Most companies have a 3D printing solution that they use on a daily basis. Performing proper 3D printer maintenance will help ensure that your printer keeps running smoothly and continues to kick out parts in the best possible form. During my experience as a 3D printing field technician, I’ve seen several cases that could have been avoided if proper upkeep and routine maintenance were established. In this blog, I’m going to go over some helpful tips and tricks for both PolyJet and FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) 3D printers that will help you keep your projects on schedule, so you don’t fall behind.
PolyJet 3D Printer Maintenance Tips
For PolyJet 3D printers, it’s especially important to keep the heads and your machine clean. This will keep your machine running at its top performance. It is recommended to clean the heads after every build, but I also recommend cleaning the heads if your machine has been idle for a few days. This will help purge any leftover material which ensures your parts come out beautifully every time. When you’re cleaning the heads, be sure to clean the roller on the machine as well. A clean roller will help make sure you don’t see any imperfections throughout your model.
Get rid of debris
Another great tip to help maintain your PolyJet machine is to clean out the material debris that builds up inside of the chamber. As you remove parts from your machine, often small pieces of support material can fall down and scatter throughout the machine. Vacuuming out and wiping down the machine will ensure material doesn’t build up and get caught in the bearings or sensors.
Keep it running
One final tip for PolyJet machines is to run them at least once a week. When a part is running, it helps keep the material flowing through the lines and through the heads. Material that sits idle for too long can affect build quality. So if your machine has been idle for a few days, just start a small build and let the machine run.
FDM 3D Printer Maintenance Tips
If you own an FDM machine, I have a few tips that will help ensure you keep kicking out the parts you want and need.
Routine Tip Changes
Doing a tip change when it’s time will make sure your material flows correctly, and you don’t end up with any failed builds. The time between tip changes can vary depending on what FDM machine you own, but the software (again, depending on your machine this could be Catalyst or Insight) will send you a friendly prompt when the time has come. So if you do get a warning message to change the tips, set aside a few minutes and get a new tip in there.
Use a new tray
To help keep your parts sticking to the tray and completing effortlessly, I always recommend using a brand new tray inside Stratasys uPrint, Stratasys Dimension, and Stratasys F-Series 3D printers. When a tray is reused, the surface flatness is affected which can affect the quality of the print (or can prevent the print from starting at all). Using a brand new tray ensures that the part sticks as intended and completes without any issues.
Vacuum build envelopes
Vacuuming out your build envelope will help keep the small pieces of material that build up over time away from the sensors, and help avoid potential errors. The majority of motion errors that occur on FDM machines are due to some material being in a sensor or blocking a sensor from being tripped when needed. By vacuuming out your envelope, you can avoid the error from reoccurring.
Follow the prompts
FDM 3D printers come with maintenance prompts for you to follow. When a prompt pops up to change the tips, replace or inspect your tip wiper or states there is a firmware update available take care of it immediately. The sooner the prompt is resolved, the better off you are. Tip wipers are an important part of keeping your tips clean and help ensure build quality. Firmware updates usually have bug patches in them, or machine reliability improvements built into them, so by taking care of that prompt right away, you are keeping your machine up to date with the latest and greatest firmware available.
Have a prompt you’re not sure how to fix? Let our customer support team assist you with any questions or concerns you have.
About the Author
Alex Pauley is the 3D Printing Senior Field Engineer and has been with Fisher Unitech since 2011. He is currently certified on the entire line of Stratasys 3D printers, is the lead installer, and is an Advanced Insight Software training course instructor.