How To Clean A 3D Printer Nozzle

While 3D printers are often touted for their simplicity, they can be finicky machines. One of the most common issues you may run into is a clogged nozzle.

A clogged nozzle can cause all sorts of problems, from poor print quality to complete failure to print. It may frustrate you as you wonder how to fix the problem when this happens.

The good news is that cleaning a clogged nozzle is often a relatively easy process. This article will show you how to clean a 3D printer nozzle and get your machine running smoothly again.

How Will You Know If Your 3D Printer Is Clogged?

3D printers inspire creativity and learning. However, they can be a little temperamental. Before we go into how to clean a 3D printer nozzle, let’s go over some of the signs that your machine may be experiencing a clog. This way, you’ll be able to catch the problem early and nip it in the bud.

student fixing a 3d printer

Stringing

You may notice that your prints are beginning to look stringy.

This is caused by filament oozing out of the nozzle while the extruder moves to a new location.

The filament can harden and become stuck to the print, resulting in a stringy mess. It can also cause the filament to break, resulting in a failed print.

Gaps in Prints

gaps in print using 3d printer

If you notice gaps or voids in your prints, that’s another sign that your nozzle may be clogged.

When the filament can’t flow freely through the nozzle, it can cause voids or gaps in the print.

Extruder Jamming

If your extruder is jamming, it’s likely due to a clogged nozzle. The filament may get stuck in the nozzle and cause the extruder to jam. This can often be diagnosed by hearing a clicking noise when the extruder is trying to extrude filament.

Print Quality Decreasing

printing using 3d printer

If you’ve been printing without issues and suddenly the quality of your prints decreases, it’s due to a clogged nozzle. It’s also possible that your extruder cannot flow as much filament, resulting in thinner layers.

What Causes Your 3D Printer Nozzle to Clog?

There are situations where your nozzle will become clogged. Here are some of the most common causes:

Temperature Changes

Finding the sweet spot for your filament can be tricky. If the temperature is too low, the filament may not flow properly. This can cause the filament to build up in the nozzle and eventually clog it.

filament of a 3d printer

Conversely, the filament may melt before reaching the nozzle if the temperature is too high. This can also cause a clog. The varying types of filament also require different temperatures to print correctly.

And finally, different printers have different ideal printing temperatures.

Knowing what temperature works best with your specific printer and filament is important.

Infrequent Use

When a 3D printer sits for too long without being used, the filament can dry out and become brittle. This can cause the filament to snap when the extruder tries to push it through the nozzle, resulting in a clog.

You should keep your printer well-maintained and use it regularly. If you know you won’t be using your printer for an extended time, it’s good to store the filament in an airtight container.

Dirty Nozzle

Leaving your nozzle dirty can also cause clogs. As the filament is extruded, small bits of plastic can build up on the nozzle. Over time, this can create a blockage that prevents the filament from flowing through properly. And if the blockage is severe enough, it can cause the extruder to jam.

Filament Quality

Some stores sell cheaper filament that is of lower quality. This filament is more prone to clogging as it’s not as smooth. The roughness can cause the filament to catch on the nozzle walls and eventually cause a clog.

If you are a 3D printing amateur, it’s best to start with a higher-quality filament. Once you get the hang of things, you can experiment with different filaments and find what works best. But by buying a higher quality 3D printer filament, you can help prevent clogs and get better prints.

Poor Storage Conditions

If you don’t store your filament properly, it can become damaged and unusable. The filament can become tangled or knotted, making it difficult to feed through the extruder. Your filament can absorb moisture from the air, which can cause it to swell and clog the nozzle. This is why it’s essential to store your filament in an airtight container.

Dirty Filament

Debris and dust particles can accumulate on the filament as it’s being used. This can happen if the filament is left out in the open or if it’s not properly sealed when not in use. The debris can then get caught in the nozzle and cause a clog.

Cleaning your filament can help prevent this type of clog. As with the nozzle, it’s much easier to clean filament that is only lightly soiled.

Wrong Size Nozzle

If you are using a nozzle that is too small for your filament, it can cause clogs. The smaller opening can cause the filament to get caught and eventually build up enough to block the flow completely.

Thus, it’s essential to use the correct size nozzle for your filament. Most filaments will list the recommended nozzle size on the label.

Old Filament

As filament ages, it can become brittle and more difficult to use. This is especially true for filaments exposed to sunlight or other UV light sources.

The filament can become warped and twisted, making it difficult to feed through the extruder. Storing your filament in a dry, airtight container will help prevent damage and clogs.

Printing with ABS

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) or nylon filament is a common filament used in 3D printing. However, it can be difficult to print as it tends to warp and crack. ABS plastic shrinks when it cools, which can cause the prints to deform. It’s also sensitive to heat, so the build platform needs to be kept at a consistent temperature.

Printing with ABS can be tricky, but it’s possible.

Jump In: Are you wondering how fine (or how small) your printer could produce an image? Find out by reading my post — How Small Can 3D Printers Print?

How to Clean A 3D Printer Nozzle

If you think your nozzle is clogged, don’t despair. In most cases, it’s a relatively easy problem to fix with a nozzle cleaning kit. Here are some common methods forcleaning a 3D printer nozzle.

Filament Purge

The first method is to use a filament purge. This involves extruding a small amount of

filament from the nozzle, then discarding it.

Step 1: Let the nozzle heat up completely to the temperature you normally use for printing.

Step 2: Place a piece of paper or cardboard underneath the nozzle to take the melted filament.

Step 3: Extrude a small amount of filament. You can push the filament manually through or using the ‘extrude’ command in your 3D printer’s software.

Step 4: Discard the filament.

Step 5: Repeat the above steps until the nozzle’s filament is clean.

Acetone Vapor Bath

If the filament purge doesn’t work, you can try an acetone vapor bath. This involves heating acetone until it turns to vapor and allowing the nozzle to soak in the vapor.

Step 1: Fill a container with acetone.

Step 2: Place the container on a heat-resistant surface and heat the acetone until it turns to vapor. You can use a hot plate, stovetop, or even a hairdryer.

Step 3: Place the nozzle in the vapor for a few minutes.

Step 4: Remove the nozzle and allow it to cool then wipe it with a paper towel.

Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the leftover filament comes out and the nozzle clogging is completely clean.

Canned Air

When everything else fails, you can try using canned air to clean the nozzle. This involves blowing compressed air through the nozzle to remove any debris that may be causing the clog.

Step 1: Place the can of compressed air upright on a flat surface.

Step 2: Remove the cap from the nozzle.

Step 3: Point the nozzle of the can towards the opening of the 3D printer nozzle.

Step 4: Press the button on the can to release the compressed air.

Step 5: Move the can around to different nozzle areas and continue blowing compressed air until the clogged material is removed.

Needle and Brush

You can also use a needle or brush to clean the nozzle. This is a more hands-on approach, but it can be effective if done properly.

Step 1: Shut off the power to your 3D printer and allow the nozzle to cool.

Step 2: Use a pair of pliers to remove the nozzle from the extruder.

Step 3: Use an acupuncture needle or small brush to clean out the nozzle. Be careful not to damage the nozzle.

Step 4: Reattach the nozzle to the extruder and turn on the power to your 3D printer.

Incineration

If you’re really struggling to clean the nozzle, you can try incineration. This is a last-ditch effort, but it can be effective.

Step 1: Turn off the power to your 3D printer and allow the nozzle to cool.

Step 2: Use a pair of pliers to remove the nozzle from the extruder.

Step 3: Place the nozzle in a heat-resistant container.

Step 4: Apply heat to the container until the nozzle is glowing red hot. Some people use a blow torch, but a stovetop, heat gun, or even a lighter can also be used. Ensure the clog softens before the cold pull.

Step 5: Allow the nozzle to cool. Clean the nozzle with a brass wire brush to remove any remaining filament and then reattach it to the extruder. Turn on the power to your 3D printer and resume printing.

How Often Should You Clean Your Nozzle?

Cleaning a 3D printer nozzle is a pretty straightforward process, but it’s one that you’ll need to do regularly. How often you need to clean the nozzle will depend on a few factors, such as the type of filament you’re using and how often you print.

In general, it’s a good idea to clean the nozzle with a cleaning filament every time you change the filament.

This will help prevent any debris from the previous filament from clogging the nozzle.

If you print frequently and use it to work on projects, you may need to clean the nozzle more often. It’s a good idea to inspect the nozzle regularly and clean it if you notice any buildup of filament.

Related Questions

Should I disassemble the printer to clean the nozzle?

No, you don’t need to disassemble the printer. You can remove the nozzle and then reattach it when you’re done cleaning.

Can I use alcohol to clean the nozzle?

Yes, you can use alcohol to clean the nozzle. Alcohol is a good solvent and will help remove any debris from the nozzle.

My filament is not coming out evenly. Does this mean the nozzle is clogged?

Not necessarily. There could be various reasons why the filament is not coming out evenly. The nozzle may be clogged, but it’s also possible that the settings on the printer are not correct. Try cleaning the nozzle and then check the settings on the printer to see if that fixes the problem.

I think there’s something wrong with my 3D printer. It keeps clogging, even when I clean the nozzle regularly. What could be the problem?

If your 3D printer keeps clogging, even when you clean the nozzle regularly, there may be something wrong with the printer itself. It’s possible that the heating element is damaged or something is blocking the filament path. If you can’t fix the problem yourself, you may need to contact a professional for help.

Conclusion

A clog in the nozzle of your 3D printer can be a real pain. It will affect the quality of your prints while in the printing process, but it can also cause the printer to stop working altogether.

The good news is that cleaning a 3D printer nozzle is a pretty easy process. You can start by removing the nozzle and then cleaning it with a solvent such as alcohol. If the clog is more stubborn, you may need to apply heat to the nozzle.

Remember, it’s essential to clean the nozzle regularly, especially if you frequently change filament or print. This helps your 3D printer to run smoothly and produce high-quality prints at all times.

Last Updated on July 21, 2022 by Emily

Emily/ author of the article

Emily is an active mother of two and a dedicated elementary school teacher. She believes the latest technology has made a huge impact on the quality of early learning and has worked hard to upgrade her classroom and her own children’s learning experience through technology.
She created this blog to make it easier for other teachers to take advantage of some of the best devices out there to upgrade their classrooms without having to do the research themselves. She loves to hear your tech-based problems and share her extensive experience :)

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