On a 3D XYZ printer extruder, I found two terms I have no idea about:

  • retract speed
  • retract length

What are these and why/how should they be set?

  • $\begingroup$ Hi KD and welcome to SE.3D Printing..! Do you mean do these terms mean, or what are the actual settings required? $\endgroup$
    – Greenonline
    Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ Hi KD, did my answer help you at all? If so, please mark your question as answered, by clicking on the accept answer icon (green tick). Doing that will also remove your question from the unanswered list. If your question is still uinanswered, then maybe you could refine your question a little, in order to get a better answer. Thanks $\endgroup$
    – Greenonline
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 7:47

1 Answer 1


Retraction is the reversal of the direction of the filament and is generally used when moving from one non-contiguous point of the print to another, in order to prevent stringing and oozing of the filament. If retraction is not employed then the filament still coming out of the nozzle, after the last point was printed (and paused), will stretch, thus creating a fine string, as the print head is moved to the next position where printing is to recommence.


The retraction speed is the speed at which the filament is retracted, or pulled back (by the extruder stepper), and the retraction length is the amount that is pulled back.

These settings are dealt with in the XYZware User manual, on page 43, section 11.5 Retraction

11.5 Retraction

Retraction dialog

11.5.1 Retract Length

In printing object, before large movement of print module, print filament will be drawn back, such that slight negative pressure occurs in print nozzle, preventing material from adhering to the object while moving, improving surface quality of print object

11.5.2 Activate Threshold

Such setting will allow users to set up retraction mechanism activation style. For setup mode, users usually specify the minimal print module movement distance for retraction mechanism activation

11.5.3 Lifting height for extruder withdrawal

After retraction, the print module will be elevated slightly with such setup value. Such action prevents material from adhering to the object, and makes a more orderly final print stop point. However, it should be noted that excessively large elevation will extend print preparation time for the next print layer, and portions of angles may results cooling and difficult to bond conditions between layers

11.5.4 Add Extra Filament after Travel < Retraction

Material compensation may be used to improve upon holes or poor extrusion due to excessive extruder withdrawal

Retraction speed isn't dealt with in the above section though. In section 3.3, of the XYZware Pro. User Manual, it is mentioned:

Retract Speed

The speed for pulling filament backwards. Refer to the function introduction in the next chapter for more about retraction.


Cooperation of retraction speed and other print speeds will affect feeding stability directly in printing. A print speed slightly faster than the retraction speed would prevent material squeeze from interrupt.

However, the manual doesn't then go on to give any setting. However, the default settings should suffice, unless you are experiencing issues with stringing and/or oozing.

A further explanation can be found here, Stringing and oozing:

Reason 2: Retraction Length

The retraction function includes two setting options. One is retraction length and the other is retraction speed. The retraction length determines how much melted filament will be pulled out of the nozzle. In general, the more plastic that is retracted from the nozzle, the less likely the nozzle is to ooze while moving. As for the issue, the default setting in the expert mode is enough for you to solve the problem. If you encounter stringing with your print job, you can increase the retraction length slightly to test again to see if the performance improves.

Reason 3: Retraction Speed

The retraction speed determines how fast the filament is retracted from the nozzle. If the speed is too low, it will make no difference to your print job., the melted filament will still drop down through the nozzle and leave on the model. On the contrary, if the speed is too fast, the filament will be back to the nozzle and cannot be extruded out in the next movement of printing. As for the retraction speed setting, users can reserve the default setting which is perfect for almost every models.

Testing your settings

As 0scar has reminded me, there are a good number of retraction test prints available (cubes, towers, bridges), which will help you check that your settings are adequate. These prints provide models that have a lot of print breaks (points between which printing is paused and then resumed), which can cause stringing to be exhibited. See RepRap Wiki - Oozebane:


Objective: stop material oozing out of the nozzle during 'non-printing' moves.

Many extruders will emit (ooze) plastic even when the extruder motor is not turning. To overcome this your slicing software needs to 'retract' the print medium during head movement when not printing. The retraction creates negative pressure within the hot end heating chamber which effectively sucks the print medium back up through the nozzle, stopping it from oozing.

Calibration Object: oozebane-test.stl

The calibration object prints two towers about 30 mm apart. The head must move between each of the towers at each layer. If your printer is not set correctly then you will see many fine filaments (or strings) between the two towers. You can eliminate these filaments by eliminating ooze.

Calibration Object 2 (Variable sized towers for testing ooze): variable_size_ooze_test_nobase.stl

This is a simple model to help tune reversal parameters for a stepper extruder (using much less filament before actually testing the ooziness). It consists of a number of towers with different thicknesses, with different spacing between each tower. A well-tuned bot should be able to produce even the smallest towers.

A simple google search, thingiverse retraction, shows up a lot of examples, such as:

Retraction tower

Check out the following (suspiciously similar) tags1, for even more examples:

Additional note for Bowden setups

As Trish notes in the comments:

According to my experience2 it is generally a good idea to add 2 to 4 mm of retraction to a bowden setup in comparison to a direct drive when dialing in the perfect retraction. This is, because some distance is "eaten" by the flex of the Bowden tube.

1 It seems as if Thingiverse could benefit from tag synonyms

2 and Thomas Sanladerer's advice during a stream

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You may consider adding (to complete the answer) a hint to printing retraction calibration tower that are readily available, e.g. from Thingiverse. $\endgroup$
    – 0scar
    Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ @0scar - Ah, very good point. I'd forgotten about that. Will do so now. Cheers! :-) $\endgroup$
    – Greenonline
    Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 9:38

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