Use XYZ Calibration Cube to Diagnose 3D Printing Issues and Tune Your 3D Printer

A calibration cube is usually a classic cube with concave X, Y and Z letter on the surface and can be printed to detect issues like 3D printing ghosting, Z wobbling, elephant foot and inaccurate X, Y or Z axis dimension, and tune a 3D printer to the best condition accordingly.  

 3D printing elephant foot

Elephant foot, a commonly appeared symptom in 3D printing


Variations of calibration cube for FDM 3d printer


There are a lot of variations of calibration cubes we can find on internet. Here we recommend two common types, the classic XYZ calibration cube and the calibration cat.


  1. Classic XYZ calibration cube


A classic XYZ calibration cube is already described in the beginning, and it has different sizes, often 20mm, 16mm or 10mm.


Classic 20mm XYZ Calibration Cube

20mm XYZ calibration cube

Designer: iDig3Dprinting

Thingiverse download link:


  1. Calibration cat

Calibration cat is another popular variation of calibration cube among 3D printer users.

calibration cat for 3D printing

Designer: Dezign

Thingiverse download link:


Below, we’ll use the classic XYZ calibration cube to test our 3D printer.


How calibration cube works?


The concave letters, X, Y and Z on the calibration cube usually stand for the X, Y and Z axis of our print. Hence we can detect exactly in which axis the problem occurs and decide what problem is, inaccurate alignment or dimensional offset.


Also we can see if there is filament stringing, bulging or abnormal texture on the surface of the calibration cube.

In a word, abnormal symptoms or dimensional offsets of the printed calibration cube will give us the exact answer about the issues of our 3D printer.


Cura settings also affect 3D printing result


Cura settings affect 3D printing result too. Thus before printing the XYZ calibration cube, giving correct Cura settings is a must to avoid incorrect setting misguide our judgement.


Recommended Cura setting for XYZ calibration cube printing:

Rafts: no

Supports: no

Resolution: 0.1mm

Infill: 30%


For referral guidance of Cura settings on Anet ET4 and ET5 series 3D printers, please click on below link.



Symptoms of improper 3D printing and solutions 


Some symptoms will appear on the printed XYZ calibration cube if your 3D printer works improperly. They are the 3D printing ghosting or ringing, Z-axis wobbling, elephant foot or bottom layer bulging, incorrect Y, Y or Z steps per millimeter.


Let’s check out why and right tune our 3D printer.


  1. 3D Printing Ghosting / Ringing

3D printing ghosting or ringing is a symptom like we have astigmatism and see ghosting images. Ghosting textures appear on the calibration cube.

 3d printing ghosting

The problem can be caused by loose belt, too fast printing speed or unstable base. The solutions are retightening 3D printer belts, setting lower printing speed and placing your 3D printer at a solid table.


  1. Z Wobbling


Z wobbling (Z-axis wobbling) in 3D printing is a symptom that the layers don’t aligned well with neighboring layers above and below. We often call this symptom as 3D printing layer banding.


Solution for Z wobbling:

  1. Correctly align the Z axis
  2. Use half or full step layer heights
  3. Enable a consistent bed temperature
  4. Stabilize Z axis rods 
  5. Stabilize bearings and rails in other axis/print bed


  1. Elephant Foot / Bottom Layer Bulging

 3d printing elephant foot

Bottom layer bulging, commonly named as elephant foot, is that the bottom layer of your print extrudes like an elephant foot. 


Solutions for elephant foot 3D printing:

  1. Level your 3D printer and adjust nozzle height from the bed
  2. Lower bed temperature to increase bottom layer cooling speed
  3. Always print with a raft
  4. Add chamfers to some specific models


  1. Inaccurate X, Y or Z Dimension


Inaccurate X, Y, or Z dimension is another common symptom of abnormal 3D printing. Measure out dimensions on X, Y and Z axis with a caliper. If any of the dimensions offsets from the standard dimension of the calibration cube, we need to calibrate X, Y or Z steps per millimeter value accordingly.

 3D printing inaccurate dimension

Calibration cube can detect inaccurate dimension on your 3D print.


For example, we print the 20mm XYZ calibration cube and measure out that the X-axis dimension only reaches 19.74mm, a little lower than 20mm. So we can increase the value of steps per millimeter on the X-axis. If the measured number is higher than 20mm, then we decrease the value of steps per millimeter accordingly.


Printing XYZ calibration cube is a simple yet good method to detect 3D printing issues. If you’re encountering some problems with your print, give it a try and tune your 3D printer to the best condition.

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