That First 3D Print – Part 6, It’s Serious, But Don’t Get Discouraged

This is the final installment of the series.

IT’S SERIOUS BUT DON’T GET DISCOURAGED
One serious but usually avoidable problem is a clogged nozzle.  Nozzles can get clogged by dirt and debris on the filament that’s fed into the machine.  That is why you sometime see a small clipped on device that squeezes a piece a foam wrapped around the filament and sitting between the spool and the extruder.  This device wipes off any debris from the filament as it’s fed in.  Improperly changing filaments can cause clogged nozzles.  Properly changing filament means making sure that all the previous filament is removed from the hot end before the new filament is loaded, especially if you are changing materials, i.e. changing from ABS to PLA.  Each material has its own effective melting temperature, even from color to color.  A blue PLA may have a different melting temperature than a red PLA.  You must be sure to remove all the filament completely before loading the next filament if you’re changing plastic types and most of it if you’re only changing colors.  If your machine does not have an “Unload Filament” choice, to change filaments you’ll have to do it manually.  To do that, first set the hot end temperature to about 10 to 15 degrees below the temperature you were using to print.  When the nozzle reaches a temperature in that range, you can manually pull the filament back out of the hot end.  Be sure to tug firmly and slowly.  If you tug too fast or softly, you could break off a piece and leave it stuck in the nozzle.  If that happens, you could likely clog the nozzle with the next filament.  If that ends up happening, you end up having to clean out the nozzle or replace it.  Either way, that’s no joy and you’ll have to wait until I cover how to do that in a later blog.

 

WARP SPEED ISN’T GOOD IN THIS UNIVERSE
The last of the common problem I’ll cover in this blog is “warping”.  That because most of the other problems I won’t be covering today normally only happen if you are writing your own g-code from scratch and unless you are doing that, they are not likely to happen.  Today’s slicing software is too good.  Warping is just what it sounds like, the bending of the 3D printed object either during the printing process or immediately soon after, while the item is cooling down.  There’s where the problem lies, if plastic is allowed to cool too fast and/or unevenly, you’ll get different layers cooling at different rates.  Some layers shrinking more than other layers and other layers not shrinking at all.  Warping is most common with ABS plastic.  ABS is very finicky when it comes to temperature.  That’s may be the main reason they’ve come up with so many other plastics.  ABS was the original plastic used in FDM printing, but warpage was so common, they soon came up with PLA.  All plastics can warp if not used correctly, it’s just that PLA and some of the others are not as bad or as temperamental when it comes to temperature.  Warping is one of the main reason you see 3D printers enclosed in their own housing.  It’s to keep the heat in and keep the temperature more constant.   And besides being housed in an enclosure, many printers have a heated bed and while it is possible, you shouldn’t even consider printing with ABS without one.  The main purpose of the heat bed is to keep the item warm while it is being printed, especially the older layers that were laid down first and to slow the cooling time down, when it’s finished printing.

 

IT’S NOT AS BAD AS ALL THAT
I hope this blog hasn’t been too discouraging, because it’s not as bad as it sounds and this last paragraph should cheer you up a bit and encourage you once again to get into 3D printing.  All these “common problems” mentioned above are really only common in the beginning.  As you learn about your 3D printer and what settings work best.  As you decide which filaments you favor, you’ll learn what temperatures they prefer.  Also, there’s a good possibility that you’ll always be modifying and updating your printer to work better and use easier.  If your printer didn’t come with its own housing, you may build an enclosure for it.  You may not build an enclosure, but you’re sure to do something to it to make it work better; add a better cooling fan or 3D print a new fan shroud that does a better job at directing the cool air at the 3D item being built.  That’s the cool thing about 3D printing: these upgrades can be built by the 3D printer itself.

For the other parts of the series:

Part 5: The First Minute Of A 3D Print Is The Most Important

Part 4: You Made Your Bed, Now You Can Print On It

Part 3: What Will You Print First?

Part 2: The 3D Printer Does The Labor

Part 1: The Maker

 

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Darren Hughes

Darren is a Nerd/Jock hybrid. In fact, he maybe the original nerd. In the '60's, he and his Sister were certainly among the first Trekkies, having pretended to be the crew of Enterprise at night (after watching the original series during it's inaugural run) and playing little league in the day. Darren holds a few college degrees. One of them for Engineering and another for Computer Networking. He's always been a fan of learning and technology. Darren has only been 3D printing for a couple years and still considers himself a novice. It is his hope for this blog site to share what he learns as he goes with other beginners, to save them time and hassle finding the best 3D printing and avoiding the worst.