Deciding to purchase a 3D printer can come with many questions and concerns. Not only is regular maintenance an essential part of having a 3D printer, but it will also occasionally break.
3D printers only break sometimes, but they may break every three to six months if you do not take care of the machine. If you properly maintain it, you can expect your 3D printer to last anywhere from five to ten years without breaking or needing a replacement.
Let’s discuss how to prevent your 3D printer from breaking and the tasks you should keep up with to ensure that your 3D printer does not malfunction or fail prematurely.
Why Do 3D Printers Break?
As you know, 3D printers are more prone to breaking if you do not maintain proper maintenance.
So, you must perform regular maintenance to keep it in working order. Still, there are other reasons your 3D printer may break – let’s discuss them.
Wear and Tear
Wear and tear is one of the most common reasons your 3D printer may break or stop working. You can expect this with anything that has moving parts as they create wear and tear over time.
Malfunctions due to wear and tear can be easier to predict than other reasons because you know how much you use your printer.
If you know you are using your printer quite a bit, then it shouldn’t be surprising that the parts will wear out more quickly.
Hot End Issues
The hot end is the busiest component of a 3D printer. It is responsible for moving and melting the filament to create your print.
Because this part does so much in producing the print, it can quickly overheat and run into other problems along the way.
While your 3D printer may seem broken entirely, it may just be the hot end not working as it should.
Some of the most common issues come from the thermistor and heater cartridge. These two parts are in charge of heating the hotend and maintaining a stable temperature. However, if the thermistor malfunctions, your 3D printer will use a thermal cutoff as the extruder overheats.
This auto-shutdown feature can make it seem like your 3D printer broke when it just needs time to cool. However, if this happens to you, you’ll need to check your hotend for damage and look for loose wires.
Ultimately, if there are no apparent causes of the problem, you’ll likely need to replace the thermistor.
Damage to Plastic Components and Wires
While most damage from the regular use of a 3D printer is easy to repair on a case-by-case basis, some parts of your 3D printer are challenging to replace.
One issue that often causes irreparable damage to a 3D printer is wire damage. If your printer’s wires are not secure, they may rest on your print bed, get caught in belts, or suffer some other wear. Replacing these wires can be tricky, and you may need a new printer.
Likewise, the plastic casings and enclosures on your 3D printer can be tricky to replace after dropping or banging the printer.
The most threatening of all 3D printer issues is a system error, where your printer’s computer malfunctions.
This issue can be tricky to fix but to start, try rebooting the printer. You will likely need to call or email your 3D printer manufacturer to resolve the issue if that doesn’t work.
Sometimes, you may need to reinstall firmware onto your 3D printer and factory reset it.
What Kind of Maintenance Does Your 3D Printer Need?
Now that we know some common reasons your 3D printer may break, let’s talk about maintenance.
If you keep up with maintaining your 3D printer, it will last longer and is less likely to break. So, let’s talk about how you can keep your 3D printer in the best condition possible.
Check The Cooling System
As we discussed above, overheating is one of the main ways your 3D printer can break. To help prevent this, you should check the cooling system regularly to ensure that the fans are working correctly.
Having debris in the fans can cause them to jam and eventually stop working. To prevent the fans from further blockages or malfunctions, clean them regularly as part of general maintenance.
Lubrication and Cleaning of Moving Parts
As we discussed above, there are plenty of moving parts in your 3D printer. As a regular part of maintenance, you should check these moving parts for general wear and tear.
Regularly checking the stepper motors, the lead screw, if applicable, and the belts can help prevent issues during printing and catch problems before they become long-term problems.
You should also ensure that you clean all the parts of your 3D printer regularly to help prevent the buildup of dust and debris, which can commonly happen with this type of machine.
You should also ensure that the belts and pulleys in your 3D printer are not loose and do not have visible wear. Loose belts and pulleys can cause the printer to stop working and even cause long-term damage if left untreated.
If you notice a lot of wear and tear on these parts, replace them to prevent further damage and problems.
Check The Screws and Wires
Periodically checking all the fasteners, such as the screws, that hold your printer together can prevent parts from coming loose and affecting your prints. These screws don’t need to be too tight, but they should be secure.
In addition, as I mentioned before, securing the wires in a safe spot is critical. If you have any loose or exposed wires on your 3D printer, tucking them out of the print bed’s range can ensure they stay safe.
If there’s not a good spot built into your printer, you can always use some electrical tape or a thin strip of duct tape to keep them out of the way.
Your 3D printer should not break very often. If it does, you may consider performing better and more regular maintenance to help keep it clean and ready to use. Otherwise, the buildup of debris and wearing parts can cause the printer to break often. If left unfixed, you may need to replace your 3D printer after only a short time.
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I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.