Monday, September 9, 2013

Steps to clear a clogged 3D-printer nozzle

Most popular 3D printers on the market -- Makerbot, Ultimaker, Cube, etc -- use a process called Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), where objects are made by the gradual depositing of melted plastic, one on top of the next. As any plumber will tell you, where there is liquid moving through a tube, there is bound to be the occasional clog. Since 3D printers work just like this, if you own or operate one, then chances are you will eventually run into a clogged nozzle.

Nozzle clogs happen for any number of reasons, but they are always frustrating. Some degraded filament may have gummed up the extruder, or a bit of a dust bunny could have wedged inside. This will cause all sorts of issues, from poor flow, to jamming or no flow at all. Regardless of the reason or resulting issue,  you've got to get your nozzle clean. Chances are, if you are like me, you have scoured the internet looking for information and found suggestions like jamming utensils into your nozzles hole, or creating an insane inferno with a blow torch in an attempt to remove the offending clog. Well here's what I have discovered to be the best way to remove a clog.

So your nozzle is clogged, now what?

The best way to clean a clog from a 3D printer nozzle is to soak it up using molten filament, and then pulling it out once it begins to harden. To do this, you will need Nylon Filament (which can be purchased at Taulman3D). It makes the ideal filament for cleaning because of it's slippery nature and viscosity, which helps in removing more of the clogged matter than PLA.

Nozzle Cleaning Steps:

1. Heat the nozzle to 200C

2. Run Nylon filament through the extruder

3. With Nylon in the nozzle, reduce the temperature to 135C,  and once there let it sit for a minute

4. Slowly but firmly work the filament out of the top of the extruder

The key is to slowly work the filament out, millimeter by millimeter. You will know that you got the whole thing back out when you can see the narrow plastic that made it into the tip of the extruder.

If you pull too hard, or yank the filament too violently, it will break off inside the nozzle and you will have to repeat.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 until the filament you remove from the nozzle comes out clean

Steps to a cleared nozzle