We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
With 3D printers it is not rare that you get failed prints due to filament jamming in the extruter of the device, especially when you are printing larger and more complex objects it can be really annoying if because of a jam you need to start over and you were almost finished. The good thing is that you may be able to still finish your print and have a useable part with none to some minimal issue that you might be able to still fix after the part is printed. What you need to do is to closely monitor your 3D printer while printing and especially listen to it while printing and if you hear the traditional sound of clogged extuder repeating a few times then you should react very fast and pause the printing process. On our MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer we need to hit the left button to go to the Menu and select Pause, then quickly go to the Change Filament, other 3D printers should have similar way of doing the same thing. Then you need to quickly pull out the filament from the extruder while it is still very hot and you can break or cut a small piece from the front and reinsert it quickly. We are doing it so fast already that there is no need to use the Load function for the filament, we just push it a bit to clear our the printing nozzle and then Resume printing.
Make sure you go to the Change Filament menu as it will reposition the build plate away from the nozzle as only pausing the printing process will not do that. If you try to push the filament only with a paused printing you can damage your print if too much filament comes out of the nozzle when you push it back on. Also if you do are not able to quickly do the procedure you might want to run the Load script of the Replicator 2 or your respective printer as it will first heat up the extuder to the desired temperature. This is good for the first few times you are doing this in order to avoid the extruder cooling too much to be able to properly melt the filament you are pushing through it. The more experience you get using your 3D printer the more you will be able to master it and do things such as clearing filament jams when they appear and resume printing or readjusting the level of the build plate as you are printing in order to have best results. So keep experimenting and playing with the features of your 3D printer, we are already quite good at using our MakerBot Replicator 2 and are able to get rid of most issues without having failed prints. Of course also doing some upgrades and modifications to your 3D printer can also help in greatly increasing the device’s reliability and reducing the issues, but you should be careful with these if you are not very handy with the DIY stuff that you often need to perform. We’ve already shared out experience with various modifications and tips and tricks that we have learned from using our MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer, so do make sure you check these out as they may also be applicable to many other devices or at least some of them should be.
When you are 3D printing small parts that are just a few millimeters in size you have probably bumped into a problem where there is a gap between the outlines/perimeter shells of the object and the infill, regardless of the percentage does not help. Normally with larger objects the inside of the model will be filled by the infill prodigious strength and durability of the printed object based on the percentage of the infill you are using. But when you get to printing small parts the slicer is normally not adding infill and a gap remains between the outside shell. This makes the printed part more flexible and less durable and that can be a problem, not to mention that the printed result is not a solid object as you might have expected it to be. This is the default behavior and is normal to happen with different slicers, such as the MakerBot Desktop (MakerWare) as well as Simplify3D, but some programs do have extra options to address this issue.
The MakerBot Desktop software is nice and user friendly but does not offer a lot of additional options to users in order to address such problems as the one mentioned above. But if you use a more advanced software such as the commercial Simplify3D slicer, one of the useful extra features that makes it worth to actually pay for the software. Using the Simplify3D software if you go in the Process Settings menu, under the Infill tab you can see an option called Outline Overlap and increase the value of the percentage over the default value of 20% you will see that the gap inside the smaller objects can be filled with infill. It may take some tinkering with the value to get the best results and some test prints, but the end result is that the small and 3D printed part is finally solid and how it should be.
Last week we were having a weird issue with our MakerBot 2 Replicator 3D printer that was stopping to extrude filament properly ater 5 to 10 millimeters from the height of a print is normally printed, resulting in a failed attempt to print the object. The filament was just stopping to extrude properly or completely and we’ve had to unload and load it again to resume normal operation. It was not like a standard filament jam that requires the disassembly of the extruder to clean a filament jam. We have started to check the usual suspects that might be a cause of filament jams such as improper leveling of the build plate, problems with the heating temperature of the extruder, worn off nozzle, the filament guide mechanism and motor and so on. None of this however made any difference and we were still having failed prints regardless if it was a simple or more complex model, we have even tried using various filaments to exclude a possible issue with the PLA filament we’ve been using from MakerBot.
Changing the filament did not help at first as we were changing complete spools, but once we’ve tried a few short samples of various filaments that were 10-15 meters and not on spool we got a hint of another unexpected possible issue. Using a shorter filament wrap for a test print we did not get it through the teflon filament guide tube that we use normally with the filament spools and surprisingly we’ve had no trouble with the filament stopping to extrude properly anymore and no failed prints. But bringing back a spool with filament that goes through the filament tube and the prints started failing again, so apparently the Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) guide tube was causing the problems with the print. We did not expect that to be the cause as there were no visual or any other kind of signs that something is wrong with the filament guide tube. After all the idea of this filament guide tube is to make the feeding of filament easier and more problem free, but apparently it also can wear off over the course of few months of usage and starting to cause issues. Since we did not expect the tube to be the cause of the problem we were having it took us some time to rule out every other possibility that we considered first, but if you are having a similar issue you might want to temporary remove the teflon filament guide tube to see if it might turn out to be the culprit in your case.
Next time we’ll have another new thing to consider when we start having issues with failing prints, and we are already waiting to get a replacement PTFE filament guide tube to see how long will the new one work without starting to cause troubles like the original tube. We are also going to be looking out for some alternative ways for improving the filament guide on the MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer to make printing less problem free.