It would be best if your printer extruder were at the correct tightness. Otherwise, it could get crushed, snap, or slide out of place. Clogs are also a problem, but exactly how much tension does the printer need?
Your printer extruder should be tight enough where the filament doesn’t have too much or too little pressure- you need to find a middle ground. The best way to do this is to do test prints. It’s best to adjust the tightness based on the printer’s filament type.
Overall, you want to ensure the extruder isn’t too tight or too loose for the best prints. You can make adjustments using a screw that’s on the printer. So, let’s talk about the tightness and find the ideal setting for your filament and printer together.
How Tight a Printer Extruder Should Be
You don’t want to over or under-tighten the extruder because it can slowly wear out parts of the printer and cause damage to the filament.
However, you’ll want to change the tightness each time you use a different filament material to get the best results. It isn’t easy to know exactly how tight the extruder should be.
Still, you shouldn’t need to change it every time unless you notice the prints aren’t turning out well. Also, it can take some experimentation to find the perfect extruder tightness. You want to figure out the ideal tightness– which is different for every printer and material!
How To Tell if You Should Reduce Tension
If the 3D printer is too tight, you may find that your filament breaks in the extruder, causing a blockage or unsightly holes and artifacts on your print. The filament may also be thinner when it comes out of the nozzle.
If this is the case, you need to loosen the extruder gear. Some extruders allow you to reduce the tension using a built-in screw or wheel, while others require you to use a tool to turn the screw.
Loosen the screw to reduce the tension on the extruder. From there, you’ll want to make a small test print and see what happens to the filament. The filament will appear stretched, chipped, and damaged if it’s still too tight.
Calibration can take a few tries. However, once you have it set, you can leave it there for the rest of your prints.
How To Tell if You Should Increase Tension
On the other hand, if the extruder is too loose, you can also run into many problems. The filament won’t make it to the hot end, leaking or dripping material and causing under-extrusion.
You’ll want to turn the screw to the right to tighten it. Keep adding tension until the material is secure but not pulling or stretching. Again, you’ll need to do a few test prints as you make the adjustments.
For experts, 3D printing at the correct tension feels natural- you’ll get a feel for it and remember how tight the screw is the more you work with it.
What Is Extruding Tension?
Extruding tension is how tight or loose the extruder gear presses into the filament. You can adjust it by turning the nut or screw on the extruder. It would be best to have a good tension level on the extruder. Otherwise, your filament will break, or the prints won’t turn out.
Some materials are more sensitive to tension levels. For example, PLA is a delicate filament, and it is more likely to break under high tension than ABS.
In short, the extruding tension is how much pressure the gears in the printer put on the filament. Many filaments are thin, so they can break easily when the tension isn’t correct.
How Extruding Tension Works
The extruders’ tension comes from a spring that tightens inside of the extruder block. It pushes filament against a gear, which “grabs” it and transports it to the hot end. You get issues when the tension is too high or too low.
Every 3D printer should have something similar to change the extruder’s tension. However, how you access the springs or adjust the pressure could be slightly different. It’s best to look into your manual before getting started on your printer at home.
How To Adjust the Extruder Spring’s Tension
When you adjust the tension inside the extruder, you’re changing the tension on these springs. It’s easier to figure out how tight it needs to be by fully tightening the spring to its maximum tension then working on lowering it down as you loosen it.
To adjust the extruder spring’s tension:
- First, turn the screw halfway around to the left to loosen it slightly.
- From there, you can check the tension of the spring. In some printers, you do this by moving the extruder lever to the open position.
- Loosen the screw another half-turn, and recheck the lever if it doesn’t work.
- Eventually, you’ll find a tightness that lets you open the lever. At this tightness, you’ll want to perform a test print. If it doesn’t turn out, you’ll want to make slight adjustments to the tension.
This short YouTube video covers how to adjust the extruder gear tension:
Once you find the ideal tension level, mark the screw with white paint or a marker. That way, you can see where your preferred tensions are, even if you have to change them later.
Additionally, the screws can slowly loosen as you make prints. Over time, you may notice that the marks you made don’t line up anymore. It’s easier to adjust them when you have the marks as a guide.
Pro tip: Use different colored marks for each type of filament you most commonly use. For example, I mark the ideal tension level for PLA with a purple marker. Then, I use a blue mark for ABS. This color-coding allows you to make quick adjustments each time you change the filament.
So, you want to find a middle ground with your extruder. You don’t want it to be so tight that the filament gets chewed up and not so loose that it slides around inside the printer. Both can cause a lot of harm to the filament and your resulting prints.
You’ll want to check the tension of the screw on the extruder, which controls the tightness of the springs that contact the material. From there, you can print test objects to see how they turn out.
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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.