3D Printer Extruder Jams

Extruder Jams are a frequent and perplexing problem with FFF 3D printers. The gears can get clogged with plastic, the hot end can get clogged in many distinct ways and your EPROMS might not be accurately telling your machine how much its motors need to turn in order to push out 100mm of plastic.  But FFF 3D printing is still a great option for prototyping your ideas if you have free time and want to save money.

jam-free-image_opt1

I’m not enough of an expert on extruder jams to feel that my advice is a better guide than some of the other guides out there already but I am enough of an expert to hold your hand or fix it for you (if you are willing to pay for my time).

Customer: I’ve been having trouble with my printer.  This is the printer I have https://www.amazon.com/Monoprice-113860-Select-Printer-Filament/dp/B018GZBC3Y/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1465878994&sr=8-3&keywords=monoprice+printer

It is not extruding any more.  I was able to print things smoothly for a little over a month then I started having trouble.  I print on painters tape and occasionally used glue sticks if parts weren’t sticking to the bed.  When it stopped extruding I was able to get it working again by reloading the filament but then it seemed to strip the filament so I wasn’t able to feed it through or remove it.  I removed the end of the extruder to try to clear the filament.  I cleared some but I have not been able to load the filament since then.  I have tried using a guitar string to clear it but I haven’t had any luck.  What other things could I try?  Thank you for any insight or advice!

Pintstein: You are describing one of the hardest and most common printer malfunctions.  Your printer probably has multiple issues but only one root cause.  To get your filament to clear again try setting the temperature 20ºC higher than your normal printing temperature.  Once the hotend is hot, depress the spring and pull up on the filament. If the filament is too stuck to change filaments, try not depressing the spring, pulling up on the filament lightly, and using your print software to have the extruder retract filament. If you still can’t change your filament you are going to need to disassemble the extruder.  I can help people do that in person faster than I can describe how to do it.
If you can change the filament we can diagnose the root cause of your problem.  Clean every part of the gears that you can before putting in the new filament.  That stripped plastic inside your gear teeth could be your problem. Extruder jams can be caused by the temperature being too low so why not increase your extruder’s temperature 5ºC above your normal printing temperature.
Now use a micrometer or ruler to measure 125mm of filament.  Open your software and ask the extruder to push out exactly 100mm of filament.  If you are left with an amount of filament other than 25mm write back to me with a description of what the extruder looked like when it was trying to push filament out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUPfBJz3I6Y

Many make and models have a spring that can be tightened or loosened.  If the spring is too tight, it can cause that filament stripping that you described.   My Monoprice dual extruder’s spring cannot be tightened and loosened so I will assume that your Monoprice Maker does not either.

If your printer is now able to extrude accurate amounts of filament, let’s make sure the printing temperature is set to the right temperature for your filament. Download this file and print it.  changing the temperature as it prints.  If the print becomes “beady”, as in looks like a string of beads, your temperature is too low and the optimum temperature is probably 5ºC above that.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POaL2GGBHGM
My Printrbot develops extruder jams after I have done A LOT OF PRINTING on it and the steps I just described above allows it to work for a little while but buying a new hotend has been the most successful way to get it back in good working order.  I now have 3 old hotends for my printrbot and am putting off buying the 4th in the hopes that I will find a magic way to revitalize one of them by spraying teflon inside the hot end or something.
Keep in touch and pay it forward! The additive manufacturing revolution is about giving people with free time, the information and skills to make plastic objects from their dreams.
I struggle to generate social media content. Is It alright if I use our conversation on my blog similar to the way I posted another conversation on my facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/Pintstein/posts/1738226519775217

Customer: You can use this conversation on your blog.

I think I have actually tried all of that before.  I gave it another shot but still no luck.  Are there parts I should look into replacing?  On your website it says you can send a tech to look at the printer, is this the kind of problem a tech could take care of and maybe also show me what I’m doing wrong?  I work as a maintenance tech so I feel like I should be able to fix basic things but I’m very new to 3D printing.

Pintstein: Yes, this problem could be solved by having a technician come out to your location and run through everything but Pintstein’s technician is not able to carry every single part for every single make and model of 3D printer. So you should order a replacement hot end before I come to your location.  I’m 90% certain that the replacing the hot end will get the machine back to good working order if another step does not.  My labor costs $50 for a 2 hour visit and $15 for each hour after that.

I have been struggling to find a replacement hot end. Could you send me a photo of your extruder so I can confirm that it looks a lot like this but is black instead of blue? http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/12V-0-4mm-Single-Nozzle-3D-Printer-mk10-Print-Head-Extruder-Extra-Throat-Tube-0-3mm/1737229_32311314664.html
Where are you located? I’m in Saint Paul on Grand Ave.
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