Basic user maintenance on your Stratasys FDM 3D printer is crucial to keeping print quality consistent. It leads to more up-time, higher efficiency, less material waste, and ultimately less service calls interrupting you and your company’s workflow. As field technicians there are a handful of common problems we run across. These can be easily avoided by adding a step or two to your daily additive manufacturing routine. Here are some everyday print issues, their typical causes, and ways to easily steer clear of them.
Issue: Material Stringing / Poor-Quality Prints
If you are seeing stringy prints, model or support material trailing from print head movements, oozing filament from the tips, or worse, failed prints: there are some common culprits.
First check and see if your brush/flicker is doing its job. Is the brush or flicker worn out? Is there material stuck to it or right behind it? When the print head goes to purge over the purge bin does it hit the brush or is it missing it some or completely? How do the tip shrouds, the gray squares or white circles on the printhead, look? Is there melted or crusty material stuck to the face of them? Are they damaged? Replace them if they look bad. Your tip kit comes with multiples.
These are all common occurrences that tell us the brush/flicker assembly needs to be replaced or have its height adjusted. Most printer owners have multiple replacements lying around. New printers will come with a tip replacement kit. When was the last time you replaced your tips? Hopefully around every 1500 hours.
Issue: Bad Material
Another cause could be bad material. FDM material, especially support material, does not like moisture. It will undoubtedly absorb moisture from its environment. This can cause a whole host of issues like those mentioned above and also possibly clogging your tips.This could lead to failed prints and wasted time.
We recommend keeping both model and support material in a sealed, airtight container. This prevents extraneous moisture from seeping in. Save your material, save on costs. Large sealed bags, plastic bins with tight tops, or better yet an electric dry cabinet, would all be excellent solutions.
Issue: Unclean Printer/Purge Bin
When was the last time you emptied out your purge bin or vacuumed out the bottom of the build chamber? Purged material will build up in the bin over time and can lead to it sticking to the print head and causing issues.
Keeping the floor of your build chamber clear of filament bits and pieces is also good practice. If too much material is lying around it can cause issues like superfluous fumes, and possibly hinder the Z stage’s movement causing unwanted errors. If your chamber is clean and you’re still experiencing more print fumes than usual, check the fan filter on the back of the printer. Over time these easily grab all sorts of dust and gunk. Luckily it’s as easy as removing the filter and rinsing it out with mild soap and water. Let it dry properly and place it back on the printer.
Issue: Forgetting to Calibrate Printer
Run your calibration prints! It’s a good idea, when you have time, to run tip calibration prints every few builds. Both the Z and XY calibration prints are fairly quick, easy, and keep your dimensional accuracy on point.
Also, whenever possible, use brand new build trays / substrates for calibrations and every print job if possible. Using new trays can ensure that the calibration prints will execute properly and yield accurate results to ensure high-quality and reliable prints.
With a little extra effort you and your team will save some things you can’t design and print, time and money! If you have questions regarding any of these procedures or need a refresher, contact our team for help.
Computer Aided Technology, Inc.