A 3D printer is a complex device that consists of many parts. Quite often people face problems during operation. One of the frequently asked questions is how to clean the nozzle 3D printer.
This article will give detailed information about the cleaning process of the 3D printer nozzle, the main methods, as well as the frequency with which this procedure must be carried out.
Feature of 3D solutions and the importance of knowing how to clean nozzle 3D printer
3D printing appeared in the mid-80s in the United States and over time, from a niche industry, it was able to become widespread.
Today, 3D printing technologies can be mastered right at home.
3D printer technology
The printing principle of consumer 3D printers is based on FDM (Fusion Deposition Modeling) technology. 3D scanning is the automatic collection and analysis of data from a real object, namely shape, color, and other characteristics, with subsequent conversion into a digital three-dimensional model.
The very process of layer-by-layer creation of physical objects makes a strong impression, and the perspectives that open up thanks to the three-dimensional printing process can turn the heads of artists, scientists, builders, and even housewives.
Today, such printers are widely used in various areas of life, from astronautics and medicine to fashion design and cooking.
3D printing technologies are used for prototyping and distributed manufacturing in architecture, construction, industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, and medical industries.
3D printer at home
For home use, FDM 3D printers are usually chosen. They are not much larger than conventional document printers. The smallest printers will allow you to print small objects up to 20×20×20 cm in size.
Importance of regular maintenance and thorough cleaning of the printer.
Regularly checking the condition of your 3D printer parts such as the nozzle, bearings, fan, rods, lead screws, and worktable can potentially save you a lot of time and prevent premature breakdowns!
Causes of clogged nozzle
Before cleaning the nozzle, you must first determine that the problem is indeed in the nozzle. Sometimes the material may break as it enters the printhead due to the mechanism that pushes it.
Dust and debris entering the extruder nozzle:
This often happens after several jobs have been completed, as excess debris enters the nozzle along with the filament. Dust or other small particles can stick to the filament until it reaches the hot end and burns out, causing annoying clogging.
Excessively high extruder temperature
If the printer is operated at too high a temperature for a given material, the filament can simply vitrify directly in the extruder and thus fully clog it. Filament jamming occurs. A bottleneck is formed.
Therefore, it is important to observe the correct printing temperature regime recommended by the filament manufacturer.
Nozzle too close to bed:
If the nozzle is too close to the bed, there is no room for the filament to be squeezed out of the nozzle, resulting in clogging.
Preventive measures to prevent clogging of the nozzle
When 3D printers first appeared, cleaning was a rather complicated procedure. Often the printer had to be disassembled and to remove the stuck plastic, it was necessary to heat the parts with an open flame.
Manufacturers recommend using different nozzles and heater block assemblies for different materials, particularly exotic materials.
Some materials have different properties and respond differently to changes in temperature, especially materials that mimic rubber.
Do not force material into the nozzle when installing new material. This prevents material from building up inside the print head.
To keep the printer in working condition, it is desirable to perform a similar algorithm before each print.
- Quick system check and easy cleaning:
- Clean the work surface of the table and apply a fresh coat of glue.
- Inspect the work surface for damage.
- Carefully clean the extruder nozzle and check for even filament feed
- Remove debris from the printer.
- For manual leveling 3D printers, check desktop leveling before printing.
The main sign that the nozzle of your printer is clogged
- No Printing: If your extruder does not start to extrude plastic when the job starts, and the nozzle is at a reasonable distance from the platform, you most likely have a clogged extruder.
- Insufficient Extrusion: Burnt plastic can adhere to the inside surface of the nozzle, not directly blocking it, but interfering with the progress of the material.
- The jet of plastic is squeezed out unevenly: similarly to the option above if there is a coating of burnt plastic.
- Stuck in the Hot End: Stuck in the hot end often looks as if the filament is stuck in the middle and bottom of the hot end.
- High printing temperature (each type of plastic used to create three-dimensional objects has its optimal temperature)
Deep Nozzle Cleaning Methods
These different methods are aimed at the most effective cleaning of the nozzle from excess contaminants without the risk of damaging it or the entire printer as a whole.
Cleaning external debris with a brass wire brush.
A metal brush is a good tool for cleaning the nozzle. Debris on the outside of the nozzle is excess molten material that sticks during printing. In most cases, the main reason for the accumulation of leftover filament is that the entire nozzle is too low.
We will need to take a brass wire brush to fight the pollution. (It is not recommended to use a brush with steel fibers, as this may damage the 3D printer nozzle).
Before starting, warm up the nozzle to operate the temperature. Then it is best to unplug the printer from the mains to avoid a short circuit.
Cleaning should begin in the area around the extruder heating block. To do this, we recommend carefully cleaning the hot end from all sides with a metal brush until traces of frozen or burnt plastic disappear.
The main goal is to remove any filament debris to prevent clogging or blockage
Removing a clogged 3D printer nozzle with a cleaning filament
This method is ideal for cleaning the inside surface of the nozzle. The most common problem that can occur is that the cold material remains stuck to the inner surfaces of the nozzle, which interferes with the quality of the extrusion of the material.
The first step is to heat the extruder and nozzle to soften the clogged material. Next, take nylon or 3D printer cleaning filament.
Cleaning filament is a material that is sold in short sticks or spools. At first glance, these fibers resemble nylon. This nylon filament is ideal for removing stuck particles and carbonized plastic without damaging the nozzle.
For best results, the temperature of the plastic should be as low as possible, and you can try to bring the nozzle to a much cooler state first and gradually heat it u. A guitar string can be used as a nylon cleaning filament.
It is necessary to stretch it into the nozzle and wait a couple of seconds. During this time, the filament will have time to melt a little and collect all the dirt and carbonized material. Then, with a sharp movement, pull it out of the nozzle completely.
As soon as you remove the material, you will see the dirt, carbon deposits, partial clog, and filament residue that have accumulated inside your nozzle.
Continue these steps until you are sure the nozzle is properly clean.
Atomic method of cleaning 3D printer nozzle clogging
There is also a similar method called the “Cold pull method” aka “Atomic Method”. It differs from the previous one by another selection of printing temperatures.
This time, still using the cleaning thread, it is necessary to insert the plastic cleaning filament into the nozzle heated to 250 °C (482 °F). (You can also melt the remaining plastic in the nozzle with a building hair dryer)
It should be hot enough that the thread is pliable, but not so hot that it is too soft. Be sure to cut off the filament dripping from the nozzle before starting the broach.
While pushing the nozzle, turn off the heat and let the printer cool down.
After the temperature drops to 100 or 90 °C (194 °F), pull the cleaning filament out with a sharp movement. The atomic method allows you to extract a lot more dirt, but requires you to apply force and pressure while pushing and pulling the plastic.
Cleaning the nozzle of a 3D printer with a solvent and a paper towel
If the surface of the nozzle, in addition to dirt and dust particles, has more complex clogging, you should resort to another cleaning method.
This method is cleaning the nozzle of a 3D printer with acetone or another solvent, such as dichloromethane – the choice of solvent depends on the composition of the filament used.
- First, you need to completely remove the nozzle
- Leave the nozzle in the solvent for a while (up to 24 hours). Shake the bottle vigorously every 3 hours.
- After the end of the procedure, you should remove the nozzle and carry out the final test: if a thin wire or needle passes freely through the nozzle, it means that it has completely cleared.
- Finally, wipe the inside of it with acetone (ethyl acetate) or its equivalent with a paper towel.
Conclusion to 3D printer nozzle cleaning
For the printer to work for a long time and properly, you need to take care of it. Clogged extruder nozzles on a 3D printer are not uncommon in the operation of this device. However, this does not mean that its cleaning should be neglected.
A clogged nozzle provokes insufficient force in the feed mechanism and incorrect nozzle temperature, which can have a bad effect not only on the quality of printing but also on the 3D printer itself.
The main thing is not to forget about safety. Before starting maintenance, disconnect the cable from the mains to avoid electric shock. Then check all fixtures of the device.
During operation, it vibrates strongly, due to which the connections weaken. Tighten any loose bolts.
Thus, maintenance of 3D printers is not that difficult. Anyone can do this if they are careful enough.
Here are some of the most important procedures to follow to keep your machine running.
- Checking bolted connections
- Dust removal of fans and electronics
- Belt tension check
- Lubrication and cleaning of guides and running pins
- Heated platform cleaning
- Nozzle cleaning
- Extruder cleaning.
A blocked nozzle can have a huge impact on the quality of your 3D-printed objects. Even a tiny blockage of plastic in an extruder can ruin a product or make a part less durable than it otherwise would be. If you see even a slight curve as the filament comes off the nozzle, this is a sign that you have a problem.
Read also: Detailed analysis of 3D printer repair