How to Unclog a 3D Printer Extruder Nozzle

What to do when it clogs up

What to Know

  • Use guitar string to clear the nozzle.
  • Or, remove the printer head and clean the nozzle with acetone, a torch, and thin wire.

This article offers tips and tutorials for 3D printer nozzle cleaning. The specifics might vary among manufacturers but are similar; check your printer's documentation so you don't void your warranty.

A clogged 3D printer can ooze or leak
lppicture / Pixabay

How to Quickly Clear a 3D Printer Nozzle

It could be that the hot end, or nozzle, has a small amount of residue or material build-up. Sometimes, you can clean it out with a probe. Some users recommend a thin wire, but that can scratch the inner wall of the nozzle, something you want to avoid.

The best material is a guitar string. It's rigid and doesn't scratch the metal interior of the nozzle. If you need something more durable or more rigid, some short pieces of wire from a brass wire brush can work if used carefully. Often, you may only need to dislodge a piece of clogged plastic (ABS or PLA).

Remove and Clean the Blocked Extruder Nozzle

Depending on your 3D printer, you may have to remove the printer head and clean it. A short two-minute video about cleaning a blocked extruder nozzle from user danleow on YouTube is helpful.

Signs of a blocked nozzle include:

  • The filament is not extruding uniformly.
  • The nozzle extrudes very thin filament.
  • Nothing comes out from the nozzle.

Before you begin, you'll need acetone, a torch, and a very thin wire.

Here's how to remove and clean a blocked extruder nozzle:

  1. Soak the removed nozzle in acetone for about 15 minutes to clean out exterior dirt. Use a soft cloth to clean the nozzle.

  2. Place the nozzle on a stone and burn it using the torch for about one minute. Make sure it is extremely hot. You should see slight changes in the color.

  3. Use a very thin wire to clear the hole in the nozzle. If the wire cannot go through, repeat step 2 until it can go through. Don't force through the hole with the wire. You don't want to scratch or damage the internal wall of the nozzle. Use soft copper wire stripped from an unused phone cable.

Recommended Resources

Deezmaker, a 3D printer store and hackerspace in Pasadena, California, created the Bukobot 3D printer. Founder and owner, Diego Porqueras, often shares in-depth posts and tips for his printer and for 3D printing in general. His detailed nozzle cleaning post is helpful and has inspired an excellent video walking you through the steps.

MatterHackers is a detailed resource with an article about clearing and prevent jams on 3D Printers. They explain what causes or can create jams, such as nozzle height, temperature, tension, and calibration. The article also has some terrific visuals.

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