3d printers consist of moving parts that go through great fluctuation in temperature to print the desired design. For that very reason, regular and proper maintenance is needed to keep your 3D printer in optimal condition. And even with consistent upkeep, you should still replace certain parts on a regular basis. Whatever the reason for this replacement might be, make sure you keep up with the times and look to buy the latest 3D printer accessories and parts.
But which 3D printer parts and accessories specifically should you look for? Here are our suggestions.
Typical 3D Printer Setup
Despite the numerous iterations and the constant changes, there are some fundamental elements of every 3D printer. Every printer has a motherboard, a frame, a printing material (usually filament), motion controllers, a power supply unit, a print bed, extruder, a feeder system and an interface. As expected, the wear and tear are not the same for each of these parts. Those parts that are more frequently exposed to heat are replaced more often.
3D Printer Parts With Extensive Mileage
The extruder (or a print head) is used to pass the filament through and to deposit it on the print bed. The shaping of the filament is done under a lot of heat and the parts of this “hot end” are probably the most replaced 3D printer accessories. That’s not to say the cold end doesn’t need any servicing or replacement, but we’ll get to it later.
Not all nozzles are created equal. Using them to manipulate a filament at a high temperature can develop plastic build-up. This seemingly inconsequential imperfection of the nozzle can result in misprints from plastic being scraped across your printed object. Sometimes this can be tolerated, but the gradual wear and tear calls for complete replacement of this part. It is also advisable to simply change the nozzle when you change the type of filament. So, if you print with nylon, and then you go for any of the polymers, just switch the nozzle. Avoiding this prudent maintenance chore will eventually lead to blockages.
- Heat Break
To put it bluntly, a heat break is the part where cold meets hot. At this stage, the two need to be separated so this part usually is a thin tube made of stainless steel. The low thermal conductivity on these things is used to facilitate as short transition as possible. Solid filament on one side, and molten plastic on the other side.
- Heater Cartridge
It is not uncommon for 3D printers to be fitted with fragile enamel resistors with poor tolerance. However, you can replace this part with a purpose-made high power ceramic heater cartridge. It can get your hotend hot quickly and it will enable your set to hit the highest of temperatures. This will enable you to print molds, medical devices, end use parts, or automotive components.
Print Material Replacement
In theory, you can use metal, wax, ceramics and even wood as a printing material for your objects. Practical wisdom, however, shows that most probably you will deal with a plastic filament. And they come in a whole variety of options. Sometimes the type of 3D printer predetermines the use of a filament. Other models allow you to change the filament on a regular basis.
There are many reasons to change the filament. You might need to print a completely new object in your next session in a filament that you don’t have. Or, you can simply run out of your favourite 3D printing material. The two technical specifications that will determine your choice are diameter and printing temperature. From that point onward, it all comes down to personal preferences. Some go for PLA (Poly Lactic Acid) because it is made of a biodegradable thermoplastic polymer. It is also safe for indoor use because it is made from corn starch derivative, so it has no toxic fumes. Add the low melting point and you have a plastic filament that is really easy to work with.
There is a host of acronyms you will become familiar with once you start printing. Think ABS, PEEK, PET, PETG, PVA. Each and every one has its unique properties and is useful in different aspects. Some are more appropriate for architectural models, others make good vases and busts, while some can make even surgical implants.
Motion Controller Parts
The motion components of 3D printers are central to their proper functioning. The motherboard instructs them about their motion so the actual object can take shape. The most used parts are stepper motors, belts, threaded rods, and end stops.
While it is not so common to replace whole motors, belts are far easier to break. They usually control the print speed and precision, which means a loose belt can destroy your design. Belts are the cheaper and go-to parts (as compared to threading rods), so if your 3D printer has them you will have to regularly maintain them.