Dust is the biggest enemy of any 3D printer. The solution: print your own filament filter.
By Swapnil Bhartiya, CIO
I took up the hobby of 3D printing last year with the purchase of the fully open source Prusa i3 MK2 printer. However, two months into printing I hit the #1 nightmare of 3D printing enthusiasts: failing prints.
Seemingly randomly, the extruder would sometimes fail to push the filament through the nozzle. I tried a filament cleaner, different filaments, different materials and different temperatures. Increasing the temperature did work for a while, but I ended up damaging my thermistor.
In order to replace the thermistor, I had to take the entire heat block apart. When I took the heater block and heatsink apart, I discovered the root cause of the problem: dust and dirt.
I have spools of filament hanging from a rod in a closet. The plastic attracts specs of dirt and creates a thin layer on the filament. When this filament passes through the extruder, the dirt sticks inside the nozzle and interferes with the flow of the molten plastic, that eventually leads to blockage.
There is no way to create a dust-free environment at home, especially when you have pets, but it’s every easy to get a filter for your filaments. You don’t have to buy the filter, you can ‘print’ it. That’s the fun of owning a 3D printer, right!
All you need is a piece of sponge and some vegetable oil with high cooking temperature. Insert the sponge into the filter, soak it in vegetable oil and push the filament through it. Then load the filament into the printer. Now all dust particles will be filtered and your nozzle will remain speck-free.
Once I installed the filter and printed my first object, within 20 minutes of the first print I saw a huge pile of dust collected on the top of the filter. I was shocked to see the amount of dust and cat hair. That’s what was wreaking havoc on my printer. I installed the filter in December and have not had a single issue since then. I do change the sponge once a week, depending on how much I am printing.
If you are experiencing problems with your prints, install a filament filter now.