How to Clean Printer Heads

If you own a printer, it goes without saying that you need to learn simple printer care routines, like how to clean printer heads. Especially when you are a beginner, this doesn’t mean that the experts have it cool always. When using printers, it’s important to learn as many tricks from simple tasks to complex challenges. The best way is to learn from the challenges you encounter from time to time.

When dealing with a problem, one of the best remedies is to prevent its occurrence next time. So, with every small problem try as much to figure out its cause. This article will look at the causes of clogged printer heads, how you can diagnose a clogged printer head, how to clean printer heads, and finally, preventing printer heads from clogging. Read to the end for full details.

Causes Printer Head Clogging

A clogged print nozzle can be irritating and inconvenient. The sight of your printer filaments not moving and the clicking sound isn’t something you want to experience when you are all set for printing. Some of the common causes of clogged printer heads are;

A. Incorrectly Set Printer Head Height

Before printing, your printer head should be set to the correct height from the printing surface for successful object printing. If your printer head is too high, the object has a longer distance to get to the printing bed. This may cause cooling to take place and lead to poor adhering. It’s no good with the printer headset too low. Either the material will have no room for correct extrusion, or the nozzle will probably smear the thermoplastic material everywhere on the surface. Secondly, the material will get back to the printer head due to insufficient space, causing a clog.

B. Wrong Print Temperature

The correct set printing temperature is very important for both printer functioning and a successful print. With a low hot end temperature, your print material will not melt fully, and it can start adhering to the side surface of the printer head, leading to clogging. On the other end, printing at a very high temperature with PLA filaments can lead to ‘heat creep,’ that is, high temperatures extending upward from the hot end. The melt area extends backward when this happens, melting the material far backward from the printer head. The softened material adheres to the nozzle side, causing clogs.

C. Poor Filament Quality

Normally, not every product in the market meets the required standards. This applies to 3D printer filaments too. Low-quality filaments can have unequal width along their length. Causing unequal melting temperatures, the thicker require higher temperatures to melt while the thinner parts require lesser temperatures to melt. This melting temperature difference can cause nozzle clogging.

D. Exposure to Dirt and Dust Causing Printer Heads Clogging

When Dirt and dust stick on your printing material, it goes up to the hot end. When they burn, the dust and Dirt start sticking to the nozzle side surface as carbon. Repeated dust and dirt burning lead to carbon build-up. With enough repeated build-up, the inside nozzle space reduces its width opening, interferes with the flow of print material, and finally leads to clogging.

How to Tell Your Printer Head is Clogged?

An un-functional clogged printer head doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process taking place little by little. Some of the signs that your printer is developing clogs include

  • Inconsistent extrusion layer, the first layer mostly
  • Developed vertical and horizontal skins roughness unlike before
  • Printed parts increased fragility than usual
  • Unusual, odd scrapping sound from the extruder
  • Increased dirt around the extruder motor
  • Filament spool not turning

In case you suspect your printer head is clogged, adjust your print bed and perform test printing. Some of the issues can be solved by just changing your print bed. If this problem persists, raise the nozzle higher from the print bed and extrude test filaments bunch. Keep cutting to avoid bending the filament. If the extruded material is straight and uniform along its length, be sure things may be okay. In case of a bent and ununiform filament width, you may need to clean up your printer. If you have not done it before or are unsure how to do it, learn how to clean printer heads properly before going into it.

How to Clean Printer Heads

In our above discussion, we have discussed some of the possible causes of printer heads clogging and how to identify the problem. Now, it’s the right time to discuss how to clean printer heads. It is very important to note that the method you choose depends on the intensity of the clogging. Some of these methods include

A. Brushing the Outer Layer of the Clogged Printer Head

This is the easiest method to get rid of the clogged printer end. You have to use the right brush to clean the nozzle by brushing from outside to remove dirt residues stuck on the ends. For the best results, use a wire brush. It’s strong enough to scrub off the stubborn layer due to the build-up of burnt material. The best material for scrubbing the brush is using brass thread to prevent damaging or tearing the nozzle.

This step is the most basic when dealing with a clogged printer head. In case of this trick works, you are saved from doing any other method. In addition, you should note brushing will only clean the nozzle tip. So, if the clogging persists, the problem might be a bit hard, but you don’t have to worry, but try a little harder and find the best solution on how to clean printer heads to your satisfaction.

Now that this tip is very easy to perform, you can include it in your routine maintenance. It will only take a few minutes, and you are done.

B. Using a Pin to Clear the Clog on Your Printer Heads

Using a pin to unclog the mess can only be done where the clogging is not severe, and you only need to remove a little residue of the melted filaments. Instead, you can use an acupuncture needle. They’ll perfectly do the work.

This method is easy to apply. Begin by heating the nozzle to a reasonable temperature; to soften the material and not completely melt it. You can do this either by using a heat gun or by regulating the hot end assembly’s temperature. Apply enough heat to only soften the clogging material rather than melting it completely.

Finally, remove the stuck material using your needle tip.

C. Executing Cold Pull using Nylon Filaments

It’s important to note that not all clogs can be removed using the brush and needle methods above. If you have already used the above techniques without good results, it’s time to get another alternative. This method includes using a nylon filament to pull the clogged material.

When using this method, you will need to feed the firmament manually through the nozzle. Start by dismantling the extruder set up to feed the filament manually. In the next step, heat the nozzle to around 250 degrees Celsius, give it 5minuutes unattended.

Nylon filament is the best for cold pulling, but you can also consider using ABS. Push the filament through the nozzle manually to clean any clogging. Be gentle and firm in your push. The jammed filament will melt fully at this temperature, making it possible to come out of the nozzle with the nylon filament. Repeat the extruding process until you cannot see any other filament apart from nylon filament or ABS, depending on the filament you use.

Again, cool the set up to room temperature. It’s not yet time to settle. Heat the nozzle again to around 130 degrees Celsius. This temperature will soften your nylon filament but not melt it completely. Cold Pull the left material from the nozzle to remove any leftover if there is any. To achieve complete dirt and residue-free nozzle.

If the clogging problem persists, repeat this whole process several times until you are fully satisfied your nozzle is completely clean. Note that if the nylon filament is difficult to pull, you can increase the temperature a bit to soften before cold pulling.

D. Using Acetone Solution to Clean Printer Heads

You can use this alternative in a case where nothing else works for you. The only disadvantage with using this method is; its time is taken to get results, and it may not work well for all filament types.

To do this, first, remove the nozzle from the extruder; you can use a socket wrench. This trick works best for ABS material. Soak the nozzle in acetone for like 15-20minuts. After unclogging the nozzle, re-install it back to the extruder. Remember to wipe any leftover acetone chemical from the nozzle.

Sometimes, this method might not work well when clogging is caused by a material that will not dissolve in acetone. You can make use of a heat gun to melt the clog away.

How to Prevent Printer Head Clogging?

The best solution to deal with nozzle clogging is to avoid this problem. Many people overlook this part and have to deal with frequent nozzle clogging. Taking safety measures doesn’t mean that you’ll not encounter the problem, but the chances of it happening are minimal compared to blindly using the printer without being cautious.

Some of the preventive measures involve;

1. Cleaning the Printer Heads When Changing Filaments

In case you are using different filament materials for3D printing, the extruding temperature may be different. For instance, when using a filament with a lower melting temperature after working with a higher melting point filament—at the same time, changing the temperature settings to fit the new filaments needs.

The previous material left behind will not melt at all. It will form a stubborn clog and interfere with your 3D printer’s functioning. This is one of the most common causes of nozzle clogging. The good thing is you can remove the leftovers even when it doesn’t come out after pulling out the filaments. All you have to do is push it with more filaments until it comes out at the nozzle end.

2. Keep Your Filament Free of Dust

If not taken care of, dust particles covering your filaments can go down inside the extruder with your print material. After burning, the dust material will be left behind while the filament material exits through the nozzle end. When this process is repeated over time, the burnt particles will accumulate to form a hard plug.

To keep your filaments dust-free, ensure your filaments are free from dust from the manufacturer. Be sure to maintain the quality of your filaments material until you use it for 3D printing. This can help prevent the problem from happening.

Proper storage of your printing materials is very important. Use airtight bags and containers for proper storage. In addition, using desiccants can help keep the dust away.

3. Right Nozzle Height Setting

Incorrectly set nozzle height from the build plate can significantly contribute to the nozzle clogging. If the nozzle is set too high, the filament will cool before setting it on the bed. This results in poor first-layer adherence. On top of this, your prints may fail in later stages.

On the other hand, if the nozzle is set too close, it will hinder the good flow of material from the nozzle. And can cause retrogression; the material can be pulled back to the nozzle causing clogs. This will affect your print quality in a great way.

4. Setting Correct Printer Heads Temperatures while Printing

Incorrect temperature settings can be the greatest problem in printing. Print heads clogging resulting from wrong temperature settings is difficult to deal with. You already know that the nozzle diameter is smaller than that of the filaments. Therefore it’s very important to melt the filaments before it leaves the nozzle.

In case the filaments are not completely melted, extrusion will be tough. And the material will cool before leaving the nozzle because of the low temperatures. This clogs the end of the nozzle, and it isn’t easy to deal with.

To avoid this mess, keep checking the correct recommended temperature for the specific filaments you are using.

Finally, knowing how to clean printer heads is the essential thing you need to learn. Since dealing with a clogged printer head can be very irritating and difficult to work with. Many professionals have severally talked of the jam that had to take them several hours to deal with. Solving a clogging problem once you suspect something unusual is one of the best ways to deal with clogs because the trick will not take you as much time as unclogging a completely clogged printer head.

It’s always advisable to develop best care practices for your printer maintenance, always keeping your printer heads as clean as possible. Cleaning your printer heads after every print can help you avoid regular printer jamming. This sometimes may be difficult due to one reason or another. But at least try to clean them after changing filaments material to avoid possible clogging due to different melting points.

Conclusion

Proper printer maintenance is key if you have printing passion and love for your printer. This will give you ample time to grow your passion and create better models in the future. But if you have to deal with frequent clogging and unclogging, you’ll encounter disappointments from one time to another and the worst can happen; giving up.

Don’t let your mistakes discourage you, but rather take it as a learning experience. Always ensure you brainstorm the cause of the problem in order to take safety measures next time to avoid the problem and probably develop a go ahead strategy.

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