Creality’s Ender 3 changed the world of 3D printing, making it more accessible to DIY and hobbyists all over. Soon after its release, the Ender 3 Pro and Ender 3 V2 arrived, continuing to make a huge impact on the industry. Despite their popularity, many users of these models have reported a similar issue – extruder skipping accompanied by a unique clicking noise.
When skipping occurs, there’s usually an underlying problem that involves the extruder’s stepper motor not turning adequately which can then create tension. As a result, you end up with a lower amount of filament laying down than expected and possibly visible under-extruded filaments visible on the finished product.
A skipping extruder on an Ender 3 can be frustrating, but this article will go over some potential fixes. We’ll start with the fundamentals of setting up and maintaining all three printers. When every other potential problem has been eliminated, we will move on to more advanced customized solutions.
It is significant to highlight that due to their unique variations, extra considerations should be made when with the work of maintaining three different printers
Tip #1: Adjust the Bed Level
Before you print anything, you need to make sure that the bed of your 3D printer is perfectly level. Extruder skipping is one of the many problems that might result from an unlevel bed. The Ender 3 comes with an adjustable bed, giving users complete freedom to customize this as much as necessary for perfect accuracy on all levels. Levelling the bed refines the gap between the nozzle and the build plate, guaranteeing an even extrusion of material that looks and functions just like you intended.
If the gap between the nozzle and the bed is too small, not only will it cause a clicking noise from the stepper motor due to pressure build-up, but it can also disrupt the filament’s flow, making it difficult for layers to adhere correctly. To avoid any issues, take some time to manually level the bed using either card stock or feeler gauges.
Another component of the Ender 3 that requires your attention is its bed springs. These come cheaply made and can lose their tension over time, leading to an unstable base during long prints. It’s worth making the initial investment of upgrading your bed springs – purchasing some yellow compression-moulded springs and replacing those that come with the Ender 3 will result in a much more stable base from which to work, ensuring a much better quality print job.
Tip #2: Clear the Nozzle
One of the most common problems is a dirty nozzle, typically caused by the accumulation of residue from melted filament as well as foreign particles in the atmosphere around it. It’s just a normal part of using an FDM printer and regular cleaning can easily prevent it from getting worse which can lead to more serious issues if left unchecked.
For the filament to get out of the extrusion system, it has to go through a very small hole in the nozzle. If even the smallest bit of debris has made its way into the system, then it can easily clog up the nozzle. In turn, this prevents the filament from flowing through, which causes pressure to build up inside the extruder.
There is an easy way to fix this issue. Start by getting the needle included with the Ender 3. This should be enough to clean out the orifice and let your material flow through evenly. If the clog still persists, then it might be time to do a cold or “atomic” pull. This process involves cooling down part of the filament before pulling it out through the top of your hot end.
If the issue persists after troubleshooting, then a quick and easy solution is to replace your nozzle entirely. Stock brass 3D printer nozzles are inexpensive and readily available, so finding a suitable replacement should not be too difficult.
Tip #3: Slow Down Printing Speed
One of the main causes of a clicking extruder in an Ender 3 printer is printing at too high a speed. This can cause a disruption in the flow of filament, leading to it coming out improperly melted or even becoming jammed in the hot end. This back pressure can cause the click sound most people are familiar with when trying to diagnose and solve this problem.
Just printing at slower speeds will do the trick. Many printing problems can be solved simply by printing at a slower rate. Printing slower gives your filament more time to melt correctly, enabling a smooth flow of material from the nozzle and resulting in higher print quality.
Tip #4: Verify the Temperature
Similar to how a faster print speed could result in a hot end that is partially clogged, a low print temperature could jam the device. This is because for the filament to properly extrude and form your desired object, it has to be heated enough for optimal melting and flow. If you feel like your prints are of unsatisfactory quality due to a clogged nozzle, try increasing the temperature gradually by 5°C until you achieve much better prints.
Moreover, only one tiny set screw holds the heating cartridge in place on each Ender 3 model. The airflow of the enclosure can loosen this screw and cause a few problems. Loose set screws on Ender 3 heating cartridges can cause filament melting. Check the heater cartridge regularly to prevent it from coming undone and impairing performance. It should be tight to maintain a good connection between the heater cartridge and block and deliver enough heat for printing.
Tip #5: Examine the Bowden Configuration
The Ender 3s’ Bowden-style setup is a great system that eliminates the build-up of filament in the hot end, preventing clogs and jams. However, if either the extruder or the hot end coupling fails, it can cause the PTFE tube to slide at the ends. This can result in a gap between the tube and nozzle, leading to poor extrusion quality and even print failure.
In this situation, the molten filament can fill any gaps in the system and stop the flow of materials. This causes pressure to build up until the pressure is released with clicking sounds. So, it’s important to be careful and keep an eye out for loose couplings so that they can be fixed or replaced as needed.
Also, paying careful attention to tighter tolerances and dirt or debris in the PTFE tube should be considered. This friction has been known to overwhelm stepper motors, resulting in them slipping and providing inferior finishes on your products. Regular tube cleaning can fix this. Manually checking resistance by pushing filament through can reveal tube or filament issues before they worsen. If these solutions don’t work, replacing the tube is usually cheap.
Capricorn’s PTFE tubes and couplings are frequently recommended by manufacturers on printing forums and other platforms with a similar community.
Tip #6: Substitute the Extruder
For any of the Ender 3 models, the extruder uses a single gear and pulley system. This gear is made from brass which is not a very hard material and with persistent 3D printing it inevitably wears down. When this occurs, filament grinding can manifest itself which is an irritating extruder issue where the drive-toothed wheel turns yet no filament will push forward. Rather, it just gets ground down by the wheel.
Compared to a brass extruder setup, steel has much better gripping strength and is less likely to fail. The popular Creality CR-10 printer has an impressive metal dual-gear extrusion setup that is considered one of the best for an Ender 3. This upgrade will give you better results when printing harder materials, ensuring your prints never fail.
Extruder Arm & Spring
The plastic extruder arm is one of the biggest problems with all Ender 3s printers. As it is constantly exposed to various forces as it grips and pushes the filament through the hot end. Over time, these pressures can weaken the plastic until eventually cracks or breaks away completely. As a result, this renders the printer useless due to a loss in pressure needed to keep hold of the filament, making it impossible for any further objects to be printed.
If the arm is losing its grip on the filament due to lack of tension, you will get filament grinding. An even more maddening problem is if the spring adds too much pressure and causes clicking. As with any machine, normal wear and tear could gradually reduce the effectiveness of a component like an arm or spring, resulting in extra noise or poor results from your prints.
On Thingiverse, there are simple remedies for extruder arm and spring spacer problems. While these can temporarily improve your printing experience and get rid of any issues you are having, nothing beats replacing the extruder arm with a metal one for reliable and permanent results.
Tip #7: Inspect the Stepper Drivers
Working with the Ender 3s stepper motors and drivers may cause unexpected issues if left to run continuously with no cooling. The NEMA 17 stepper motors of the Ender 3s are powered by either A4988 or TMC 2208 stepper motor drivers, neither of which are actively cooled. As a result, during extended 3D printing sessions, these drivers can get too hot and eventually send erratic signals to the stepper motors—a problem that has been explicitly noticed in the Ender 3 V2. If left unchecked, this can lead to extruder clicking and layer-shifting problems in the end product.
The majority of the time, the problem is with the stepper drivers, so you should check to see if your drivers are broken or not tuned correctly. If these fixes don’t work, then consider a motherboard upgrade and potentially buy a new stepper motor to replace the current one.
It’s vital to keep in mind that your printer may have a different mainboard depending on when and where you purchased it. For instance, the mainboard in Korea is V4.3.1, which is silent for the v2, but not the 3 and Pro and the 32-bit V4.2.2 for the V2 is silent, however, the ones for the 3 and Pro aren’t. You should therefore keep an eye out for special considerations based on the 3D printer you have and the mainboard it was packaged with.
I am Bheema Shankar. I have worked on SLS, CJP, DLP, SLA and FDM technologies at Think3D. Currently working as Process and application engineer at VEER-O-METALS PRIVATE LIMITED. I am always fascinated by the process of creating things layer by layer. This fascination led me to pursue a career in 3D printing technology. I am passionate about how 3D works and enjoy exploring new ways to improve the 3D printing process.