Maintaining your 3D printer is very similar to maintaining a car; for the best performance and the longest run time, it needs some love every so often. Much like a car, you can pay someone to service your machine or service it yourself. We recommend servicing it yourself as you learn the in’s and out’s of how these crazy machines work and what to do when they stop working.
When to Service Your Machine?
Maintaining your printer is a bit of an incremental job and there are different stages at which this maintenance should be done. Some should be done before every print, some after every couple of rolls of filament and others every couple of hundred hours of print time. There are also those times where something just breaks out of nowhere which requires repair asap.
What Maintenance Do I Perform?
Before Every Print:
The majority of these steps are probably already done subconsciously without a thought but its always nice to have a list of things to check.
1. Print Bed is Clean: To ensure your printer doesn’t run into any previous prints still on the bed or a hidden purge line, make sure to visually inspect the bed and then give it a clean with some Isopropyl Alcohol to ensure the first layer sticks down well.
2. No boogers on nozzle: This will make sure your first layer goes down perfectly and doesn’t produce any unwanted odours from burning filament stuck to the nozzle. If there are any, just remove them with a pair of needle nose pliers.
After Every Couple of Rolls of Filament:
These things are just to make sure that everything is still in tip-top shape and that the print quality doesn’t degrade at all.
1. Dust in Fans: Check for signs of dust around the extruder fan and the part cooling fan. If there is enough dust, the fan can stop spinning, which can cause the part to not cool or even heat moving up the heat break, which can cause even bigger issues! At Phaser3D we use compressed air to blow all of the dust out of the fan. Within a few quick squirts of air, the dust is gone.
Don’t let it get this bad!!!
2. Dirty/Clogged Nozzle: If you notice your prints are starting to look a little under-extruded it may be because you have a partially clogged nozzle. We’ve got a guide to help clean the inside of your nozzle here. If you still can’t fix it or don’t like the look of a dirt nozzle, you can easily replace it.
Every 2-3 Hundred Hours:
Here at Phaser3D, our printers run almost 24/7 and rack up print time very fast. One of our printers alone has racked up over 100+ days of print time. Thats over 2400 hours! This type of maintenance is the most critical to ensure the quality of your prints doesn’t degrade as it ages.
1. Firmware Upgrade: You should usually upgrade this every time a new one is released but in case you don’t, check what the latest one is and update your printer. This will either fix previous bugs or add cool new features, like the 7×7 mesh bed levelling in the latest Prusa firmware update.
2. Lube ‘er Up: Check that all your bearings, linear rails and threaded rods have sufficient lubrication on them and that they aren’t covered in dust. If they are, give them a wipe down and apply either a silicone grease or an oil. This will make sure your bearings run free and don’t damage your rails whilst reducing noise and friction.
3. Tighten Everything Down: Give your entire printer a once over and tighten everything down that may have come loose over time with vibration. Without this step, you might come home one day to your printer in pieces cause of one little screw and you wouldn’t even know why.
4. Re-tension Belts: Overtime, the load on the belts can cause them to stretch, especially if they’re not re-enforced. A quick re-tensioning of the belts will reduce the slop and allow for better precision again when printing.
We hope that this guide helps to answer your questions of how to repair my printer and when does my printer need maintenance. This list of maintenance steps is the one used at Phaser3D and it has served us well so far with our printer farm of more than 12 printers. If you’re after a bit more of a visual guide on how to service your printer, check out this video!
We’d love to chat to you about your 3D Printing needs. Get in touch!