How to Avoid Clogged Nozzles - 4 Tips
It’s an enormous challenge with 3D printing - clogged nozzles. Every time a large, high-quality print is run, clogged nozzles will always be a problem. The problem arises generally because of a build up of filament inside the injection syringe. When the filament gets too hot, it fully liquefies and the pressurised plastic shoots out of the nozzle. Another cause is burnt filament, which solidifies inside the syringe and won’t budge for anything. There’s a few steps an operator can take to avoid this problem:
Keep Everything Clean! This isn’t just advice for clogged nozzles, either. Everything you’re using to 3D print with should be perfectly clean. If using ABS, this is relatively easy - just wipe everything down with acetone after every print you do. With PLA, it’s a little harder, but a good solvent to use is a propanol/hydroxide mixture. Also, make sure you wipe any dust and residue off of your build table before each print and if you’re using blue tape over a build surface, remove it after each print.
Choose A Filament And Stick With It. Using PLA, then ABS, then PLA, then ABS, is bound to cause problems eventually, whether it’s because you forgot to turn the printing temperature down and the nozzle burnt or some other issue. Choose a filament, and if you change, make sure you know what you’re doing beforehand. For help deciding what filament to buy, visit our ABS and PLA pages.
Temperature. It’s an obvious one, sure, but make sure you’re working at optimum temperature. The ABS and PLA optimum temperatures vary by a few degrees depending on what type and colour of ABS and PLA you’re using. For help visit our technical specifications page.
Take Your Time With Prints. Some prints will take a while. Get used to that. Too many times has an operator tried to keep his printer on full speed for a 10 hour print and is then surprised when the plastic gets too hot on the way out and clogs the nozzle. Take your time, and if it’s a particularly long print, consider pausing the printer halfway through and letting the nozzle cool down. (Only do this if you have a temperature controlled build platform, or warping might be too big of a problem for you.)
Despite all this, there’s probably going to be a time when you clog your nozzle anyway (sometimes these things just happen) and you’re going to need a way of unclogging it without damaging anything. Whatever you do, do it with extreme care. I would suggest trying solvents first - as above, acetone with ABS and propanol/hydroxide for PLA. If that doesn’t work, try heating the syringe carefully with a torch, having removed it from the rest of the machine. Good luck.