Maintaining your printer
3D printers require some light maintenance to operate at their best, and here we reveal some pro tips to ensure longevity
All 3D printers have their own guides for keeping them well-maintained, but there are certain tips that ring true with most home printers you can buy now.
First up, and possibly the most important, is to ensure that you use quality filament in your 3D printer, and ensure it’s the right diameter for your machine. If you put substandard filament in your machine, you’re going to experience a number of problems. You’ll see uneven prints, poor surface finish and quality, and in the worst case scenarios your printer will get damaged. So ensure you read product reviews before you buy, and try and establish where the filament you’re buying originates.
“There are many different standards in terms of quality for both 3D printers as well as the materials”, explains Sander Strijbos of colorFabb, a leading filament provider. “All printers treat different materials differently, so there is a learning curve to be made by the user when starting to print”.
Once you have the right filament you must ensure your printer is correctly calibrated. Because 3D printers use heads, which are precision-controlled in three axes, a small misalignment can cause poor quality results and printing errors, such as extra blobs of plastic or obvious gaps. Although you’ll often spot the result of a problem around the printhead, the result is far more likely to lie elsewhere, such as misalignment or a feed jam.
As most 3D printers use a metal axis, it’s good to keep them lubricated, though how you do this can vary depending on each machine. As a rule of thumb though, you can apply a drop or two of sewing machine oil to the x- and y-axes every week or two. The z-axis, which raises and lowers your print bed, may require a lube rather than an oil, so make sure you’re using the right lubricant for the job. And check belt tensions periodically, too.
The last thing to consider is your build plate. This is the platform that your printer lays plastic onto, and to ensure adhesion – and in some cases to prevent warping – some printer manufacturers will suggest putting a thin layer of craft glue on your plate before printing. If you do this, you should give your plate a clean when you start to notice a glue build-up, or when prints start to suffer as a result. As with most things, the more you look after it the better! Filament comes in a variety of colours and on reels that are fed into the printer. Methods vary, as do filament qualities. We recommend these from colorFabb (colorfabb.com).