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3D Printer Making a Clicking Noise? 10 Common Causes and Fixes

Buying a 3D printer is expensive. Hearing an odd noise or two can be a frightening experience for owners, new and old. A clicking noise is a common issue for 3D printer owners and usually means that something is wrong with the filament feed.

A 3D printer makes a clicking noise when the debris is in the extruder, or the feeder motor is damaged. It can also click when the nozzle is too close to the printer bed and when the filament is jammed. Solutions include cleaning the extruder and adjusting the feeder motor, nozzle, or filament.

With so many possibilities behind clicking sounds in your printer, it’s essential to understand what you can do to fix them. This article will explore these reasons and options to remedy the problem.

1. There Is Dirt or Dust in the Extruder

The extruder is the collection of parts that draw the plastic filament into and through the printer. Typically the extruder has two features, hot and cold. The cold portion is the part that pulls the hard plastic through. The hot part processes and melts the plastic as the printer forms the object’s shape.

Dirt or dust buildup can cause the extruder to skip or slide over parts of the filament. Dust and particles may cake together and cause one of the moving parts to stick. Even worse, dust covering the filament could be drawn into the extruder, forming a hard plug as it’s burned at the nozzle.

Clean the Extruder After Every Use

An important maintenance step is to clean the extruder after every use. If you don’t use the extruder very often, you may want to wipe it down once a week. Make sure to include any filaments you may have. 

To clean the extruder, you’ll want to use a damp cloth for the outer portion. The nozzle itself may need cleaning on the inside. A “cleaning filament” like this eSUN 3D Printer Cleaning Filament from Amazon.com can help clear any blockages in the nozzle portion. It’s effective, easy to use, and removes extensive build-up that is otherwise difficult to clean.

3d printer extruder and hotend

Take Care of Your Filaments

Store new filaments in airtight containers or plastic bags to keep them away from dust and debris. Before use, wipe them down with a lightly damp cloth. Keep filaments that you aren’t using away from the active worksite. 

2. The Feeder Motor Is Worn or Damaged

The feeder motor is the part of the extruder that powers the feeder, which delivers the filament to the print head. If the motor is worn or damaged, the feeder may not turn smoothly, resulting in a clicking noise. 

Adjust the Feeder Motor

The motor may need some adjustment. If the motor is loose, you will need to go in and ensure that everything is firmly connected. Analyze the connector pins since these may not be securely inserted, and check that they aren’t falling out of place. 

Replace the Feeder Motor

Before you do anything, first turn the power off. There are a variety of 3D printers, and the motors may be located and housed differently in each. Refer to your manufacturer’s guide, so you know where everything is. 

Don’t discard any of the parts. Purchase a replacement feeder motor, making sure it is compatible with your printer model. You can either take it to a shop to be replaced professionally or look up instructions on how to replace the motor yourself.

3. The Stepper Driver Is Damaged

The stepper driver is the circuit that provides power to the stepper motor. If the stepper driver is damaged, voltage and current can fluctuate, which throws off the rhythm of the printer. One of the first indicators of possible problems is odd stepper motor movement. 

Check the Wiring

One of the first ways to determine if there is a problem with the stepper driver is to check the wiring. Start by removing filament and setting your printer to do a cold extrusion. Then you can carefully test the wiring connection. If you wiggle a wire and the motor skips or acts erratic, you may have found a wiring issue.

Check the Motor Temperature

Overheating is a common problem for stepper motors. If too much voltage goes into the motor, it may run hot. When that happens, it may slow or shut down altogether. Check the stepper driver to ensure there is no problem with the power flowing to the motor. If the problem is the driver, you can take the printer to a professional to get it fixed or buy the parts yourself.

4. You Have Incorrectly Input the Slicer Settings

The slicer is the part of the 3D printer that packages the project data and sends it to the printer for printing. There is a careful dance between the slicer settings, printer equipment, and the delivered data. If the slicer settings don’t match the printer equipment, they can throw off the printing speed. 

Use the Appropriate Slicer Settings

Check your slicer settings to see if they are appropriate for the project you are trying to complete. If they aren’t, adjust them accordingly. Be sure to tune the settings to the specific printer equipment you are using. 

5. The Nozzle Is Too Close to the Bed of the Printer

If your printer doesn’t print the first couple of layers but begins printing as the bed lowers, a backed-up extruder could be your problem. The melted filament can get stuck in the extruder if the bed is too close. There are a couple of things you can do to remedy this problem.

3d printer nozzle

Adjust Z-Settings

You can find the Z-settings (or Z-axis settings) in your G-code settings. Manipulating the Z-axis of the printer can help make minor adjustments to your printing without changing the hardware. Make the adjustments gradually until the filament is flowing smoothly. 

Adjust the Printer Bed

You can also adjust the printer bed manually. Keep in mind that you should level the bed just enough so the filament can adhere to the bed without feeding back into the nozzle. A good suggestion is to adjust the bed to the point where an ordinary sheet of computer paper can fit between the nozzle and the bed with only a little resistance. 

6. The Extruder Gear Is Not Holding On to the Filament

This problem is multi-faceted since there are many reasons the extruder gear may not be holding on to the filament. The most common problem is that the extruder gear is too compact and cannot hold on to the filament. Alternatively, the Bowden tube may be too tight, and the filament is getting stuck on its way from the extruder to the hot end.

Take Apart the Extruder

If your gear cannot hold on to the filament, you will need to take apart the extruder and examine the assembly. Clean out any plastic debris. Ensure you are putting it back correctly when reinserting the gear back into the printer.

Clean or Replace the Bowden Tube

The Bowden tube is the portion of the printer that delivers the filament to the hot end for printing. Sometimes dirt and debris may build up in the Bowden tube. You will need to clean that out to reduce friction.

If the diameter of the Bowden tube is too small, or if the line itself is too dirty, think about replacing it. Check to make sure it fits the specifications of your printer as well as the filament you’re using.

7. You Have Not Set the Temperature Correctly

Using the correct temperature is essential to completing your 3D printer project. An incorrect temperature can leave you with poorly melted filament and a messy disaster. 

Increase the Temperature

It is time to increase the temperature when you see filament that hasn’t isn’t melting correctly. Poorly melted filament does not flow well through the tubing and can cause the printer to skip. Turn up the temperature in small increments until the filament seems to be flowing correctly. 

Adjust Printer Speed

Your printer speed may also impact how long the filament takes to melt. If the heat isn’t high enough, the printer may extrude the filament before appropriately preparing it. Try slowing down the printer speed to give the filament more time to be melted. 

8. The Filament Has Jammed

When the 3D printer makes a clicking noise, it’s usually having trouble pushing out the filament. This trouble can be due to various reasons, and it may take some time to find the cause of the jam.

Check the Filament Feed

One of the simplest and most effective actions is stopping the printer and checking through the different parts to see if the filament is getting held up somewhere. You will need to adjust the filament to not jam further during the printing process. 

Check Your Filament Type

You may also need to reexamine which filament you’ve chosen. Not all filaments are the same. When selecting your filament, keep in mind the material, diameter, and moisture. The filament can get jammed up when paired with the wrong 3D printer or settings. 

9. The Nozzle or Hot End Is Blocked

The heated filament flows into the hot end, through the nozzle, and onto the bed. A blocked nozzle is a common problem with 3D printers and requires more than just cleaning to solve.

Clear Out the Hot End

Check the hot end first. Sometimes melted filament can slip into the nooks and crannies and build up. This buildup interrupts the flow of filament to the bed of the project. The blockage could also create problems as the motor tries to force filament through, causing the printer to skip.

To clear out the hot end, first, check the construction of your printer. The extruder may look differently depending on the model you are using. You will also want to remember the order in which you are disassembling the extruder. 

Check for any gunk or debris that has built up. You should also check the coupling to ensure it isn’t damaged or altered. If it’s loose, you may need to purchase and install a new one. 

Clean the Nozzle

You may want to clean the nozzle if you are cleaning the hot end since the nozzle is where the filament is expelled. As the heated filament comes out, some of it may stick to the nozzle. Over time, that buildup can block the nozzle and create a backup in the system. 

To fix this problem, clean the outside of the nozzle with a clean cloth. Use a nozzle cleaning kit like this 3D Printer Nozzle Cleaning Kit from Amazon.com. This kit allows you to reach deep into the nozzle to remove debris. It’s also incredibly affordable.

Insert the nozzle cleaner into the opening of the nozzle, carefully and gently loosening any dirt or debris that may have built up inside. Use tweezers to pick off any crust or dried plastic. Try to refrain from using your hands since that may add oils and dirt.

10. There Is a Problem With the Control Board

The control board is one of the essential parts of any 3D printer. Check your control board if you have tried all the other methods to correct the clicking noise, and nothing has helped. The control board is what sends the signals to all the parts.

If the control board is faulty, it may not be sending signals to essential parts like the stepper motor or the heating element. Check that those parts are hooked into the control board. If all the components are correctly connected, you may need to replace a faulty board. 

Replace the Control Board

Replacing a faulty control board can be a challenging process. Be sure to select a control board that works with your printer. You will also need to ensure that it has all the proper slots for each component and can accommodate the programs you intend to use.

You’ll want to ensure that you insert and install all the components correctly. Otherwise, you could encounter further problems in the future. If you are not knowledgeable in electronics or 3D printers, you may want to read up on this process or watch online instructional videos. 

Alternatively, it may be helpful to enlist the services of a licensed professional.

Summary

A 3D printer can make a clicking noise for various reasons, such as jammed filament, a damaged feeder motor, or if the nozzle is blocked. Most of these problems can be fixed at home by adjusting the printer’s settings and ensuring that all the parts are cleaned, secured, and operating accordingly.

However, if you’ve done all you can and still hear a clicking noise, it may signal a more severe problem, such as a faulty control board. If this is the case, you’ll likely need assistance from a professional.