3D PRINTING INFO

10 Ways to Avoid 3D Printer Downtime & to Maintain your FDM 3D Printer

3D printer downtime

Desktop 3D printers are still selling like hotcakes and the buyers are mostly students, hobbyists, & enthusiasts. These are the people who are not aware of the idea of maintenance and it is evident from the fact that they face frequent breakdowns and downtime while printing.

Most people ignore the importance of regular maintenance and suffer the consequences when the 3D printer downtime hampers their order of project.  

So it is important that the users know and we have listed 10 ways to avoid 3D printer downtime and how to maintain the printer to give it a long life.

1. Clean the enclosed build chamber
Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer
Above: Monoprice MP Voxel is a budget 3D printer with a mixed set of features/Image Credit: Monoprice

The build chamber is the place where the entire 3D printing actually happens and so it always is a bit messy. This is specific to enclosed 3D printers. It is important to clean it up regularly so that the small fragments of the material do not linger around and mess with the electronics of the printer.

The chamber can be simply vacuumed at medium speed. It is a simple, fast and efficient way to avoid any unnecessary 3D printer downtime.

2. Carry out regular nozzle clean-up activity
3D printer downtime
Above: Carrying out nozzle clean-up can avoid 3D printer downtime/Image Credit: Ultimaker

Nozzle clogging is one of the most common reasons leading to 3D printer downtime. Nozzle clogging is an inevitable problem bound to happen over a period of time. To avoid sudden and unpredictable clogging, it is recommended that the nozzle is regularly, not-frequently, cleaned-up. The nozzle cleaning is a difficult task and users should consult with the manufacturers before doing this but a regular clean-up will help avoid clogging issues.

The nozzle clean-up can be scheduled as an activity to be done every 3-months or 4-months depending on the workload on the printer to avoid 3D printer downtime.

3. Lubricate all the three axes
3D printer downtime
Above: Guide rails of a desktop FDM 3D Printer/Image Credit: Zortrax

All the three axes of an FDM 3D printer are in continuous motion along with the printer head. It is a basic fact that two moving parts in contact will always create friction and to avoid or reduce this friction we lubricate the connected parts. The same is the case here for the three axes. Over time the lubrication of the axes fades away and it has to be lubricated again. Users generally forget this and the printer starts giving poor results.

So, for smooth action of the 3D printer, the axes must be well lubricated regularly. The simplest way to do this is to clean the guide rails and lead screw (in case of the Z-axis) to remove any settled dust and then oil or grease it.

Keep on testing the smoothness of the motion and once the required smoothness is achieved, stop the lubrication.

4. Tighten pulleys and replace pulley belts
3D printer downtime
Above: Regular checking the tightness of the pulley screw and belts can avoid unnecessary 3D printer downtime/Image Credit: Zortrax

Apart from the axes and printhead, other moving parts of the 3D printer include the pulleys and belts. These are also highly critical to the overall system and can cause 3D printer downtime.

The continuous motion and frequent shocks when the user demands faster printing, the pulley screws loosen and the belts also start to sag. This directly affects print quality. It left unnoticed the screw threading can be worn out and the belts may not function altogether causing a critical downtime.

So, it is a good practice to regularly test and tighten the pulley screws. Also, test the belt for tension. If it seems that the belt tension is diminishing, then either tighten them as well or replace the belts.

5. Scrap with caution
3D printer downtime
Above: Scrapping the printed part from the build plate/Image Credit: GitHub

Most users use a sharp scraper to remove their prints from the build plate. These scrapers are not only a human hazard but can also damage the build plate if not used properly. Instead of damaging the printer, use the scrapper with caution. Use rafts to print your parts. Rafts are easy to remove from the build plate. It may use more material but will save the printer.

6. Start with a clean slate

It literally means to start your printing with a clean build plate. For proper bed adhesion, it is recommended to use glue, ABS slurry, and other professional glues but the glue also attracts dirt and other foreign particles. Over time the bed adhesion actually gets worse.

So, regularly clean the build plate. If possible, carry out the cleaning activity daily at the end of the day. The cleaning can be carried out by simply wiping the glue with a wet cloth or dipping the build plate in warm water and then wiping it clean. Make sure that you use a 100% dry plate before you start using it in the printer. Dry the plate and only then install it in the printer.

7. Use replaceable build plates
3D printer downtime
Above: Original Prusa magnetic PEI build plate/Image Credit: Prusa

In order to avoid 3D printer downtime due to damaged build plate or losing time in removing and cleaning the build plate, the simplest way to solve this is to use replaceable build plates so that after one print, the plate can be replaced with a second plate and the printing can be continued without losing time.

8. Use a filament filter
3D printer downtime
Above: Universal Filament Filter and Lubricator/Image Credit: Thingiverse/Creative Tools

Hobbyists have created ways to solve simple problems. One such solution is the filament filter. This is a very interesting yet simple and proactive ay to make sure you do not clog the nozzle. The filament filter is a small part that cleans the filament before it enters the 3D printing system. This happens through a sponge and a few drops of oil.

The design is free to download on 3D repositories. This is a great way to avoid 3D printer downtime due to nozzle clogging.

9. Regularly check calibration through test prints
3D printer downtime
Above: All In One 3D Printer test/Image Credit: Thingiverse/Majda107

3D repositories are filled with designs that help a user to test and calibrate his 3D printer. While this sort of testing is carried out while installing the printer, but it should be performed regularly to just check if the printer is performing as per its capability.

This test can easily help the user identify if the printer is printing appropriately or not. If not, then it is time for maintenance.

10. Strictly schedule a maintenance time

A user generally doesn’t know when to clean the nozzle, when to check the pulleys or lubricate the axes. New and desktop 3D printer users get confused by this industrial concept of machine maintenance.

The idea is simple. Schedule a maintenance time for your 3D printer depending on your usage frequency and make sure that a particular date is kept and you do not print on that day. Just give the 3D printer an off-day and take care of the printer by carrying out the maintenance activities.

Abiding by the schedule will not only safeguard you from unnecessary 3D printer downtime and will also increase the life of the 3D printer.

 

Regular maintenance of the 3D printer will avoid costly maintenance repairs. It is a proactive measure to ensure the printer always delivers high-quality printing experience. A simple activity to ensure the printer lives a long life.

(Note: The above-shared tips are only applicable for Desktop FDM 3D Printers)


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