What Is A Heat Break For 3D Printing & Is it required! Heat Creep Explained


Heat break is that part in 3D printing where the hot meets cold. It’s one of the key valuable elements of the hot end that connects the heat block in the 3D printer to the heat sink.

The objective of heat break in 3D printing is to separate the cold zone, and hot zone from the hot end and have the transition shorter than possible. 

Heat break is the component in the 3D printer that will dictate whether the hot end of the printer should be all All-Metal type or not. The heat break is made of a low coefficient thermal transmitter such as stainless steel to enhance the thermal breakage effect. 

Now you have an idea of what heat break means let’s talk about its function and other important details.

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What does a heat break do?

Located inside the heat sink and the heater block, the heat break helps in breaking or preventing the transfer of heat. Its goal is to help keep the 3D printer heater block hot and nice to aid the melting of filament for extrusion via the printer nozzle while keeping the heat sink part nice and cool for proper controlling of filament.

When you experience hot-end blockage, the signs are always obvious. The plastic streams begin to lessen, then stops. At this point, your 3D printer will keep trying to print but extrudes nothing due to blockage. The first crucial thing you need to consider is checking and ensuring that the hot-end heater block component is still operating well at the expected temperature.

If you notice the heater temperature is below 160 degrees Celsius, then this is enough evidence that your printer heat break may have developed a problem.

What does a Hot end mean?

The hot end of the 3D printer is also known as the extruder, and it is a very important component of the 3D printer that functions to take in, melt and push out the 3D printing filament. The hot end acts just like the hot glue gun that is used in papercrafts.

With the help of the hot end, a consistent temperature can be maintained during the printing process so you could have successful prints. (Source)

Watch this video below to understand more about a hot end.

Do 3D printers need a break?

Most people new to the 3D printing industry always wonder how long a 3D printer can continuously run and whether they need a break.  Under normal printing circumstances, 3D printers do not require a break in between the printing process and are capable of even extending the set printing time without experiencing any problem.

However, certain factors may impact how long your 3D printers can run! Such factors include how well you maintain and service your printer, the age of the printer, the printer’s overall quality, among other factors.

How do you know if your 3D printer has heat creep?

Let us first begin by defining what ‘heat creep’ is before we conclude with how we can identify it and possible prevention or control measures we can take.

Heat creep is basically the irregular spread of heat throughout the hot end, disrupting the way your print filament melt. This will often result in clogs inside the thermal barrier tube. 

When the heat builds up on the thermal tube, it is likely to soften the filament, causing it to swell out and stick inside the heat break area. Further, up in the heat sink, the filament may begin to harden as a result of a high number of long retractions. This will call for pulling out and removing the filament from the heat sink top part before you can proceed with 3D printing again.

Check out our article on what happens if you overheat your 3D print?

How can I prevent heat creep?

Heat creep mostly becomes a problem after completing your printing process and the 3D printer begins cooling. The expanded filament material will loosen and get stuck inside the thermal tube’s walls, hardening and clogging your printer’s extruder.

It is also possible that some 3D printers do not just go well with certain types of filaments. Taking precautions and the right print settings and filament will give you a great 3D printing experience, and eliminate or reduce problems completely.   

Here are some causes of heat creep and few suggestions on how you can solve or prevent the heat creep problem in most 3D printers: (source)

  • Inadequate transfer of heat from the heat break part to the heat sink– You can solve this by adding a considerable amount of thermal grease between the heat sink and the heat break parts to help improve the thermal transfer rate and keep your heat break cooler.
  • Check for filament buildup on the heat break portion- If there is a buildup of filament or other debris on the heat break, it may disrupt the filament flow process allowing for too much heat transfer up your heat break tube.
  • Always unload filament when done with printing- Another way to prevent the consequences of heat creep is to ensure you always unload filament whenever you finish printing. This is because heat creep will result in thermal barrier tube clog. 
  • Too high hot end temperatures– Try lowering your printer hot end temperature settings by 5 degrees Celsius a few times and observe if this will solve the heat creep problem.
  •  Poor heat sink performance– Check out if the cooling fan is failing, or if there is too high ambient air temperature, or there is too much plastic or debris buildup around the printer heat sink. All these may cause heat creep.
  • Oiling- Oiling measures should be your last resort since they may impact the strength of your finished part. Use a little vegetable or mineral oil to coat a few inches of your filament before inserting the filament. This will help you create a non-stick coating effect in the non-metal hot end. This should be your last resort.

Also check out our post on What Is Gantry Height In 3D Printing? The Correct Setting & How To Fix Print Head

Wrap Up

Most usual problems experienced in 3D printing can show up right before your eyes, making them easier to diagnose. However, certain problems are not visible and not easily detectable until they manifest into much bigger problems such as clogged nozzles. 

A heat creep in 3D printing is one of those sinister experiences you can encounter, mostly because it is not easily noticeable before it develops an irreversible problem with your 3D printer. If it is not looked into, you may end up disassembling the whole heating block to clean up any clogged material inside the thermal tube.

In case you always print at very high temperatures, there is a more likelihood that you will experience heat creep problems. Before you get here, your best bet of action would be to ensure your 3D printer’s heat sink is functioning well. If heat creep persists even after cleaning clogged materials, you should make some hardware changes.

In case you have any queries about 3D printing technology, do not hesitate to contact us! At 3D Print Schooling, you will get well-researched content that will enlighten you on any information you may need within the 3D printing technology.

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