3D Printers are specialized pieces of equipment, and as with all equipment, the better you take care of them, the longer they last. This begs the question: How often should you clean your 3D printer nozzle?
Some suggest you clean the nozzle after every print, which is true if you’re switching between different kinds of filament. Otherwise, it’s necessary to clean the nozzle at least every three months. Ultimately, it depends on how frequently you print and with what materials.
Let’s explore the various conditions that could warrant a nozzle cleaning and how to keep your nozzle in prime condition without obsessive maintenance.
Do You Have To Clean Your Nozzle After Every 3D Print?
There are various reasons a 3D nozzle could become clogged, the most common being a build-up of filament or dust accumulation. It’s vital to clean your printer regularly to ensure it functions smoothly.
That said, cleaning a nozzle after every print is not necessary. Naturally, the more you print, the more often the nozzle will need cleaning. Still, the only instance where cleaning a nozzle after every use is necessary is if you switch between printing materials.
The material you print with isn’t the only thing to consider. However, you need to watch out for the following:
- Dust and grime: A dusty area can allow dirt to accumulate inside the nozzle and can block the filament from coming out.
- Dirty filament: If the nozzle is clean, the grimy filament can also cause buildup, making it difficult for the filament to get through the nozzle.
- Moisture: Wet filament leads to all kinds of complications, such as the filament bubbling and sticking to the nozzle.
- Incorrect print settings: If the nozzle isn’t set to the right temperature or height, the filament will latch onto the nozzle instead of the designated area. This causes clogs and also dramatically affects print quality.
Some printers go ages without any hitches, despite only doing thorough cleans every other month. While this is possible, it’s a much better policy to clean the printer regularly, with the frequency depending on how often you use it.
To add to that, if your printer displays any signs of blockage, you need to clean it as soon as possible to avoid the issue intensifying, possibly even risking permanent damage if left for too long.
Overall, it’s recommended to clean your printer on a monthly or even weekly basis. The more often you use it, the more often you should clean it. There’s no disadvantage to cleaning the nozzle daily, so if you find it helpful, then keep it up!
How To Tell if Your Printer Nozzle Needs Cleaning
If your printer nozzle is clogged, you’ll know. There are several signs that it’s time to give your printer nozzle a thorough cleaning, such as:
- Inconsistent layers
- Gaps in the layers
- An overall decrease in print quality
Clogs, jams, and blockages can disastrously affect your prints, rendering them weak and flimsy. If this is the case, your next move is to clean the nozzle.
Learn the ins and outs of the 3D printer nozzle in the video below by 3D Maker Noob. This discusses the anatomy of a hot end and can provide some critical insight into why they clog in the first place.
How To Clean a 3D Printer Nozzle
You’re in a bit of a sticky situation: your 3D printer nozzle is blocked, and you have no idea what to do. The good news is that there is a range of solutions, and they’re all relatively simple to execute.
Soak the Nozzle in Acetone
Certain filaments, such as ABS, are tougher to remove. A great way to clean a 3D printer nozzle is to remove it and soak it in acetone.
- Soak the nozzle in a jar of acetone. This loosens up the filament and makes it easier to remove
- Remove the filament using a wire brush or needle. The acetone should have loosened up the excess filament enough to come out easily.
- Dry the nozzle. Using a paper towel or microfiber cloth, wipe off any excess filament and dry it off. Ensure that your nozzle is thoroughly dry before putting it back onto the 3D printer so that it doesn’t damage any electrical elements.
Note that you should use a brass wire brush on a hot end and never a steel brush. Steel brushes are overly abrasive and can cause real damage to your nozzle.
Melt the Excess Filament With a Heat Gun
This method will require a heat gun. Ensure you have all the equipment ready, and take the necessary safety precautions.
- Like with soaking a nozzle in acetone, remove the nozzle from the printer, and do this to avoid damaging any other elements of the printer.
- Use your heat gun to heat the nozzle up and melt the filament left inside. Don’t heat the hot gun too much, or you could cause damage to the nozzle.
- Once it has heated up sufficiently, use a wire brush or needle to remove the filament. It should come out fairly easily, and if it’s still sticking, you can heat it further until it’s a consistency that’s easy to remove.
For a demonstration of how to execute the needle-cleaning technique, take a look at this video.
Use the Cold Pull Technique
The cold pull technique is a really popular way of unclogging nozzles. This is partly because it requires no disassembly or extra tools to perform.
- Though it may seem ironic, the first step is to heat the nozzle. Heat it to around 464 degrees Fahrenheit (240 degrees Celsius).
- Push a piece of filament into the nozzle. Insert a piece of strong filament, such as nylon, into the extruder until it comes out at the end of the nozzle.
- Let the nozzle cool. Once filament comes out of the other end of the nozzle, it’s time to let the machine cool. Keep pressure on the filament while it does until it reaches around 194 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius).
- As the name suggests, the final step is to pull the filament out. You may need to repeat this process a few times to remove all debris, cutting off the dirty end of the filament with each application.
The below video will show you exactly how the cold pull process works for all the visual learners out there.
Note that you should only use the cold pull method if you’re experiencing a full clog, not a partial clog. Using one of the methods listed above for a partial clog would be much faster and more effective.
You don’t have to clean a 3D printer nozzle every day, but a routine clean is crucial in keeping a 3D printer in working order and avoiding larger, tougher blockages in the future. The more frequently you print, the more frequently you should clean.