A 3D printer can be a finicky piece of hardware, and you don’t want to be dealing with a filament problem or breakdown right in the middle of making your latest work of genius. Like any machine, you need to take care of it. This rule applies to 3D printers more than most, because – let’s face it, the quality of manufacture of most consumer 3D printers isn’t quite where we’d like it to be.
This is where 3D printer maintenance comes in. To get the cost of the hardware down, some (not all, but some) companies have tried to get away with lower-quality components, requiring owners to do far more regular maintenance and modding than on your standard household appliances (or even on your old non-3D printer – can you remember the last time you put any maintenance into that)? The quality of 3D printers is coming up, but right now, it is what it is. (Mr. Joe explains why this is and provides some helpful tips for getting around the problem).
Not to fear. Let’s go over some of the best ways to take care of your 3D printer and keep it happy. Every 3D printer is different, and online forums can be helpful for particular manufacturers, but here are some general 3D printer maintenance tips that apply across the board.
Keep Your 3D Printer Lubricated
Just like with a car engine, lots of metal moving parts can lead to stoppages if you don’t keep the rods and linear bearings from seizing up. You’re not using motor oil, though. Sewing machine oil works well. Just a drop or two on your rails and rods will do the trick.
[Tweet “1-2 drops of sewing machine oil on your rails & rods will keep your 3D printer running smoothly”]
Other kinds of lubricant can work – just make sure they’re safe to use with plastic. Don’t overdo it – too much grease can actually gum up the works by attracting dust and grime. Here’s a good primer on how to do it courtesy of Jimmy Younkin on YouTube.
Clean Out Your Filament Nozzle
Clogs can impact the quality of your 3D printed products pretty substantially. Even a tiny clog can foul up the design or make the piece less structurally sound than it might otherwise be. If you see even a bit of a curve as the filament comes down from the nozzle, that’s a sign you’ve got a problem.
[Tweet “If you see any curve as the filament comes down your 3D printer nozzle, read this article!”]
Fortunately, this is a fairly straightforward bit of 3D printer maintenance. Take your nozzle out of your 3D printer. You’ll need some tape, hand tools a razor blade, a glass jar and some high quality acetone from your hardware store. Eric William of MKme Tech shows how it’s done:
Pick Your Extruder Gear Clean
This part can get sabotaged by debris that builds up after a number of 3D printing jobs. First, unscrew the extruder from the printer. Take off the extruder cover. You’ll likely need some hex keys to take off the screws holding the fan in place. Depending on the model, you’ll need to do a bit more dismantling before you get to the extruder, where you can use a sharp tool to scrape off the gunk. Denford Ltd. has a simple-to-follow video that shows the procedure close up, based on an UP! 3D Printer.
Replace Worn-Out Kapton Tape or Build-Surface Area
The area you’re building on can get scratched up, affecting the look and integrity of your 3D creations. Easy fix, here. The Makerbot Replicator 2 manufacturers have an easy-to-follow video of how it works (Peel off the old tape, replace with the new tape – this might just be the easiest bit of maintenance you do on your 3D printer).
Update your 3D Printer firmware
Just like with your home computer, you want to keep your firmware up to date at all times. If your machine is buggy and you’re keeping the hardware maintained, there’s a good chance that others have already recognized the problem and it will be solved with a regular download.
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