A clogged printer is a common problem in 3D printing. In this episode, Tom and Tracy Hazzard share how they troubleshoot their Smart Extruder, along with the reasons why it does clog up. Different PLAs work differently and have varied characteristics such as temperature range. Using the right filament intended for the MakerBot lessens risks of clogging. Learn more about the factors that may clog your extruder and how you can unclog it.
Listen to the podcast here:
Help! My Extruder Is Clogged!
This is our Ask Us Anything segment.
Who is the question from?
Brian from Tarzana.
What is Brian asking?
Brian is asking us when we use different filaments, are we afraid of damaging our extruders or our machines?
Our first printer was a MakerBot Fifth Generation printer and we still use it. It’s a fine printer. I’m sure we’ll talk lots about our thoughts on that in a different episode. MakerBot is a PLA-only printer. Their warranty says you have to use their PLA material and you may void the warranty if you use others. I’m going to maybe get ourselves in trouble with our warranty on this, but it’s already almost a year old. We’ve run every different PLA we could find through this thing.
We wanted good color and there’s not a lot of good color out there. I’m going to go to whatever manufacturer that makes a good color. MakerBot, since the beginning when we bought it, has a bigger color program. They’re more likely to get my business now, but they weren’t at the time. That was an issue. The reality is it’s not a bad question. The filament has a lot to do with how good quality prints you get. If it’s gumming up and making a sticky looking print with lots of hairs and poles on it, it’s probably doing some damage to your extruder.
I don’t know if it’s damaging it as much, but it can certainly make maintaining it a little more difficult. If you clog it up, you may have to unclog it and I’ve been through that a number of times.
Tom has spent many weekends, hours, drilling out the inside of the extruder and cleaning it out and using chemicals, trying whatever you can to get it out.
It can be done. The extruders can be unclogged once you know what you’re doing. I don’t think it’s all that difficult. More importantly, we found that different PLAs work better than others in the MakerBot. The MakerBot is made to work at one specific temperature and some PLAs are engineered to melt at a little bit lower temperature.
Some PLAs have a broad range of temperature like 180 to 230. That’s too big a range for the MakerBot.
While they say you can adjust the temperature that it prints out, it’s not easy to do. I’ve tried but I haven’t had any success being able to do that. To close the loop on the MakerBot with that PLA and then to talk about other printer, I’ve found no ill effects in all reality of using different PLAs. It doesn’t hurt the printer in any way. If it did, it would hurt only the extruder, which is a replaceable part that’s maybe a little over $100 for a new Smart Extruder. By the time you pay for shipping and taxes, you’re into that printer for about $3,000. It’s not that much money to get your printer back in shape if you do end up messing it up. To us, it was worth the risk.
Our goal was a lot of color and a lot of design variety. Maybe that’s not your goal, but if that so, then maybe you should stick with the warrantied filament. What we should do is maybe throw up on YouTube a video how to clean out the extruder.
The MakerBot extruder, another fair warning for people out there, they don’t want you to open that up.
I was thinking maybe the Leapfrog one.
You’ll void your warranty on that one if you do it although I’ve done it, but I haven’t had to a lot. They’ve made a lot of improvements to the Smart Extruder. In terms of the Leapfrog, that’s more of a typical Bowden type of FDM or FFF printer. If it gets clogged, there are good and then maybe better ways to unclog it.
Maybe that’s something we can throw up on YouTube. If you have that problem and you have damaged your extruder already, we’ll hook you up. We hope that answers your question, Brian. Hopefully other people have questions like that. We’re here to answer anything about 3D printing, whether it’s about business, filament, materials or things you use. Maybe we don’t have the answer but we’ll try and find it for you.
That doesn’t mean we’re not happy to go out and research it and get you an answer.
To do that, you have to go to the Ask Us link on our website or the Ask Us tab on our website, and that’s HazzDesign.com. Ask us and then jump down halfway through the page and you’ll see our SpeakPipe link where you click a button and start recording as long as your microphone is on your computer.
Thanks, everybody. We’ll talk to you next time.
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