materials prone to warping, such as ABS.
    • For prints with small contact points with the build plate.
    • When extra stability is needed for tall or complex prints.
  • Use a Skirt:
    • When priming the extruder is necessary.
    • For simpler prints where adhesion is not a primary concern.
    • To check bed leveling and print start quality.
  • Use a Brim:
    • When you need enhanced edge adhesion.
    • For prints with large, flat bottoms that may lift at the edges.
    • To use less material compared to a full raft.

5. Raft Alternatives

When working with 3D printing, it’s essential to choose the right method for improving print adhesion and stability. While a 3D printing raft is a popular choice, there are alternatives like brims and skirts that might be more suitable for specific situations. Understanding when to use these alternatives can enhance your printing efficiency and output quality.

When to Use Brims Instead

A brim is an excellent alternative to a 3D printing raft when you need to improve adhesion with minimal material use. Brims are particularly useful for prints that require additional stability around the edges without the need for a full raft.

  • Structure: A brim consists of additional lines of filament printed around the base of the object. Unlike a raft, it does not cover the entire bottom surface but extends outward from the edges.
  • Purpose: The primary function of a brim is to enhance edge adhesion, ensuring that the edges of the print stick firmly to the build plate.
  • Benefits:
    • Minimal Material Use: Since a brim only extends from the edges, it uses significantly less filament compared to a full raft. This makes it a cost-effective option.
    • Easy Removal: Brims are easier to remove than rafts because they do not cover the entire bottom surface. This reduces the need for extensive post-processing.
    • Enhanced Edge Stability: By increasing the surface area around the edges, a brim helps to keep the edges of the print from lifting, which is particularly useful for objects with large, flat bases.

When to Use Brims:

  • Large Flat Objects: When printing objects with large, flat bases that may lift at the edges.
  • Minimal Warping Risk: When the print material is less prone to warping and does not require the full support of a raft.
  • Edge Adhesion: When additional edge adhesion is needed to prevent lifting but full bottom support is not necessary.

Brims provide a practical solution for enhancing print stability without the added material and complexity of a full raft.

When to Use Skirts Instead

A skirt serves a different purpose compared to both a 3D printing raft and a brim. It is primarily used to prime the extruder and ensure a smooth start to the print.

  • Structure: A skirt is a single or multiple lines of filament printed around the perimeter of the object, but it does not touch the object itself. It acts as an outline of the print area.
  • Purpose: The main function of a skirt is to prime the extruder, ensuring that the filament is flowing correctly before the actual print begins. It helps in identifying any initial print issues.
  • Benefits:
    • Extruder Priming: A skirt ensures that the extruder is properly primed, which helps prevent issues such as under-extrusion at the beginning of the print.
    • Bed Leveling Check: By printing a skirt, you can check if the bed is level and if the print will start correctly. It allows for quick adjustments before the main print begins.
    • Minimal Filament Use: Skirts use very little filament since they are just outlines around the object. This makes them an efficient way to check printer readiness.

When to Use Skirts:

  • Priming the Extruder: When you need to ensure that the filament is flowing smoothly before the print starts.
  • Initial Print Check: To check bed leveling and print start quality, ensuring that the print begins correctly.
  • Non-Adhesion Needs: When adhesion is not a primary concern but ensuring the printer is ready is essential.

Skirts are ideal for situations where you need to prepare the printer and check for issues without adding extra material to the print itself.

6. Tips for Effective Raft Usage

Tips for Effective Raft Usage

To maximize the benefits of using a 3D printing raft, it’s important to understand how to choose the right material, optimize your raft settings, and handle post-processing. Here are some detailed tips to help you get the best results from using rafts in your 3D prints.

Choosing the Right Material

Selecting the right material for your 3D printing raft is crucial. The material should adhere well to both the build plate and the filament used for the print. Here are some considerations:

  • PLA (Polylactic Acid):
    • Ease of Use: PLA is a popular choice for beginners due to its low melting temperature and ease of use.
    • Adhesion: It adheres well to most build surfaces without the need for additional adhesives.
    • Removal: PLA rafts are generally easier to remove compared to other materials.
  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene):
    • Heat Resistance: ABS is known for its heat resistance and strength, making it suitable for functional parts.
    • Adhesion Challenges: ABS can be prone to warping, so using a raft helps improve adhesion and prevent warping.
    • Removal: Removing ABS rafts can be more challenging due to its higher adhesion properties.
  • PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol):
    • Strength and Flexibility: PETG offers a good balance between strength and flexibility.
    • Adhesion: PETG adheres well to the build plate and provides a strong base for prints.
    • Removal: PETG rafts can sometimes be difficult to remove, requiring careful post-processing.

When selecting a material, consider the specific needs of your print job and the properties of the filament you’re using. PLA is often the go-to choice for beginners, while more advanced users might opt for ABS or PETG depending on their requirements.

Optimizing Raft Settings

Fine-tuning your raft settings can significantly impact the quality of your print. Here are some key settings to adjust for optimal results:

  • Layer Height:
    • Thinner Layers: Using thinner layers for your raft can improve adhesion and provide a smoother surface for the print. However, this will increase print time.
    • Thicker Layers: Thicker layers can reduce print time but might not offer the same level of adhesion and smoothness.
  • Air Gap:
    • Smaller Air Gap: A smaller gap between the raft and the first layer of the print ensures better adhesion but can make raft removal more difficult.
    • Larger Air Gap: A larger air gap makes the raft easier to remove but can reduce adhesion. Finding the right balance is key.
  • Extrusion Width:
    • Wider Extrusion Width: Setting the extrusion width slightly wider than the standard layer width helps create a stronger and more stable raft.
    • Standard Extrusion Width: This can conserve filament but might not provide the same level of stability.

Experimenting with these settings will help you find the perfect combination for your specific print job. It might take a few trials to get everything dialed in, but the results are worth the effort.

Post-Processing Raft Removal

After your print is complete, removing the 3D printing raft requires careful handling to avoid damaging the print. Here are some tips for effective raft removal:

  • Use the Right Tools: Tools like pliers, spatulas, and tweezers can help in removing the raft. Be gentle to avoid damaging the print.
  • Sanding: Sometimes, small pieces of the raft can remain attached to the base of the print. Using fine-grit sandpaper, gently sand the base to remove any remaining raft material and achieve a smooth finish.
  • Soaking: For materials like ABS, soaking the print in a suitable solvent (like acetone for ABS) can help dissolve the raft, making removal easier.

Step-by-Step Raft Removal:

  1. Gently Pry the Raft: Start by gently prying the raft away from the print using a spatula or similar tool.
  2. Use Pliers for Tough Spots: For areas where the raft is more stubborn, use pliers to carefully peel it away.
  3. Sand the Base: If necessary, lightly sand the base of the print to remove any residual material.

Removing the raft carefully ensures that your final print maintains its quality and aesthetics.

7. Real-World Applications of Rafts

The use of a 3D printing raft extends beyond mere adhesion enhancement; it is integral to achieving success in prints with complex geometries and large dimensions. Understanding these real-world applications highlights the versatility and necessity of rafts in 3D printing.

Complex Geometries

One of the significant challenges in 3D printing is dealing with complex geometries, especially those with intricate or overhanging features. A 3D printing raft plays a crucial role in stabilizing such prints, ensuring that they are completed successfully.

  • Intricate Designs: When printing objects with fine details, small bases, or multiple overhangs, stability is paramount. Rafts provide a solid foundation that helps in maintaining the integrity of the print throughout the process.
  • Overhanging Features: Overhangs can be problematic as they may shift or warp without proper support. A raft helps anchor the print, preventing movement and ensuring that overhangs are printed accurately.
  • Multi-Component Assemblies: For prints that consist of several small components, a raft can keep everything in place, preventing parts from shifting and ensuring that each component is printed correctly and in alignment.

Example: Consider printing a detailed architectural model with numerous intricate features and overhangs. Without a raft, the base layers might not adhere properly, leading to shifting and warping. By using a raft, the model gains a stable base, ensuring each layer is printed accurately, maintaining the design’s integrity.

Large Prints

Large prints come with their set of challenges, including maintaining stability and preventing warping over extended print times. A 3D printing raft is particularly beneficial in these scenarios.

  • Extended Print Times: Large prints often require many hours to complete, increasing the risk of warping and detachment from the build plate. A raft provides a stable base that helps distribute heat evenly, minimizing the risk of warping.
  • Bed Adhesion: For large prints, bed adhesion is critical. The larger contact area provided by a raft ensures that the print adheres firmly to the build plate, reducing the chances of the print detaching midway.
  • Dimensional Accuracy: Maintaining dimensional accuracy over large prints can be challenging due to thermal expansion and contraction. A raft helps in stabilizing the base, ensuring that the dimensions remain consistent throughout the print.

Example: Imagine printing a large-scale sculpture or a functional part that spans the entire build volume of your printer. The extended print time and significant surface area increase the likelihood of warping and detachment. Using a raft ensures the sculpture maintains its shape and adheres firmly to the build plate, resulting in a high-quality and accurate final product.

8. Common Issues and Troubleshooting

Even with the best preparation, using a 3D printing raft can sometimes present challenges. Understanding common issues and how to troubleshoot them can make the difference between a successful print and a frustrating experience. Here, we will explore two of the most common issues: raft adherence problems and difficulty in raft removal, providing detailed solutions to ensure smooth printing.

Raft Adherence Problems

One of the frequent issues encountered when using a 3D printing raft is poor adherence to the build plate. This problem can lead to print failures, as the entire print can detach from the bed mid-process. Here are some strategies to address raft adherence issues:

  • Increase Bed Temperature:
    • Explanation: A higher bed temperature helps the filament adhere better to the build plate. This is particularly important for materials like ABS, which can warp if the bed is too cool.
    • How to Do It: In your printer settings or slicer software, increase the bed temperature incrementally by 5-10 degrees Celsius until you achieve better adhesion.
  • Adjust First Layer Height:
    • Explanation: The first layer height is crucial for raft adhesion. If it’s too high, the filament might not stick properly; if it’s too low, it can cause clogging or uneven layers.
    • How to Do It: Lower the first layer height slightly in your slicer software. A typical adjustment range is between 0.1mm and 0.2mm, depending on the filament and printer used.
  • Ensure a Clean Build Plate:
    • Explanation: Dust, oils, and residues can prevent the filament from sticking to the build plate.
    • How to Do It: Clean the build plate with isopropyl alcohol or a mild detergent before starting your print. Ensure it is completely dry before printing.
  • Use Adhesion Promoters:
    • Explanation: Adhesion promoters like glue sticks, hairspray, or specialized 3D printing adhesives can improve raft adhesion.
    • How to Do It: Apply a thin, even layer of the adhesion promoter to the build plate before starting your print.

By implementing these adjustments, you can improve the raft’s adherence to the build plate, reducing the likelihood of print failures.

Difficulty in Raft Removal

Removing a 3D printing raft can sometimes be a tricky task. If the raft adheres too well, it can be challenging to detach without damaging the print. Here are some tips to make raft removal easier:

  • Increase Air Gap:
    • Explanation: The air gap is the distance between the raft and the first layer of the print. A larger gap makes it easier to separate the raft from the print.
    • How to Do It: In your slicer software, increase the air gap setting. A typical range for adjustment is between 0.2mm and 0.4mm.
  • Adjust Separation Distance:
    • Explanation: The separation distance is another parameter that affects how easily the raft can be removed. Adjusting this distance can help in making the raft removal process smoother.
    • How to Do It: Modify the separation distance in your slicer settings, starting with small increments to find the optimal balance between adhesion and ease of removal.
  • Post-Processing Techniques:
    • Tools: Use tools like pliers, spatulas, or tweezers to carefully pry the raft away from the print.
    • Sanding: For stubborn raft remnants, lightly sand the base of the print with fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface.
  • Cooling Techniques:
    • Explanation: Sometimes, letting the print cool down completely can make the raft easier to remove.
    • How to Do It: Allow the print to cool to room temperature or even refrigerate it briefly. The different contraction rates can help in detaching the raft.

9. Conclusion

Using a raft in 3D printing can greatly enhance print quality by improving adhesion and reducing warping. While it does consume extra material and time, the benefits often outweigh the drawbacks, especially for complex or large prints. By understanding and optimizing raft settings, you can achieve more reliable and precise prints.

10. FAQs

  1. What materials work best with rafts?
    PLA and ABS are commonly used with rafts, as they benefit significantly from the improved adhesion and stability.
  2. Can rafts be reused?
    No, rafts are generally not reusable. They are designed to be discarded after each print.
  3. How can I minimize raft material usage?
    Experiment with reducing the number of raft layers and adjusting the air gap to minimize material usage while maintaining print quality.
  4. Are there any alternatives to rafts for improving adhesion?
    Yes, using a brim or adhesive sprays can also help improve print adhesion without the need for a full raft.
  5. Why is my raft difficult to remove?
    If the raft is challenging to remove, try adjusting the air gap or separation distance in your slicer software to make the raft easier to detach.


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Daniel Brooks

Join me the author of Explore 3D Print, on an exhilarating journey through the captivating world of 3D. Discover the endless possibilities of 3D printing and immerse yourself in a vibrant community of enthusiasts. Explore, learn, and unlock the limitless potential of this fascinating realm.

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