3D printers can be some of the most exciting machines to use, but they can quickly become a source of frustration if the nozzle becomes clogged. Clogs can lead to wasted filament and hard-to-diagnose problems like uneven extrusion.
No matter what caused the blockage, there are several steps you can take to successfully unclog your 3D printer nozzle and get it back working again in just a few minutes. But before that, let’s have a look at the causes of clogging in 3D printer nozzles.
Causes of Clogging in 3D Printer Nozzles
There are many causes of clogs in 3D printer nozzles, including the following:
- Cold pulls: This is one of the common causes where material left in the nozzle from the previous print cools down and firms up.
- Wrong material choice: Some materials are unsuitable for 3D printing and can lead to clogs. It is essential to use the best material for your project. Before attempting any print job, ensure you understand each material’s thermal characteristics, viscosity, and other properties.
- Dirty nozzle: A buildup of dirt or debris on the nozzle may cause a clog. To avoid this issue, always check that nozzles are clean and debris-free before initiating a 3D printing job.
- Wrong extruding temperature: The optimal extruding temperature depends on the type of filament you use and the nozzle size and design of your 3D printer. If you fail to set the temperature correctly, it can lead to clogs or other issues during printing.
- Poorly calibrated extruder: If the extruder is not accurately calibrated, the filament can come out faster or slower than expected and this can result in clogging. To fix this, just make sure that you accurately calibrate the 3D printer extruder for the best results.
- Nozzle diameter too small: The nozzle diameter of your 3D printer should match the size of the filament you use; otherwise, it could cause clogging due to a low flow rate. It’s essential to use a nozzle that is adequately sized based on the type of filament you need.
There are several tools you can use to unclog a 3D printer nozzle. The most important ones are:
- A pair of tweezers: Tweezers help you to grab small pieces of filament that may be stuck in the nozzle, allowing you to pull them out and clear the clog. You might also need a needle or dental pick for more stubborn blockages.
- Pliers or cutting nippers: For pulling any stubborn filaments stuck in the nozzle.
- A piece of cloth: For wiping the nozzle.
- Acetone solvent: You can dissolve the filament and clear any blockages stuck inside the nozzle. You can use heat to soften plastic material, allowing it to be removed from the nozzle more easily.
Unclogging your nozzle isn’t as difficult as it may seem; below are some simple steps to help you clear any blockage and restore the pristine performance of your 3D printer.
Step 1: Remove Any Visible Filament in the Nozzle
You need a pair of cutting nippers to remove the unwanted filament from your 3D printer nozzle properly. Cutting nippers require careful use to avoid damage to the nozzle or the wires.
Start by clipping away excess filament before using force for stubborn pieces of filament. Once bitten off, clear particles from the cutting nippers so as not to create a further blockage in the nozzle.
Step 2: Use a Sharp Object to Clear the Nozzle
You can use a needle, small screwdriver, or other narrow, sharp object to remove any clog on the nozzle that is not visible. Before beginning this task, wear protective gloves and safety glasses to prevent injury from debris.
Step 3: Try a Different Type of Filament
Using a different type of 3D printer filament with a broader diameter can often unblock a clogged nozzle. This simple solution will not only remove all the existing blockages but can potentially prevent any further issues that could arise with more stubborn filaments.
Step 4: Heat the 3D Printer Nozzle
Heating the nozzle should be the next step if there is still some filament stuck inside the nozzle. You can use a soldering gun as It provides more control when melting the stuck filament. When using it, place the nozzle on top and wait a few minutes before removing it. You should be able to see the stuck filament melting away like butter.
Step 5: Soak the Nozzle in Acetone for 24 Hours
If there are still some stuck pieces of filament, soaking the nozzle in acetone for 24 hours is an easy solution. Acetone is an excellent solvent that softens and breaks down various materials while being relatively safe and non-toxic. It also is very effective on ABS and PLA plastic filaments that commonly get stuck together or pile up at the nozzle opening.
Ensure that you wear gloves and take other protective measures, such as getting sufficient ventilation, when dealing with this chemical.
Step 6: Wipe the Nozzle Using a Clean Cloth
After unclogging your 3D printer nozzle, it is essential to protect the part from dust and dirt by wiping it with a clean white cloth. The cloth is essential for removing smaller pieces of debris that other cleaning methods may not have picked up which can cause faults in future printing jobs.
Step 7: Replace the Nozzle
Replacing the nozzle should be the final resort if all the above methods fail. You can get a 3D printer nozzle in your local hardware store, or you buy it online.
To start the replacement process, begin by unscrewing the nozzle from the extruder while ensuring that you twist in an anti-clockwise direction and keep note of what size wrench you used, so you can use that size for the replacement process.
Clean up the extruder and install the new nozzle with a few drops of oil for lubrication. Remember to reattach all pieces at their original connection points before restarting your 3D printer.
3D Print Without Issues With a Working Nozzle
Clogging in 3D printers can be caused by various factors, including improper material choice, dirty nozzles, wrong extruding temperatures, and poor bed adhesion. Knowing the causes of clogs is the first step in preventing them from occurring. If you follow the above tips, you should be able to unclog your 3D printer nozzle.
It’s also essential to regularly clean the nozzle as this will help ensure that blockages don’t occur in the first place. This will save you time and energy that you would have used in trying to diagnose issues with your 3D printer.