Owning a 3D printer may seem cool initially, but the benefits come with many headaches, pains, and stressful days. Nothing can be perfect, can it? 3D printer parts will need replacing after a specific timeframe or amount of use, but when is it time to replace your hotend?
It is time to replace your hotend when it shows signs of damage, such as clicking and leaking. How quickly your hotend degrades depends on the amount and kind of use your hotend goes through, as an abused hotend will break much more rapidly.
This article will explain precisely why and when your hotend needs replacing, how to replace it, and how much use you can get from one hotend. Hotends are a delicate part of the 3D printer, and knowing all about them is key to understanding when it’s time to replace yours.
How Long Do Hotends Last?
Hotends last many years as long as they are high quality and you follow their recommended use. Hotends will prematurely degrade if you use filaments or temperatures that the part manufacturer does not recommend.
The hotend of a 3D printer is a series of components that liquify filament for extrusion. The hotend also aids in maintaining a precise and constant temperature for successful prints. In simple terms, the hotend feeds in filament, warms it up, and squeezes it out.
Since the hotend gets hot, poor-quality parts will naturally melt and deform faster than high-quality parts. In many cases, 3D printing enthusiasts and experts recommend using an all-metal hotend from a reputable manufacturer for that reason.
Although almost all hotends perform the same function, they can consist of different materials that give 3D printers special abilities.
For example, some 3D printers have hotends that can withstand high temperatures. In addition to handling the basic materials like PLA and PETG 3D printing filament, a hotend that reaches greater temperatures enables you to print with a wider variety of materials, including nylon, polycarbonate, and more.
However, here’s where longevity comes into play. If you use a standard stock hotend that isn’t rated for printing at higher temperatures to make a print with polycarbonate, your hotend will likely incur some damage. Over time, overheating your hotend will break the parts inside, and you’ll need to replace it.
Signs That Your Hotend Needs a Replacement
Your hotend may need a replacement for several reasons, but all of them are clear signs that your hotend is no longer effective at channeling and heating filament.
Natural Wear and Tear
Your hotend goes through a lot. It’s the heart of your printer, heating, modifying, and printing filaments. Of course, it will wear down, especially with constant use at higher temperatures.
To determine if natural wear and tear may be the issue, look at your hotend. Keep an eye out for any visible damage, broken parts, or cracks that may affect performance. If you don’t see any, congratulations, you have kept your hotend in good condition.
It’s never a good sign to hear a new noise when working with a machine. In many cases, as the hotend begins to malfunction, you will notice a clicking sound when the extruder motor on your hotend starts.
Clicking is usually a sign that molten filament has gotten stuck on the motor, but it can also indicate that the motor is wearing out due to overuse or a strain from a jam. This noise will be a clear indicator that your hotend needs replacing.
As you are printing, you may notice a small leak of material coming from the hotend. The place filament comes from could be anywhere, from a small crack to the screws that hold the piece in place. Oozing is a clear indication that your hotend needs replacing.
Your hotend should not be leaking material, as this can cause damage to the machine and potentially ruin any work the printer is producing at the time of the leak.
It’s always the worst when something goes wrong, especially if you’re already hours into a print, and the printer stops.
If your printer stops printing halfway through a design, you should check the hotend. It may have stopped because the hotend has malfunctioned, overheated, or a small part, such as the nozzle, has broken.
Check the hotend for any noticeable damage, unusual sounds, or leaking material. If you find any of these signs, you might need to replace your hotend.
Parts of the hotend — namely, the thermistor, heat cartridge, and heat block— control the filament’s temperature. If you notice that your hotend’s temperature is erratic, it may be having trouble maintaining the heat level.
Check the thermistor for any poor fluctuations in temperature. It may display an incredibly high temperature or a significantly lower temperature. These are indications that it may be time to replace your hotend.
How Often Should You Expect To Replace the Hotend?
You should expect to replace the hotend after a few years of use. However, the rate at which a hotend degrades will depend on the quality, amount of use, filament types, and care of the hotend. You can expect a better quality hotend to last a long time.
If you’re prepared to clean all the parts and not use them so intensely, you can expect the piece to last much longer. However, if you plan to use your hotend for more constant use, you must be prepared to buy a few more hotends than necessary or upgrade from the get-go.
All 3D printer parts require replacement after a certain period of use, but hotends can last longer than your 3D printer if you care for them, keep them clean, and invest in a quality part from the start.
However, if you abuse your hotend by using unsuitable filaments, printing at very high temps, and don’t keep the parts inside clean, it will degrade more quickly. Naturally, this may impact the performance, speed, and print quality.