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3D Printer Cleaning Filament: What You Need to Know

Hironori Kondo
Oct 31, 2019

Clogged nozzles are painful. Read on to find out what exactly makes 3D printer cleaning filament special, and how to use it!

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Contents
3D Printer Cleaning Filament

Clearing Clogs

Results of attempts to clear a clog using the
Results of attempts to clear a clog using the "hot pull" method (Source: Ultimaker)

A nozzle clog is when an FDM 3D printer‘s nozzle is partially or totally blocked, preventing smooth extrusion and leading to print (or even machine) failures. To fix them, people have come up with scores of techniques, from using acupuncture needles to clear the nozzle to hot and cold pulls.

But with all these techniques being so inexpensive, where does dedicated “cleaning filament” fit in?

Here, we’ll take a look at what cleaning filament is, its advantages and disadvantages, and how to use it. Let’s get started!

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3D Printer Cleaning Filament

What Is Cleaning Filament?

A reel of cleaning filament
A reel of cleaning filament; you don't need much (Source: knp3d.com)

Cleaning filament is an FDM material made specifically for nozzle cleaning. Usually sold in short sticks or coils, this stuff is useful for whenever you have a nozzle clog you need to bust.

At first sight, these filaments may just seem like overpriced repackagings of the nylon filaments commonly used for other nozzle-cleaning methods. Don’t be fooled. Usually, cleaning filaments are actually purging materials more typically used for cleaning out industrial injection-molding equipment. They help cleanly push out stuck particles and carbonized plastic without damaging your nozzle. In many cases, cleaning filaments are actually more thorough and efficient in their cleaning than traditional hot and cold pulls.

Pros:

  • Efficient cleaning
  • Minimal cleanup
  • Minimal mechanical load on printer parts

Cons:

  • Additional expense
  • Only works on partial clogs

So, how do you use this seemingly magical material? As it turns out, it’s rather simple.

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3D Printer Cleaning Filament

Using Cleaning Filament

Purging a nozzle with cleaning filament
Purging a nozzle with cleaning filament (Source: 3D Revolution / YouTube)

To use cleaning filament, you must first decide if it’s really the best approach for your clog. Cleaning filament only works with partial clogs, as it requires that the filament can still extrude. For full clogs, you may have to perform some hot or cold pulls, or break up the blockage with a needle before proceeding.

If you’re ready to continue, remove the Bowden tube that may be attached to your printer’s print head. Heat the nozzle up to the last temperature at which you were printing, and either manually feed the cleaning filament through (on Bowden systems) or set the printer to extrude automatically (on direct-drive systems). You should see the old filament getting pushed out and the cleaning filament coming out of the nozzle (pictured above). Keep extruding until no black specks or residue comes out with the cleaning filament.

That’s it! Once you’re done, just unload the cleaning filament and continue printing with your usual filament!

3D Printer Cleaning Filament

Print On!

Clean prints resulting from smooth extrusion
Clean prints resulting from smooth extrusion (Source: Thomas Sanladerer / Youtube)

There you have it! Hopefully, this article gave you a better idea of how and when to use cleaning filament for all your clog-clearing needs.

For more troubleshooting tips and tricks, refer to our guides on filament jams, the cold pull, and general troubleshooting!

(Lead image source: Ultimaker)

License: The text of "3D Printer Cleaning Filament: What You Need to Know" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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