i3 Printers Regular Maintenance

Updated 1 week ago ​by Martin Lexa

As suggested in the 3D Printing Handbook you have received with your printer, even if your printer is correctly built and isn't reporting any problem, we highly recommend taking some time to do regular maintenance. To prevent any possible issues, we recommend first doing it after some 100 print hours and then every 25 print days (600 print hours).

According to our testing, the average “lifespan” of our printer is around 800 print hours. Then, after servicing, it can continue printing for many more hours.
The ideal air temperature is around 30 °C (86°F) and the ideal air humidity is 25 %.

Useful tools:

Besides the usual tools, such as Allen keys, needle-nose pliers, and IPA + paper towels, you might need:

Lubricant

As for the type of lubricant, the best option is to use our lubricant (available in our online store). Using oils such as the standard WD-40 is not optimal, as the thin substance may not bring as much lubrication as needed. WD-40 Specialist Lithium Grease (the one for hinges and bearings) is much better. Denser greases may accumulate dust over time, which may cause even more damage to the bearings at the end of the day.

The best lubricant is a homogeneous, soft grease with lithium additives. As for some third party products, GLEIT-µ HF 400 or Mogul LV 2-EP are very good. In general, Super-lube or any other multi-purpose grease will do fine as well.
Compressed air

Also known as canned air. Be sure to not hold it upside down while spraying - otherwise, you could damage any electronic components while trying to clean them

Brush

A small brass brush is an ideal tool for cleaning the hobbed pulleys. If you don't have a brass brush, any brush with hard bristles will do the job.

During the maintenance, we will be dealing purely with mechanical parts. Please switch your printer off and unplug the power cable from the PSU.

Visual check

First of all, you should check the printer as a whole. Check if you will see any of the following:

  • scratches/grooves on the smooth rods - take each rod between two/three fingers and move them slowly from one end of the rod to another, while rotating the fingers around the rod. If you notice any scratch, verify it with your fingernail.
  • damaged cables - either pinched or worn down - based on the amount of wear, consider replacing the part.
  • loose screws and grub screws (set screws) - if you find any, tighten them.
Don't overtighten the screws on the back of the extruder (X-carriage-back) nor the U-bolts, as it might deform the bearings and cause scratches on the smooth rods.
  • bits of filament around the threaded rods and around the belts should be immediately removed.
  • Furthermore, make sure the extruder idler screw (M3x40 with the spring on it) is not overtightened or too loose. Ideally, the screw should be protruding on both sides of the extruder, on the right side it should be poking out of the hexagonal nut by approximately 0.5 mm (0.02 inches).

Firmware and software

Always make sure you are using the latest stable firmware version that we have published for your specific printer model. This article will instruct you on how to do that.

You should also use the latest version of our Prusa Slicer as it enables you to enjoy all the features of your printer. For example, unlike other slicers, it saves information about the printer model, nozzle diameter, and firmware version directly into the g-code file so that the printer can warn you if the settings do not match.

Fans

Dust or plastic build-up can decrease their efficiency or even damage them. Canned air will get the dust away, and tweezers can be used to take out any little plastic strands. Hold the propeller of the fan to prevent it from spinning while cleaning it with canned air. Otherwise, it could get damaged.

Rods and bearings

After a few hundred print-time hours, or even in case the printer stands idle for a few weeks in a dusty room, the smooth rods should be cleaned with a paper towel. Then apply a little bit of lubricant on the smooth rods.

If you feel the heatbed or the extruder is not moving smoothly when pushing it by hand, you can dismount the Y or X axis, remove the bearings from their smooth rods, and lubricate them on the inside. Be careful not to damage the bearings when inserting the smooth rod back.

Please refer to this guide for more information about how to apply the lubricant.

Extruder driver gear

All of our printers, except for MK2S and older models, are equipped with two Bondtech drive gears on the extruder motor shaft, made of hardened carbon steel. Like any other mechanical part, they need regular cleaning and lubrication to reduce wear, lower friction, and reduce noise.

Open the Extruder idler door. You can see how to do it in our assembly manuals, in the E-axis assembly chapter.

  • Both hobbed gears can have a build-up of filament shavings stuck in the grooves. Using the brush, clean what you can, then rotate the gear a few degrees and repeat until you do a full turn. If you're cleaning the gear inside the extruder without removing the extruder motor first, be sure to cover (you can use a cotton swab - it will reliably cover the tube without damaging it) the PTFE tube to avoid any bits getting inside (not all of it are bits of filament - rust for example. This could lead to clogging down the road). After you're done cleaning, give it a good puff of air to clean any remains, while PTFE tube is still covered.
  • The two small bearings inside of the idler Bondtech gear don't need any maintenance.
    It is also important to check if the shaft of the idler gear is well centered and if it goes through both ears of the Extruder Idler plastic part.
  • The gears can be covered by rust. There is no need to worry: it is just rusted dust particles; the gears themselves should not be damaged. Clean them with a brass brush. Use tweezers or a needle to remove any problematic bits of filament. Afterwards, use the brush again to clean the rest and apply the same lubricant that you used for the rods and bearings.
MAKE SURE THE LUBRICANT NEVER GETS INTO CONTACT WITH THE FILAMENT. Apply a tiny amount of the grease only to the teeth protruding outwards from the gear. Do not use oil-based grease as it may spread to the section where the filament is fed into the hotend. 

Electronics

Open the electronics casing and blow compressed air in between the cables to get rid of dust.

It is good practice to unplug and re-plug all of the wires on the mini RAMBo board or EINSY RAMBo board. Special attention should be paid to the cables from the PSU (power source) and heaters. Make sure they are inserted all the way in and well tightened.

PEI print surface preparation

PEI can lose its adhesive powers after a couple of hundred hours. You can wash it with soap/dish soap and water; remember to wipe it dry afterward! You can find more information on how to take care of the PEI surface in PEI print surface preparation.


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