Thanks to developments in technology and creative design, 3D printers are now more affordable than ever. This means there has been a rise in home manufacturing and people using 3D printers outside of a professional or commercial setting.
Whilst this opens a lot of doors for people to explore their passions, whether as a hobby or a small business, it can cause some issues.
3D printing is not always smooth sailing and when you are working alone at home you will need to troubleshoot and solve any issues that arise to prevent lengthy delays in your project.
One of the most common issues that people face when using a 3D printer at home is a blocked nozzle. We have put together a guide which explains the best way to clean your 3D printer nozzle.
Of course, it is better to prevent an issue rather than fix one, so we have also provided some advice on how to avoid your nozzle getting clogged.
How Do You Know If You Have A Clogged Nozzle?
Before you start the process of unblocking your nozzle, you should make sure that this is definitely the issue that you are dealing with. Make sure you check that the heating block is working properly and the filament is heating to the correct temperature.
You should also check that the filament hasn’t broken at the printer head entrance due to high pressure from the gears. Once you have ruled out both of these options, it is very likely that a clogged nozzle is the issue.
What Will You Need To Clean Your 3D Printer Nozzle?
Before we get started on the process of how to clean your 3D printer nozzle, take a look at the list of items you will need to get the job done:
- Aluminum foil
- Socket wrench
- Brass wire brush
- Acetone or nail polish remover
- Lighter, candle or heat gun
- Nylon filament
Once you have gathered all of those items, you can follow our 4 simple steps to clean your nozzle. If the nozzle is only mildly clogged then you might not need all of the steps to achieve a great result- it depends on how dirty the nozzle is.
This is the most basic way to clean your 3D nozzle. Use the brass wire brush to clear any clogs out of the tip of the nozzle, such as accumulated burnt material.
Whilst a brass wire brush is less likely to cause damage than a steel wire brush, you should still be careful not to be too vigorous or you could risk damaging the nozzle.
This step should be part of your regular maintenance routine for your 3D printer to prevent larger, more troublesome clogs from building up.
Another method for removing a small amount of melted filament from the tip of the nozzle is to use a needle to push it through. Make sure you heat up the nozzle first so the material becomes soft, as this will make it easier to remove.
You can use a heat gone for this. It might be a bit of a fiddly process to get the blockage out, but if you are patient it is a fairly simple method.
Step 3 is called the ‘Cold Pull’ method. This is more tricky than the previous steps but is useful for removing larger blockages of melted filament material.
Nylon has a higher melting point so a length of nylon filament is pushed through the nozzle and then heated to 250 degrees celsius or 482 degrees fahrenheit. After around 5 minutes of heating, push the nylon filament through the nozzle.
The blockage should have melted and will cling to the nylon- you will need to be firm but not too vigorous and continue to push until you can no longer see melted material on the nylon filament.
You will then need to let the nozzle cool down to room temperature to ensure that the nylon filament becomes solid again, then heat the nozzle to half of the previous temperature to soften the filament, then you will be able to pull it free. This step can be repeated several times if necessary.
If all of the other methods have failed then you can use this one. It is very effective but takes longer than the others. You will need to remove the clogged nozzle and soak it in acetone or nail polish remover for at least 15 minutes to dissolve the blockage.
Once you have removed the nozzle from the acetone, wipe it clean and let it fully dry before reattaching it. Please note that this method will not work on a clog caused by ABS composite plastic- you will need to use a heat gun and work out the blockage with a thin piece of soft wire.
This could take quite a while so you will need to be patient and methodical.
How To Prevent Your 3D Printer Nozzle From Clogging
It is important to know how to unclog and clean your 3D printer nozzle, but the ideal scenario is to prevent it from becoming blocked in the first place. Even if you buy a top of the range nozzle it can still get blocked if you don’t take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening.
The first thing to remember is to always clean the nozzle when you switch filaments. A lot of nozzle clogs occur when leftover filament gets lodged when the filament is changed.
The second thing you need to do is make sure you are storing your filament correctly so it does not get dusty or dirty. Any dust or dirt on the filament will be burned as it comes into contact with the nozzle and could contribute to a blockage. Ideally, you should store your filament in vacuum sealed bags.
Getting the right nozzle height can also help to prevent clogs as if the nozzle is set too high the filament will cool prematurely before it reaches the build platform. If the nozzle is too low then the filament will not be able to flow properly and will build up.
Using the right printing temperature is another important step you can take to prevent your 3D printer nozzle from becoming blocked or clogged.
The nozzle is usually smaller than the diameter of the filament, which means the filament must be melted in order to pass smoothly through the nozzle. If the temperature is too low then the filament will not melt enough, or will cool down too quickly, causing it to get trapped in the nozzle.