Why Does Your 3D Printer Keep Clogging? Potential Reasons Listed!


3D printing continues to grow at a rapid pace. Just over 2.2 million printers were sold in 2021 and analysts predict the industry to grow by between 18 to 27 percent every year. 

The biggest cost to get started with 3D printing is of course equipment. Beginner or entry level machines cost between $300 to $1,500. Enthusiast or professional level machines are pricier ranging from $1,500 to $20,000. 

Given how much you need to invest in a good printer it makes sense that you would do everything you can to keep it in good condition. 

Clogging is possibly the most common issue faced by 3D printer users. Anyone who’s owned a printer for long enough will tell you that they have dealt with this as it is a recurring issue if you’re printing regularly.

3D Printing Is Here To Stay

Why Does My 3D Printer Keep Clogging Up?

Clogging in a 3D printer occurs at one of two points. A 3D printer can jam either where the material is fed into the printer or where the material is extruded. Jamming at the point of entry is caused by using the wrong filament size or wet filament. Clogging at the extrusion point suggests a problem with the nozzle. 

Incorrect filament size

Filament comes in two sizes. It can either have a diameter of 1.75mm or 2.85mm. A printer will use one of either diameters, never both. Most printers take a 1.75mm filament. This is not to say the 1.75mm is better. They each have their pros and cons.

1.75mm is thinner so it allows you to print with more detail. It is also more likely to get tangled up. A 2.85mm filament is wider so allows you to print faster. It does, however, give you less detailed prints. 

You cannot use 1.75mm filament in a 2.85mm printer and vice versa. In both cases, the printer will get jammed up either because the filament is too small or too big. 

Using a 1.75mm filament in a 2.85mm printer, for example, will create a back flow. Rather than the filament flowing out of the nozzle, it will instead flow up the cold end of the extruder and jam the printer. 

For more on this, check out our post Can You Use 2.85mm Filament In A 1.75mm Printer? Does Filament Size Matter?

Wet filament

A printer will jam if you try to extrude wet filament through it. Filament is hygroscopic. It absorbs the moisture it is exposed to. This is usually through ambient humidity in the air. When filament absorbs moisture it swells up. This can add as much as 0.5mm to the diameter of the filament. Source

Here is a post on ” Does ABS Filament Absorb Moisture? How To Deal With It!

Also, check out “Why Does My Filament Keep Breaking? Fix PLA Filament Snapping!

Heat Creep

Extruders have a cold and hot end. The cold end is where the filament is drawn in and pushed through using a motor. The hot end is where it is melted and pushed out. Heat creep is when heat from the hot end is conducted to the cold end causing the filament to melt before it gets to the nozzle. 

This will cause your printer to clog. PLA is a popularly used filament because its low melting temperature makes it easy to use. PLA’s low extrusion temperature also makes it more prone to heat creep, however. 

We’ve looked at some of the factors that cause a printer to clog up where you feed the material into the printer. Now let’s look at how a printer can get clogged up at the nozzle.

Find out more in our article titled “What Is A Heat Break For 3D Printing & Is it required! Heat Creep Explained

Why Does The Nozzle On My Ender 3 Keep Clogging?

Nozzle clogging is when something blocks the hole where filament from a printer flows out. Clogging is caused by either dirt or the filament itself. In either case, the result is under-extrusion where the printer is not extruding enough filament to print or no extrusion where there is no filament extruded at all.  

Filament picks up dirt fairly easily. This is especially likely in an environment like a metal or woodworking shop that will have a lot of dust or particulates in the air. This dust can settle on the filament and cause a blockage when you try to print. 

In most cases, clogging in a nozzle is caused by the filament itself. This could be a result of printing at the wrong temperature or an accumulation of filament in the print head.

It could be that the extrusion temperature for the filament you’re working with is either too high or too low. If it is too high you will burn instead of melt the filament. More often, however, it is because the hot end temperature is too low. 

Another factor that very often leads to nozzle clogging is having the nozzle too close to the print bed. What then happens is that the limited space between the nozzle and the print bed blocks the flow of filament.

If you’re printing at the right temperature and you are sure there is no dirt or accumulated filament in your print head, the problem might be a faulty PTFE tube. Check to see if it is not worn out at the end.

Also find out “How Long Do 3D Printer Nozzles Last? Factors And Signs of Deterioration!

How Do You Stop A 3D Printer From Clogging?

Using quality material and printing using the correct printer settings is the best way to prevent a 3D printer from clogging. These are frequently the primary cause of printer jams. The next important thing is to keep the nozzle clean and free of obstructions. 

Get the right filament

Not all filaments are of the same quality. A poor quality filament is highly likely to produce bad prints and clogging. The first thing to do is get good quality filament that is the right diameter for your printer. Storing your filament in airtight containers will keep it dust and moisture free. Source

Calibrate your printer

You also need to use the right printer settings for the material you are working with and the print you are trying to produce. Different filaments have different extrusion temperatures and you need to find the optimal temperature that produces the best flow for the filament you are working with. 

FILAMENTEXTRUSION TEMPERATURE °C
PLA180 – 230
ABS210 – 250
PETG (PET, PETT)220 – 250
TPE, TPU, TPC (Flexible)210 – 230
Nylon (PA)240 – 260
PC (Polycarbonate)270 – 310
Wood-Filled190 – 250
Metal-Filled200 – 220
Polycarbonate270 – 310
ASA240 – 260
Ceramic255 – 275
Conductive 210 – 230
PolyPropylene235 – 265
PVA160 – 200
3d printing Filament Extrusion Temperatures

Your nozzle should not be too close to your print bed. Make sure the bed is leveled correctly. Source

sherifjallad

I am a very well experienced techie civil engineer who's extensively interested in 3D printing technology and even more captivated by the potential of 3D printing livable structures

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