When browsing issues online that many people are having with their 3d printers over half of the time it all seems to come down to the first layer. Making sure your bed is level, using various methods of adhesion, and auto bed leveling are all things that are put in place to ensure that you have a perfect or close to perfect first layer.
The first layer of your 3d printer is the most important layer and the underlining factor that determines the success of your 3d printer’s print. If the nozzle for your hot end is too close to the bed then the first layer won’t be smooth which can result in the following layers digging into the previous layers which will affect your printers layers and make the final product not nearly as smooth or “perfect” as you would like.
To far from the bed or under extrusion of the first layer, can lead to a whole lot of other problems. You run the risk of having your print shift and move around as it climbs to higher levels. Also it is not uncommon at least on larger prints to have the edges curl and rise throughout the print process making the final printer either useless or disfigured.
Yes, there are things that can go wrong with a print that are not related to the first layer but like I previously mentioned at least half the time this is the underlying cause. Knowing that this is the root cause for many failed prints is not intended to make you panic or become paranoid of your first layer, but rather to remind you to take your time and make sure you have set your printer up correctly.
If you have autobed leveling, you have less to worry about, but you will want to make sure that you calibrate how offset the auto level sensor or probe is from the nozzle to ensure it gets the correct distance. Once setup, you will not really have to worry about it again. For manual leveling I highly recommend swapping out the thumb adjustment screws for nylon lock nuts.
It will take some time to get the nylon nuts in place correctly but once you do you will have way less problems of the bed coming unlevel which would cause issues with the first layer and bed adhesion. Once you have confirmed that the bed is level and the distance is correct you will need to decide what you want to use to help with adhesion. There are a TON of options from hairspray, glue stick, creams, gels, painters tape, buildtak etc.
The method used is really personal preference and whatever works for you. There is not one right or wrong method. So if you have been having issues with new printer or even one that you have been running for a while make sure to check that your first layer is not the cause.
What is your process for getting the perfect first layer?