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Why Is Your 3D Printer Making a Grinding Noise?

3D printers make various noises at different stages. Some sounds are almost musical in tone, but a few noises are unpleasant and worrisome. For example, a grinding noise is typically a symptom of something amiss. You must find out why your 3D printer is making a grinding noise.

Your 3D printer is making a grinding noise due to a faulty bearing or extruder component. Filament grinding and problems with the motors are also common. Wrong calibration and firmware issues may cause both filament and resin printers to make a grinding noise. 

All 3D printers, whether FDM or SLA, have many moving parts, such as bearings, fans, motors, etc. These components make noise while functioning, including a few loud sounds, but grinding noises are usually signs of an issue. So, let’s learn more about why your 3D printer is making a grinding noise and fix it together.

1. A Part of the Extruder Is Broken or Too Tight

Malfunctioning extruder components can cause a grinding noise. You may also hear a clicking or squeaking sound. 

Here are a few of the most common issues with extruder parts:

  • Dirty and misaligned extruder gears can make a grinding noise as they won’t be able to move freely.
  • Incorrect hotend assembly, such as a crooked alignment of the nozzle and heater block, can cause a grinding noise.
  • Loose or overtightened idler screws may cause excessive tension. 
  • The stepper motor cannot complete each step of the printing process due to debris in the gears. 
  • A broken fan can make what might sound like a grinding noise if the blades hit or strike anything while running. 

How To Fix

The specific solution depends on your diagnosis. 

Here are a few ways to cover your bases and ensure that your 3D printer is working well:

  • Clean the extruder gears and ensure they are accurately aligned.
  • Review the hotend assembly and fix any misalignment problems.
  • Adjust the idler tension by loosening or tightening the screws.
  • Replace any broken extruder components, such as the fan, motor, etc.
  • Recalibrate the extruder and other parts of the 3D printer if required.

2. Your 3D Printer Needs Relubrication

Lubricant accumulates dust, dirt, hair, and other debris over time, which might make your 3D printer’s movements stiffer – eventually causing grinding noises. 

Most 3D printers come with a tube of lubricant used when assembling or setting up your 3D printer. However, most of us toss these tubes aside and forget about them after the first month of 3D printing, which could introduce a grinding sound. 

3D printers won’t operate quietly and may make a grinding noise if the following screws aren’t clean and lubricated:

  • The X-axis ball screw
  • The Z-axis lead screw

You must clean and maintain both these screws. It is recommended to lubricate the X-axis ball screw at least once a year.

How To Fix

To fix the grinding noise and make your printer run more smoothly, disconnect the 3D printer from the power source. Inspect the screws and clean any debris you may find, including dirty grease. 

Then, insert some lubricant onto any part of your printer with ball bearings or the spots where metal rubs on metal. For example, on most printers, you will need to grease the rods beneath the X/Y carriage and the lead screw on the Z axis if you have one. 

Each printer is different, so you might want to refer to your 3D printer’s owner’s manual to learn more about how frequently and where you should apply the lubricant. 

3. There May Be a Clog or Jam in Your Filament

Filament grinding is a common problem for most FDM 3D printers. The typical causes are:

  • Clogged hotend or nozzle
  • Firmware and slicer issues
  • Jammed PTFE tube
  • Unclean extruder components

First-layer calibration can be an issue for many 3D printers, especially when you switch to a new print bed or use a different filament. A nozzle too close to a 3D print bed will often clog the hotend. Even before the jam, you may hear a grinding noise if the nozzle is too near.

How To Fix

Here are the standard remedies, depending on the problem you identify:

  • Clean the clogged nozzle and hotend.
  • Check and fix a jammed PTFE tube.
  • Check and update the 3D printer firmware.
  • Review the slicer settings for anomalies.
  • Ensure the slicer file is complete and uncorrupted.
  • Review and fix any first-layer calibration issues. 

4. Your 3D Printer’s Bearings May Be Grinding

Sometimes, the grinding noise doesn’t originate in the extruder. Also, you may not find any sign of filament grinding. 

A 3D print bed can make a grinding noise if the bearings don’t function well. This grinding noise may be temporary if the issue is only when the 3D printer moves the bed.

How To Fix

If your print bed makes a grinding or rattling noise when it moves along the Y-axis, you should check the bearings and replace them if necessary. Assembling a printer incorrectly for the first time can cause this problem. However, bearing issues are also common in older 3D printers.

5. One of the Motors in SLA 3D Printers Is Broken or Malfunctioning

FDM 3D printers appear to have more moving parts because they are readily visible. A 3D SLA printer also has many concealed moving components in the enclosure that most models include by default. 

For instance, SLA 3D printers can have multiple motors, including the following:

  • Peel motor
  • Wiper motor
  • Tilt motor

broken or malfunctioning motor can cause a grinding noise. 

Plus, some SLA 3D printers, like a Prusa SL1 or SL1S, may have resin leakage through the tilt platform. This leaked resin can jam the 3D printer’s tilt sensor, and you may hear a grinding noise or other loud sounds.

How To Fix

Should that be the problem, you must replace a broken or malfunctioning motor. If you find resin on the tilt sensor, clean it with a paper towel. Consider updating the firmware and recalibrating a 3D SLA printer if you don’t see any mechanical anomaly causing the grinding noise. 

6. The Mixer Coupler in Resin 3D Printers Makes a Grinding Noise

Due to a faulty mixer coupler, some SLA 3D printers make a grinding noise, which may resemble a clicking sound. Formlabs explains this problem occurs when a 3D printer’s couplers overextend as they grab the magnets to drag the mixer across the resin tank or vat.   

How To Fix

Formlabs offers remote calibration fixes by their technicians to resolve the mixer coupler issue. You can check with the tech support team if you have another brand’s resin 3D printer. However, many users have claimed that the calibration fix isn’t a permanent solution. 

This mixer coupler issue and the clicking or grinding noise may or may not adversely affect your 3D printer or the quality of your resin prints.

Summary

Whenever your 3D printer makes a grinding noise, try to pinpoint the origin and visually inspect the component you suspect. Start with the moving parts, such as extruders and motors, then check the features that frequently clog, like the hotend or nozzle. Don’t rule out calibration issues.