A clogged 3D printer nozzle is a problem that every 3D printing enthusiast eventually faces, as it’s entirely natural for the filament to slowly build up and dry up in the nozzle as a result of frequent and long-term usage of the 3D printer, which can also be further amplified by factors such as using incorrect temperatures.
Unfortunately, unclogging the nozzle isn’t as simple as clogging it, as the method you should follow to unclog the nozzle depends on many factors, ranging from the severity of the clog to the tools you have at hand, with each method coming with different levels of technical expertise, time, and effort required.
Today, we will be talking about all the different approaches we recommend taking to unclog the nozzle of your Ender 3 as efficiently as possible, based on the severity of the clog, which will allow you to quickly get rid of any material that is clogging the nozzle and get your Ender 3 back in working condition in no time.
So, how can you unclog the clogged nozzle of your Ender 3?
The first step we recommend taking to unclog the nozzle of your Ender 3 is to apply the cold pull method, as it involves a pretty straightforward process of manually pushing filament down the hotend with the aim of picking up the debris that is causing the clog, with no extra tools required.
On the other hand, if the clog is more severe and it’s not possible to push filament through the nozzle, our recommendation would be to apply the needle method, followed by the complete disassembly and cleaning of the nozzle in cases where the needle method is not sufficient.
In the upcoming sections, we will be going through the process of unclogging a clogged Ender 3 nozzle in greater detail, discuss the factors that can cause your Ender 3’s nozzle to become clogged, find out what can be done to prevent the clogging from occurring again, and finally, take a glance at the symptoms that you would see if the nozzle of your Ender 3 is clogged.
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How to Unclog a Clogged Ender 3 (Pro/V2) Nozzle?
While finding out how to correctly unclog the nozzle of your Ender 3 can be pretty challenging if you are experiencing a clog for the first time and have never gone through the process of unclogging before, it gets much easier once you exactly know what to do.
For unclogging the clogged nozzle of your Ender 3, our first recommendation would be to attempt the cold pull method, which is practically the go-to technique for clearing partial clogs that aren’t too severe due to it being quite straightforward to apply regardless of expertise.
In a nutshell, the cold pull method involves pushing a piece of cleaning filament (or any other high-temperature filament, such as nylon) through the hotend to fill the nozzle with it and then pulling it out, which should cause any residue clogging the nozzle to stick to the filament and come out with it once it’s pulled out.
That being said, as the cold pull method falls short in cases where the loading of the filament is not possible due to the partial clog being severe or complete clogging of the nozzle being involved, the application of different methods can often become necessary.
If the clog is still present, whether because it wasn’t possible to apply the cold pull method or because it wasn’t successful, our following recommendation would be to apply the needle method, which is another handy technique that you can use to unclog the nozzle of your Ender 3 without removing it from the hotend assembly.
To quickly summarize, the needle method refers to the process of repeatedly pushing a thin needle into the nozzle and pulling it out while the hotend is warm, which should break down, dislocate, or melt the residue that is causing the clog and clear the path of the nozzle.
If neither of the strategies we have mentioned above was successful in unclogging the nozzle of your Ender 3, the severity of the clog most likely calls for the final method of cleaning the nozzle, which will require more effort and time in comparison.
To resolve such a clog, you will need to fully detach the nozzle of your Ender 3 from the hotend by unscrewing it, as we will need complete access to all portions of the nozzle for a thorough cleaning process that can be performed in two separate ways.
The first way of cleaning the nozzle (chemical method) involves leaving it in solvents such as acetone or ethyl acetate for a couple of hours (depending on the filament you’re using) to dissolve the plastic, followed by thoroughly wiping it with isopropyl alcohol to get rid of anything else that is still remaining within the nozzle.
On the other hand, the second way of cleaning the nozzle (mechanical method) utilizes a heat gun to soften the residue inside the nozzle instead, which you can then remove manually with the help of tools such as needles and pliers.
While unlikely that the clog will remain intact after applying all of the steps above, our last recommendation would be to replace the nozzle altogether, especially if you have been using it for a long time, especially considering that nozzles aren’t expensive components by any means.
What Can Cause Your Ender 3’s (Pro/V2) Nozzle to Be Clogged?
Having a better understanding of each of the factors that can potentially cause the nozzle of your Ender 3 to become clogged will come in extremely handy in your 3D printing journey, allowing you to spot the scenarios that can lead to a clog preemptively.
Below, we have listed the most common factors that can cause the nozzle of your Ender 3 to become clogged:
- Misconfigured nozzle gap – The gap between the nozzle and the build plate being too small will prevent the filament from having enough space to get out of the nozzle, creating a scenario where the filament is pushed back into the nozzle instead, creating a clog as a result.
- Usage of too high print temperature – Utilizing a print temperature value that is way too high can cause the filament to burn and solidify within the nozzle before it even gets out, which will cause the nozzle to become clogged.
- Usage of too low print temperature – Utilizing a print temperature that is way too low will prevent the filament from melting correctly, which will prevent it from flowing out of the nozzle and cause it to clump up within the nozzle instead.
- Using low-quality filament – Low-quality filament can have inconsistencies in diameter or contain components that will leave residue behind, with both cases leading to the clogging of the nozzle.
- Using moist filament – Moist filament will introduce unexpected pressure to the nozzle as the water inside is exposed to high temperatures, which can prevent the filament from correctly moving down.
- Dust and dirt getting into the nozzle over time – Dust and dirt from the environment can slowly gather within the nozzle after prolonged usage of the 3D printer or even stick to the filament over time and travel down to the hotend with the filament during the 3D printing process. When the dust and dirt inside the nozzle burn due to the high temperatures, they can stick inside and cause a clog.
- Heat creep – The term “heat creep” refers to the scenario where the heat generated by the heater block travels up in the hotend, causing the filament to soften at a spot where it’s not supposed to, causing a clog as a result.
- Mixing different filaments – As each type of filament has a distinct melting point, and as a result, print temperature requirement, switching from one filament to another without correctly purging the old filament and cleaning the nozzle can cause the old filament to leave a residue, leading to a clog.
How to Prevent the Nozzle of Your Ender 3 (Pro/V2) From Getting Clogged?
As the majority of the clogs occur due to entirely avoidable reasons, such as a misconfiguration of the print parameters, preventing the nozzle from getting clogged again, or at least reducing the chance that it gets clogged, is completely possible.
Below, you can find the steps we recommend taking to prevent the nozzle of your Ender 3 from getting clogged again:
- Clean the nozzle regularly – Cleaning the nozzle with a wire brush after every print will ensure that no residue remains in the nozzle that can dry up and create a clog down the road. As the brush will only be able to clean the filament while it’s still soft, it’s vital to do this before the nozzle completely cools down.
- Purge the nozzle when switching between filaments – Purging the nozzle is a simple process that involves extruding some filament after switching to a new spool of filament and before starting the upcoming printing process to ensure that none of the old filament remains in the system.
- Ensure that the Z offset value is configured correctly – As the Z offset value is one of the two factors that are directly responsible for the distance between the print bed and the nozzle when the 3D printer is at the home position, correctly configuring it in a way that allows the nozzle gap to roughly equal 0.1 mm (the thickness of a paper) is vital to give the filament enough space to move out.
- Ensure that the print bed is leveled correctly – The levelness of the bed is the second factor, along with the Z offset, that will have an impact on the nozzle gap, as a bed that is not level will cause the nozzle gap to become inconsistent, and possibly create areas where the gap is not sufficient for the filament to come out cleanly.
- Use the optimal print temperature value for the filament – When it comes to configuring the print temperature, our primary recommendation would be to use the value recommended by the manufacturer of the filament, which will ensure that the value is neither too low nor too high.
- Use high-quality filament from trusted brands – If you are unsure about where to start, our recommendation would be to purchase filaments that have good reviews online, which will ensure that you’re getting a good product that does not suffer from quality issues.
- Ensure that the filament you’re using is dry – While there is no way to know whether the filament has absorbed moisture or not until you start printing with it, proper storage of the filament in a cold and dark environment will ensure that you don’t face any issues related to moisture.
- Refrain from over-retracting the filament during print – As the optimal retraction distance value can show difference between distinct filament types, our recommendation, in general, would be to use the smallest value possible where stringing does not occur.
What Are the Symptoms of a Clogged Ender 3 (Pro/V2) Nozzle?
Even though severe clogs will be apparent, as they will completely block the nozzle and prevent any filament from coming out, partial clogs can be harder to detect since they may make it seem like the filament is flowing out of the nozzle without any issues.
Below are the symptoms you may notice in cases where the nozzle of your Ender 3 is partially or fully blocked:
- Filament not coming out of the nozzle at all – Filament not coming out of the nozzle of your Ender 3 is perhaps the most apparent sign of a complete clogging of the nozzle, as the clog will prevent any incoming filament from moving out and reaching its destination.
- Inconsistencies in extrusion – When the nozzle is partially clogged, the extrusion can become inconsistent due to the clog preventing a portion of the filament from correctly coming out of the nozzle.
- Under-extrusion – A partial clog of the nozzle can also cause under-extrusion by consistently blocking a part of the filament from being extruded, which will end up with the layer lines becoming thinner than intended, potentially creating adhesion issues as a result.
- Filament curling up around the nozzle – It’s possible for the dried plastic that is creating the clog to cause the freshly extruded plastic to adhere to itself instead of correctly sticking to the bed, creating a scenario where the filament ends up sticking to the nozzle and curling around it.
- Extruder motor skipping & clicking – As the nozzle being clogged will introduce some resistance that is working against the extruder motor by preventing the filament from moving forward smoothly, the extruder motor can skip steps and make clicking sounds that indicate steps are being lost as a result.
While the methods involved in the process of unclogging the nozzle of an Ender 3 shouldn’t be too challenging to conduct in most cases, knowing which strategy to utilize and how to execute it can be tricky if it’s your first time dealing with a clogged nozzle.
To quickly recap, the cold pull method, the needle method, and the thorough cleaning of the nozzle by utilizing either the chemical or the mechanical method are all viable techniques that you can employ to unclog the nozzle of your Ender 3, based on the severity and the status of the clog.
Once you successfully unclog the nozzle, we highly recommend taking the necessary steps to prevent it from getting clogged again, as prevention requires much less time and effort compared to cleaning a nozzle that has been severely clogged.
Mike started his 3D printing journey with the Anet A8 when it first came out back in 2017, and has been obsessed with 3D printers ever since. Nowadays, he primarily uses his Ender 3 to print functional parts that make his life more convenient whenever possible.