Frequently Asked 3D Printer Maintenance Questions

Parts that can be used in 3D Printer maintenance.

Over the years our support team has gathered the frequently asked 3D Printer maintenance questions. We decided to make a blog post that answers those questions and offer other useful advice to keep your 3D Printer working hard. While regular maintenance can be a bit time consuming it can mean the difference between an anticipatory replacement and extended downtime while you wait for a new part.

On a side note, we have to add that 3D Printers purchased from DIYElectronics come with a 6-month warranty and opening the printer during this period will void this warranty. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s jump into answering some 3D Printer maintenance questions!

We will start by looking at common maintenance questions asked by our customers. We have split the information into FDM and DLP 3D Printers.

What is 3D Printer maintenance?

Your 3D Printer needs maintenance just like your car needs a service. 3D Printers have various moving parts that wear over time or in certain conditions. 3D Printer maintenance is a regular set of activities that should be undertaken at set intervals to help avoid future problems. Some manufacturers even have recommendations on when maintenance needs to be performed.

Questions

How often should you service your 3D Printer?

When to perform maintenance on your 3D Printer varies with the age and environment the 3D Printer is kept in. Before starting a new print, we recommend giving your printer a quick visual inspection to help avoid any issues. To keep your printer running smoothly we recommend the following:

FDM:

As Needed:
– Clean the build surface.
Every Month:
– Clean printer of any dust.
– Visually check for any wear and tear.
Every 3 Months:
– Clean printer of any dust.
– Check fans for debris.
– Clean and check the nozzle for wear.
– Check for play on the bearings and V-Wheels.
– Check belt tension.
– Use a toothbrush or wire brush to clean the extruder drive gears(s).
Every Year:
– Lubricate bearings, idlers and lead screws. Please note that lubricating the leadscrews and TR. Nut on the Prusa i3 Mk3 is not recommended.
– Clean printer.
– Check wiring and looms for wear and loose connections. If you open your printer be carful not to damage other components.

DLP:

After Every Print:
– Clean build plate.
Every Month:
– Check the FEP film for damage and wear.
– If resin has been sitting in the vat, then remove resin and allow the vat to air. It can also help to leave the vat in indirect sunlight, so that any remaining resin will harden and you can scrape it off with the plastic spatula later.
– Check for dirt and debris.
– Level your build plate. (More often if you print consistently)
Every 3 Months:
– Check FEP film.
– Level your build plate.
– Check carbon filters. (Integrated or externally added)
– Check for dirt and debris.
Every 6-12 Months:
– Check Masking LCD (If any light is shining through the masked areas, then you may need a replacement.)
– Check the UV COB (Chip On Board.)

What parts need to be cleaned?

Dirt in a 3D Printer
Keep your 3D Printer clear of dust and debris such as this.

FDM:

The 3D Printer should be kept clear of dirt, dust and debris. Areas to focus on are the outside of the nozzle, the fans (Don’t open printer as it could void 6-month warranty), print surface, V-Wheels, and the extruder. We recommend cleaning/wiping down your 3D Printer once a month. If you keep the printer in a dustier environment, more frequent cleaning will prolong the lifespan of the 3D Printer.

DLP:

The 3D Printer needs to be kept clear of dirt and debris. When cleaning a resin 3D Printer, such as a DLP, the following part should be kept clean: the build plate, the FEP film, the vat (when the printer is not in constant use), and the carbon filter.

What should I look out for during maintenance?

FDM:

Look for any parts that are showing signs of wear. Moving parts on a 3D Printer will wear down over time. Some parts wear slower than others, so checking for wear can help prevent problems later on. Check that there is no build up of dust and debris on moving parts and around the fans. Giving your printer a quick visual inspection before printing can help prevent problems.

DLP:

Because a resin printer has far fewer moving parts when compared to FDM printers, there are less parts that can wear out. When doing maintenance, we recommend you check the condition of the FEP film, LCD mask, carbon filter, and build plate.

What parts should I keep spares of?

Various nozzles that can be used for replacement or upgrade.
Some of the nozzles you can get for 3D Printers.

FDM:

Having a set of parts that commonly need replacing is good practice. Having spares of the parts can help you get back up and printing when something goes wrong. We recommend keeping spare nozzles, fans, build surface, PTFE tubing, and heat breaks. If your printer makes use of 3D Printed parts, then printing a spare set can save time if a part needs replacing.

DLP:

As resin printers have fewer moving parts, it goes without saying that there will also be fewer parts that experience wear and tear. The main component to keep spares of is the FEP film. Having a spare build plate assembly can allow you swap out build plates for faster printing. You can also keep spares of the LCD masking display and UV COB, but these can be expensive parts to have sitting around.

How to clean the nozzle and throat? (FDM Only)

Tools that can be used to clean the nozzle during 3D Printer maintenance
Some of the tools you can use to clean and unclog a nozzle.

Keeping your nozzle clean will allow you to get the most out of your 3D Printer. A dirty nozzle can lead to all kinds of errors. Here are some tips to clean and unclog a 3D Printer nozzle. To find out more about the different types of nozzles and their benefits read our 3D Printer Nozzle guide.

Dirty Nozzle:
– Regularly cleaning the outside of the nozzle using a brass brush, cleaning filament or even just using the side cutters or pliers (carefully). This can help prevent partial or full clogs of the nozzle. If using a brush to clean the nozzle be carful not to short parts of the printer.
Clogged Nozzle:
– If you suspect a clog, remove the PTFE tubing and Bowden connector. Take a nozzle needle or acupuncture needle and see if you can dislodge any stuck filament.
– If the blockage occurred during or after printing with ABS, then removing the nozzle and place it in a jar of acetone to dissolve the clog.
– Perform a cold pull. Heat up nozzle to 220°C and push filament through, and then let extruder cool to room temperature to solidify the filament. Finally, set hotend to 115°C and maintain a firm tension on the filament by tugging on it while holding the extruder gear open, and a certain temperature, the filament should suddenly give way and pull out – hopefully with a small clump of the filament that was causing the clog on the end of the strand. This technique can also be improved upon further by using cleaning filament or nylon filament, as these have a higher melting point than most typical filaments, and will tend to “grab” the other plastics as it gets pulled out of the nozzle. This advanced technique is commonly referred to as an “Atomic Pull”.

In Closing

We are sure you have plenty of other questions that you want answered but we hope this post answers the most frequently asked questions. If you have any questions about a 3D Printer purchased from DIYElectronics then please email our support desk and we will try assist you. If you enjoyed this guide then check out our other blog posts, we have a growing collection of guides and project posts up right now. We also have other guides on our website. To keep up to date on everything DIYElectronics related such as new products, projects, and Maker news, check out our social media. FacebookInstagramTikTokTwitter and website.

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