The 3D printer is already a powerful technology that every sector relies on, especially medical, pharmaceuticals, and automobiles.
Despite this, many people are not yet aware of what a 3D printer is? Designers and engineers were using 3D printing technology for more than 25 years but only at research levels. It was industries and MNCs that started installing 3D printers in their labs and workshops and portrayed its benefits, and that is how it got public recognition.
The clogging problem
As dating and essential as this 3D printing technology looks, many problems come with it. Sometimes the 3D printer won’t work due to assembly issues, thermoplastic mess, or the most common problem- nozzle clogging. Even if you have the best 3d printer nozzle, this problem pokes out.
So if you are working on 3D printers, you know how annoying it gets when the nozzle stops working due to clogging. Thus, the manufacturers recommend cleaning nozzles frequently so that the 3D printer sustains for a longer time.
However, the manufacturers don’t tell you how you’re supposed to clean the nozzle, which leaves confusion in your head. But, worry no more; I am here to elucidate some practical ways by which you can clean the 3D printer nozzle quickly. Before getting into the article, you must know the importance of cleaning and maintaining your 3D printer nozzle.
Why do you think 3D printer nozzle cleaning is necessary?
It’s crucial because the nozzle is the only element that helps with extrusion; without that, your 3D prosthesis would never be constructed. If the nozzle does not work correctly, it could affect the entire printing assembly. Hence, extruder nozzle cleaning is a must when you’re using a 3D printer. Now that you know why you must clean the nozzle, let’s begin with the actual part.
What Are The 3D Printer Clogged Nozzle Symptoms?
How do you know if your printer nozzle is clogged? Clog does not build up after every use; even if it does, it will not cause any problem in the printing. But if the same nozzle had been used several times, then there’s a possibility that it will affect the printing and end up not printing at all.
So, how do you identify the cause where the nozzle is clogged up, and you need to fix it? There are various signs your printer gives while clogging up; if these signs are not rectified in time, you might end up damaging the nozzle and your 3D prints as well.
- The first layer, while extrusion, comes inconsistent or uneven. You have to observe that the melted plastic thread or resin is falling on the print bed in even amounts. If you see inconsistency in it, that means there’s a clog in the nozzle.
- Printed products are more delicate or fragile than usual. This is another indication that the nozzle is not pouring the material properly.
- There is unusual roughness in the printed parts, especially edges.
- If the nozzle is clogging up, you will hear a disturbing scraping sound from the extruder gear. This is the most common sign which lets you identify the cause.
- The motor that drives the nozzle keeps thumping back due to resistance created by the clogs in the nozzle. If you observe any popping or thumping of the extruder motor, then it is time to fix the clog.
So these are some of the printer nozzle checks which must be done to identify if the symptoms of 3D print nozzle clogged problem.
What Are The Causes Of Clogged Printer Nozzles?
Before you can understand clog, it’s advisable to first address the causes that create 3D printer nozzle jam in the first place.
Inexact nozzle height
To get a successful print of an object, placing the nozzle at the right height is crucial. If the height is too high, the melted material has to travel longer, which brings thin consistency on the print bed, whereas if the height is too low, the material falling on the print bed would be chunky. Thus, the nozzle’s height must be set right to prevent over-clogging.
If the temperature on the hot end of the nozzle is low, then the material will not melt properly and end up building up in the nozzle itself. This will ultimately hamper printer performance. If the temperature of the hot end of the nozzle is too high, then the material gets “heat creep.” This means the melted material will be further softened and melted on the print bed to result in a bad bulky 3D print.
Thus, maintaining a proper temperature is crucial to prevent unwanted clogging of the nozzle.
Filament quality is the sole factor that determines the success of any 3D print. If the quality of the filament is low, then the end product you get is cheap. For instance, if you are using a 3D printer for cosplay, then you will have the need to use different types of materials or filaments. But you can’t be rest assured that the filament quality would be good.
If you want to know if the 3D print filament you have is of high quality or low, then do a rigorous diameter test. The low-quality filament cannot withstand much tolerance test, while the high-quality filament can tolerate much pressure and temperature and can pass any trial test.
Also, low-quality ones start to leak, so you will notice filament leaking around the nozzle, and also at times, filament getting stuck to the nozzle would cause much trouble as well. This is how you can identify the cause and fix it immediately.
When it comes to clogging, we blame all the other factors while raw materials are overlooked. Suppose the raw materials or resins have contamination in them that could be anything like pollutants or particles. In that case, they will get blended with the mixture and damage the nozzle’s inside and ultimately the 3D print object.
Regardless of the effort you put in preventing the clog, dust always finds its way to interfere. While melting, dust particles get burnt and start sticking to the surface of the nozzles. Due to excess carbon build-up in the nozzle, the width of the opening gets narrower. So this impedes the flow of the filament down on the print bed.
How To Unclog A 3D Printer Nozzle?
Before you go ahead and start unclogging the 3D printer nozzle you must know what are the tools that you will need to successfully unclog a 3D printer nozzle;
- Brass brush
- Nylon filament same diameter as the printing filament
- Heat gun
- Crescent and socket wrench
- Sewing needles to acupuncture needles
Using the nozzle mentioned above cleaning tool, it is now possible cleaning 3D printer nozzle.
Method 1: Using a brass wire brush
- This is the best way to clean 3D printer nozzle. Take a clean brass brush and clean off any dried-out debris from the surface of the extruder nozzle.
- Only use a brass brush. Do not use any other metal brushes as they might damage the inner surface of the nozzle.
Method 2: Use Nylon Filament
- Take a cleaning filament same diameter as your regular filament.
- Heat the nozzle up to 250° C, then force the filament to scrub over the nozzle surface until all the filament comes out of the hot end.
- Bring the nozzle to room temperature and let the filament solidify inside the nozzle.
- Set the hot end to 115° C and let it again come back to 90 °C; at this point, you have to pull the filament out of the nozzle, which also might catch previous residues stuck in the nozzle.
- Now repeat the 1st process, heat up the entire nozzle up to 250° C, and push the filament in the nozzle again. This time it should come out clean if it does not repeat the entire process one more time.
Method 3: Using Crescent and Socket wrench
- Heat the nozzle to the temperature you last set.
- To stop the heater block, use a crescent wrench and use the socket wrench to twist the extruder simultaneously.
- Once you remove the nozzle, dip the nozzle in the chemical (Acetone) and wash off the clog immediately.
Method 4: Heat Gun
- Sometimes the print materials are hard to remove from the nozzle, and acetone doesn’t work on them. In such cases, you can go for a heat gun or a blowtorch treatment. But, this has to be done under safety precautions. If you are skilled enough to do it yourself only then I would suggest you do.
- Wave the heat over the nozzle, don’t give continuous heat as it must melt your nozzle as well. Steady heat will eventually melt the leftover residues from the nozzle.
So these are the four recommended methods and any of the listed methods can be opted to unclog or to clean 3D printer nozzle.
How To Clean A Blocked 3D Printer Extruder Nozzle?
There are several methods to clean extruder nozzles that are hard and blocked;
Method 1: Alcohol
This is one of the simplest methods for cleaning extruder nozzle.
- First, clean the exterior debris that’s visible.
- Then heat the nozzle;
- While the nozzle is hot, use a damp cloth dipped in alcohol to rub around the nozzle.
- This will create steam inside the nozzle, making it drip all the leftover debris in the nozzle from previous printing.
Method 2: Cold Pull
This method is common in materials of ABS(160- 180° C) and PLA (80 – 100° C).
- This method starts with the removing of the Bowden tube from the extruder head
- Bring the hot end to a printing temperature of the selected cold pull filament.
- Push the cold pull filament into the nozzle until the old filament starts falling out.
- Cool the hot end while firmly putting pressure on the filament.
- When the hot end cools to a temperature of 60 °C, you can release the pressure; at this time, the dirt or clog will stick to the pull-out filament strand and come out clean.
- Again heat the nozzle to the printing temperature of the filament and start pulling it out.
Note: If you are using a PPLA, make sure you pull the strand out carefully as it is brittle and could break.
Method 3: Replacements & Upgrades
If you see no amount of cleaning is enough to take out the clog, then the best choice is to get a new one.
You can try out different nozzles of different diameters and materials, e.g., Wood filled materials.
Replacement or upgrade is a wise option than getting intense cleaning on the blocked extruder nozzle. In the worst-case scenario, you can replace 3D printer nozzle and solve the problem.
What Do You Do in Case the Filament is Stripped Away?
The reason why the filament might strip away could be because of the hob of the extruder. If the hob of the extruder is damaged, it will also damage the nozzle and gear. Due to excessive pressure in the nozzle, the filament will get stripped away. You can clean the hob to avoid this, so the filament is grabbed properly at the right printing speed.
Best 3D Printer Cleaning Filament
NovaMaker nozzle cleaner Filament
This is the best cleaning filament available in the market. This filament helps greatly in removing old residues from the nozzle. This filament can withstand temperatures from 150- 160° C without giving any issues.
eSun Cleaning Filament
This nozzle cleaner filament comes in a 3mm size; the best thing about it is it has the adhesive property that will get everything out of the extruder nozzle during cleaning.
This printer nozzle cleaner can handle temperatures between 150-260° C.
How To Clean the Ender 3 Nozzle?
Ender 3 clogged nozzle can be cleaned easily with the below given two methods ;
Open the nozzle from its fan to get a better view of the nozzle.
Using an acupuncture needle break the particles stuck inside the nozzle.
This will break the residues into small pieces; then, you can take the filament based on the diameter of the nozzle and force the filament into the nozzle surface until it clears out the way.
Take the nozzle out from the printer assembly.
Apply heat with the help of a heat gun to soften the particles stuck in the nozzle. Let it cool down, and then, using the cold pull method, take out the leftover residues in one go.
Ender 3 nozzle cleaning is quite simple if you follow any of the two methods mentioned above.
How Often Should You Clean your 3D Printer Nozzle?
Many printer users have this question like, how often should you change 3D printer nozzle?
- You can clean your 3D printer nozzle every time before printing, but that’s not necessary.
- Until the nozzle gets dirty, you can wait and then start cleaning.
- Ideally, you should clean it every three months interval to maintain its durability.
Every material or machine needs cleaning and maintenance; 3D printer nozzle is no different; thus, the printer nozzle clogged can be prevented by cleaning it regularly. You can use any of the mentioned methods to successfully unclog the nozzle and let that single nozzle last for a longer time.
I hope the information in this 3D printer nozzle cleaning article is understandable and good enough to help you upgrade your cleaning skills. If you have better ideas on how to clean a 3D printer nozzle, then comment below.