The nozzle is arguably the most important part of a 3D printer as it is where the melted ink exits the hot end onto the page. If you’re unfamiliar with the process of a nozzle, it usually contains a fine thread to its hot end and on the other end, contains a smaller hole where the filament is pushed through.
The nozzle is so crucial because it undoubtedly affects a printer’s extrusion and if it is not fitted correctly, it can lead to a range of printing problems. It is also important to note that not all nozzles are the same.
The differences are determined by diameter, material and other traits and all of these determine the nozzle’s lifespan and overall performance.
Nozzles will always degrade over a long period of time but this can occur quickly whenever they become clogged, dirty or overused.
This is why it is crucial to regularly clean them in order to ensure that they’re working effectively. Doing this will definitely extend the lifestyle of the nozzle and ensure that it is printing with its utmost proficiency.
You should always ensure that you have identified the issue prior to cleaning your nozzle. This is because the nozzle may not always be the problem. You’ll be able to tell if it is a dirty nozzle that has caused an issue by noting the following factors:
There is No First Layer on Your Print
If you do not see filament being extruded for the very first layer of your printing, this is due to a clogged nozzle. However, you should also check whether the issue has been caused by an unlevelled bed or a faulted extruder.
Your Nozzle Has Picked Up Printed Material
This issue occurs when your nozzle has laid down some material but then picks it back up again when moving across the layer.
The Hot End of Your Nozzle Jams
If the hot end of your nozzle jams it will look as if the filament has been trapped in the middle to lower area of the hot end. You should also check that your PTFE liner isn’t the cause prior to placing the blame solely on a jammed nozzle!
The Extrusion is Inconsistent
An inconsistent extrusion is a key indicator that your printer is not able to deal with the extrusion of materials.
If it extrudes in sudden blasts when it needs to be extruding evenly then you should make sure that the problem isn’t caused by the extruder’s stepper motor or wet filament prior to cleaning your nozzle as this may be a power issue.
There Isn’t Enough Extrusion
Under-extrusion will be evident through a print that is missing portions. You should also check that this hasn’t been caused by a loose extruder prior to cleaning your nozzle.
There is Print Missing
If you only have a few, printed letters, this is a clear indication that this has been caused by a clogged nozzle. However, be sure to check that your print temperature is within the filament’s range and that the diameter is where it should be.
Once you have established that the issue is caused by your nozzle becoming clogged, then you can take the following action in order to clean it efficiently:
Stick in a small needle in the nozzle in order to break up any unwanted debris and push it out of the way.
If this doesn’t work then perform a cold pull which removes any debris and builds up entirely from the hot end.
Completely replace your clogged nozzle. Start by heating the hot end and melting any solidified material that has become stuck in the nozzle, once the clogged filament has softened due to the heat then you can unscrew the nozzle from the hot end before attaching a new one. Be sure to clean the hot end with a smaller metal rod in order to remove any filament that has become stuck during the process of reassembling.
If your nozzle has debris on the exterior then you do not need to go through the extensive steps above. Instead you can clean your nozzle using an alcoholic wipe or a dampened cloth whilst the nozzle is still hot.
This may cause some steaming to occur so make sure that the cloth is fully dampened prior to doing this. A wire brush may also be a viable alternative if this doesn’t work. In order to avoid debris collecting on your nozzle frequently, you should raise the Z offset and level the print bed proficiently.
A silicone sock also prevents excess debris from building up on the outside of your nozzle, stopping any materials from sticking to it readily.
To conclude, cleaning your nozzle doesn’t need to be an arduous process. Even if there has been a build up of debris on the inside, there are numerous ways that you will be able to clean your nozzle internally and thus restore your printer to it’s full proficiency.
Whilst cleaning exterior debris is undoubtedly an easier process, you should also always ensure that you are using a dampened cloth to prevent any hazards occurring. 3D printing issues are more than likely going to be caused by an unlevelled bed head or the nozzle becoming clogged and so you should also ensure that you have a depended understanding of what the issue is prior to blaming your nozzle entirely.
If your nozzle is old and has been used frequently over a number of years then maybe consider replacing it entirely to avoid having to repeat these steps on a regular basis and restore the joy of the printing experience.
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