3D Printer Periodic Maintenance Items

I think now is as good a time as any to write something about 3D printer maintenance items while, since I’m going through some of them on my own printer right now.  Not all FDM 3D printers are built the same way, but some of these items should be pretty common.

HEALTH AND SAFETY:

I highly recommend wearing disposable gloves for this entire process.  Otherwise you will get a lot of various lubricants on your hands that may be difficult to remove.  I also tend to wear safety goggles and an apron to keep from getting these chemicals in my eyes or on my clothes, but that is probably overkill.

 

Lubrication:

Guide Rails and Z axis Screw Gear:

The printer’s parts move along guide rails, and there is often a screw gear used for the z-axis.  These all need to be cleaned and lubricated periodically to ensure smooth motion and precise prints.  For this I wipe them down the rods with clean cloths or paper towels.

Once they have been cleaned, I use a spray can of white lithium grease to reach the rails, and move the parts through their range of motion to ensure a reasonable spread of lubricant.

WARNING: Make sure that if you are using spray lubricant that your printer is in a location that you don’t overspray on other objects.

Note:  Listen out for any odd sounds after performing maintenance.  You might hear indications of issues such as linear bearing damage… *sigh*

 

Pulleys/gears:

It is also good to lubricate the pulleys and any gears.  I use sewing machine oil for this, as well as for some of the earlier parts that are hard to reach.

 

Tightening Belts:

Loose belts can cause issues with layer shift.  In my case, on my CoLiDo DIY, the print head would sometimes randomly slam into the y-axis stop and when it went to resume printing it would be off by a large amount.

This part will likely require you to look for more specific information on your printer.  It often requires removing one or more zip ties, loosening screws in a clamp around the belt, tightening the belt, screwing it back, and replacing the zip ties.  Some printers, like mine, appear to have a piece that is designed to maintain appropriate tension on it’s own, but I’m going to have to research that further.

 

Print Bed Maintenance:

Bed Leveling:

This will also require specific information for your model of printing, but it is very important to your print quality.  This will probably be a more frequent maintenance item than the others.

In my case my printer is supposed to use a self-leveling mode, but it still requires tweaking.  Bad leveling can cause issues ranging from poor print quality, adhesion issues, or even gouging your print surface.

Bed Surface Maintenance:

This will vary a bit depending on your bed material.

Plastic:

On my CoLiDo DIY the bed was plastic, and would occasionally get damaged during printing, so I had to use a razor blade and sandpaper to smooth the surface back out.

Build Surface on Metal:

On my Monoprice Select Mini Pro there is a rough build surface material attached to a metal plate which occasionally requires replacing.  I use a scraper and Goo Gone to remove the material and it’s adhesive, then rinse in water, dry thoroughly, and apply a new piece of material.

Glass:

I don’t have much experience with glass build surfaces, so I highly recommend looking up more information elsewhere.  I’m fairly certain that it requires periodic cleaning of the hairspray, glue, or slurry that people use to promote adhesion, and occasional replacement of the glass surface.

 

Tightening Screws:

Over time vibration can cause screws to loosen in many places on your printer.  You should probably check to make sure any and all fixed screws are tight to ensure precision.

 

Electronics Maintenance:

Check the electronics connections for issues, particularly at the connections that move, such as on the extruder head and on a heated bed.  Check for looseness, scorching, fraying, and anything else unusual, as this may indicate impending issues.

Use a can of air to remove dust from the control electronics periodically, like you would on a desktop computer.

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