A Start at Troubleshooting

Through my research and experience with the Makerbot 3D printers, I have been able to identify several common problems users run into. The following are some tips and tricks to help improve your 3D printing experience. Enjoy! 

*Before trying to troubleshoot any issues, always ensure that Makerbot Desktop and the printer’s firmware are both fully updated.*

Problem #1: One issue I have with a lot with the Makerbot Replicator is the extruder nozzle is either too far from the print bed and the filament is not sticking or the nozzle is too close and scrapes away build tape, occasionally scratching the build plate glass in the process.

In my case, this is often because of how much the printer is transported and jostled. This can also happen over time with the general shaking of the build plate during printing and when removing prints.

To fix this problem, you should first relevel the build plate. It is an agitating process, but it is well worth it to prevent build plate damage and failed prints.

If the problem persists, connect the printer to Makerbot Desktop and edit the z-axis offset. Go to Devices > Device Preferences to edit the z-axis offset. The detailed instructions for this process for Makerbot Replicator Mini can be found here. For Makerbot Replicator, the instructions can be found here. The process is very simple and effective.

Problem #2: Makerbot users also have difficulty obtaining well-focused webcam pictures with their Makerbots.

First, find the camera. It is in the front of the machine either on the left or right depending on the printer you have. Then, clean the lens with a lens-safe cloth.

If the problem persists, twist the plastic ring around the lens slightly in one direction. If the camera feed on Makerbot Desktop shows a clearer image, continue making slight adjustments in the same direction until the image is satisfactory. If the camera feed on Makerbot Desktop shows a blurrier image, make slight adjustments in the opposite direction until the image is satisfactory.

Problem #3: Filament jams are the most common problem that I come across. Jams can be caused by a large range of problems such as impurities in the filament, inconsistent filament dimensions, poor extruders, unlevel build plates, and so on.

The first and easiest solution is to tell the printer to continue printing without changing anything. In my experience, this is usually all you have to do to get the Makerbot Replicator to continue.

The second and more helpful solution is to unload the filament, cut off the end high enough to get rid of misshapen filament, and load the filament.

Check to make sure the filament is not caught on anything and is turned the correct direction.

If you are still having problems, check to see that the extruder is not too close to or far from the build plate. If it is either, see Problem #1.

Sometimes cutting off a large amount of filament will solve the problem.

You can also replace the Smart Extruder by following the instructions here. The instructions are the same for most Makerbot 3D printers. This page has great information for when your printer does not recognize the Smart Extruder.

 Level the build plate every time:

  • a new extruder is attached
  • the printer is jostled or transported
  • there is a clicking noise
  • the nozzle is cutting into the build plate tape
  • the filament is blocked from extruding
  • the firmware has been updated
  • the filament looks squiggly on the first few layers
  • the build plate tape is changed
  • the build plate is moved/removed or replaced
  • the purge line is not straight and consistent

This list is far from complete

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