Printing FAQ

You've completed the getting started materials and have successfully finished your first print.  Great work!  As you may have already sensed, there is still a lot to learn about 3D printing.  See the FAQ below for common questions from new users.  

  

My print is not sticking. What do I do?

When you are just starting out, getting that first layer to stick can be a quite a hurdle to overcome, particularly if you are printing in ABS.  

First things first.  You will never get proper adhesion if your Auto-Leveling Probe is not calibrated.  If you recently ordered an assembled Printrbot, your probe has already been calibrated.  Do not attempt it before following the troubleshooting suggestions below.  If you built your own kit, or recently replaced any hardware on the extruder (hot end, nozzle, probe, extruder body, etc), you MUST calibrate your Auto-Leveling Probe. 

Try these suggestions for improved first layer adhesion.

 

The nozzle is oozing before the prints starts.  Is that normal?

Oozing is normal.... don't be alarmed... PLA begins to melt around ~150C, but optimal extruding temperature begins at 185.  You will see some preliminary filament leaking from the nozzle.  This can negatively affect your print.  So, it is best practice to keep your nozzle clean, especially just before the print begins.  You can deal with "ooze" a few ways.

1. Keep your nozzle clean.  Use needle nose pliers to pull ooze off of the nozzle as the hot end is coming to temp.  

PRO TIP: In a "pinch" without pliers?  No problem, use a small piece of PLA to pull the ooze off of the tip.  The filament will melt enough to attach to the ooze and clear the mess.

350x350 image here (hand holding filament against nozzle, pulling ooze away)

2. Prime the pump.  If you really want to nip this nozzle problem in the bud, increase the number of loops in your perimeter settings.  In Cura, go to Settings/Expert settings/Perimeters/loops.  Increase this value to 4, 6, ...or 8 if you really want to make sure to clear the excess filament.  Okay, 8 is a bit much.  A value of 4 or 6 loops should be sufficient.  Click "Ok" to save.

 

 

 

 

How often do I need to change the print bed tape?

As they say in the car business, "your mileage may vary".  If the tape looks good after one print, keep using it.  If it is torn, replace it. Not all print bed tape is "created equal" some have a coating of wax that can keep prints from sticking or just have poor adhesion.  To be sure that you have a good tape for 3D printing, use Printrbot Print Bed Tape.  If you use the right tape, you will be able to print PLA without using glue stick, alcohol, superglue, hot glue, ect... If you have found other print bed tape that works for you, go for it!  If your prints are not sticking, please see our guide on Troubleshooting PLA Adhesion Problems.  

  

I hear clicking. What do I do?

Generally speaking, a clicking extruder is bad news.  Not to worry, this can be fixed.  There are a few causes.  Most likely, the motor is clicking from either a filament jam or the motor wires have fatigued and the motor is "stuttering".  It is also possible that the motor POT values need to be increased.  See the resources below for more.

 

My print stops during mid print.

If you print with your printer connected via USB cable to your computer, laptop, tablet, etc. you may see that after some time, your printer will stop.  Usually, this happens because Cura is pushed to the background or the computer has gone into "sleep" or low power mode.  The streaming data that is going to the printer gets interrupted, causing the printer to stop or move sporadically.

The best way to avoid the trouble with a tethered printer is to remove the tether all together and print via microSD card.  See Can I print directly from an SD card, without a computer?.

 

How long does a spool of filament last?

This very largely depends on what is printed.  If you print a lot of small prints, a spool may seem to last longer than a few large and densely filled prints. This does not include any failed prints, brim,skirt, or raft that can be used when printing.  

A great way to have an estimate of how much filament will be used out of your spool is to look at the weight and length estimate that is built into Cura. A 0.5kg spool of 1.75mm diameter filament is around 115 meters in length and 500 grams in weight. With that in mind, you can use the estimates from Cura to get a sense of how much filament you will be using for any particular print.

 

For context, you could print about 41 Benchys ...which would take over 200 hours.

 

How do I remove a print from the bed?

To make sure that your prints come off in one piece, as well as to avoid cutting your hand. Take a firm putty knife and pry off the print slowly going around the edge of the print.  Make sure that your hands are not in the way of the edge of the putty knife when the print comes off.  Hold the bed with one hand and pushing into the print, away from your hand.

For smaller models, ones that can be pried off with pliers or by hand, allow ~10min to cool and it should remove easily.  If you have a heated bed, wait ~10min to allow the print and bed to cool before removing. Removing a print too soon may cause a bend in the print as the plastic will still be warm.

DANGER!: There are videos that show users removing prints by tilting the bed and using a mallet. This is not advised and may end up damaging the print and the printer.

 

 

What kind of maintenance is required?

This is a very common question.  Although Printrbots are considered indestructible by some, there is some maintenance that we recommend.  

  • Hot End Tips - replace every 3-6 months
  • Belts (GT2) - replace every 9-12 months
  • Lubrication - Every 6 months.  Use teflon or P.T.F.E lubricant on the linear rails or smooth rods.  Add a few drops and wipe clean w a paper towl or wash cloth.  This will help to keep rust from accumulating. 
  • Firmware - Flash firmware as required.  For current models, it is not a bad idea to reflash about every 3 months to keep up to date with Printrbot's latest version.

 

Should I let my hotend pre-heat. If so, how long?

Danger Will Robinson!! Do not preheat your hot end. Both the Ceramic and Ubis 13S can become clogged or "jammed" if they sit idle with filament loaded.

"Preheating" is when the hot end is kept at ~200C for more than 5 minutes with filament inside of the hot end. This is an issue as a hot end the is not moving filament through will eventually jam as the heat from the heater core goes up into the heat break then into the heatsink causing any filament that is in the heatsink to soften and keep solid filament from being pushed through.

PRO TIP: Best practice is to remove the filament from the hot end after your print job is complete.  

 

How often should I change the nozzle?

The nozzles for the Ubis hot ends, both the ceramic and 13S, are considered consumables and should be changed out every 3 to 6 months. Replacement hot end tips are available at printrbot.com. The hot end tip will build up charred filament that will eventually cause a jam. If you are experiencing a jam, it may be time to replace the nozzle.

After installing the new nozzle, be sure to go recalibrate your Auto-Leveling Probe.

Before replacing the hot end tip, you may want to go through these guides.

  

What is the best temp, speed, infill, etc?

Generally speaking, the settings generated from the Configuration Wizard in Cura (15.0.x) are a great starting point, but optimum settings are dependant on what you are trying to print and the material that you are using.  PLA or ABS?  Working prototype or beautiful vase?  Need it in an hour or can it wait a little longer?

Check out our Profile Directory for recommended settings for various materials, hardware, and resolution.

 

What software should I use?

There are many options for software or "slicers", but the one that we use and have revolved our guides around is Cura 15.0.x.  Cura has a clean user interface and default settings for Printrbot printers.  After researching a bit further, you may find that there are many versions of Cura.  To be sure that you have the "PB blessed" version, download your copy from one of the following links.  See "Required Downloads".

 

Do I need a heated bed?

If you are printing PLA, you do not need a heated bed.  If you are printing ABS, you will need a heated print surface.  ABS has a tendency to warp as it cools, which has an adverse effect on layer adhesion.  The heat from the bed helps to combat the warping.  Some exotics, such as nylon, also require a heated bed.  But this is not the case for all exotics.  For instance, flexible filament does not require heat on the print surface.

At PBHQ, we print with PLA almost exclusively.  So, you don't see a lot of heated beds in our shop.  PLA is much easier to use because it sticks to the bed better and generally gives you a higher success rate.  

 

Are the fumes toxic?

Actually, some users describe the smell of PLA as something like maple syrup.  While ABS unpleasant to some, the fumes are not toxic.  Best practice is still to print in a well-ventilated area.  Also, please note that ABS is not to be ingested and PLA is not dishwasher safe.  So, it's probably a good idea to stay away from printing kitchen utensils that you intend to use a lot.

 

 

 

 

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