Filament is the juice of your 3D printer, and just like a car, once you run out of gas, you’ve got to refuel. Changing your filament can be an annoying process, but it’s something you’ve got to do to get back on the road and keep printing!
Additionally, swapping out your filament allows you to try out new filaments on your printer, which is all part of the 3D printing experience.
Luckily, changing the filament on a 3D printer is super easy, especially for one as easy-to-use and open-source as the Ender 3 (Pro/V2/S1).
Want to learn how? Read on!
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Steps in Changing Filament:
Of course, you probably already know how to change the filament on your Ender 3 (at least to some degree). But it’s important to change the filament the right way.
The method I’ve gone over in the sections below is not just fast, safe, and efficient but also works 100% of the time when done right. If you follow the steps, I guarantee you that your new filament won’t jam in your printer and that you’ll be back to business in no time!
1. Heat Up the Nozzle
The first step is to heat up your Ender 3’s nozzle to whatever printing temperature you use for the current filament.
If you’ve got a spool of PLA filament in your printer, set the hot end to somewhere in the range of 190-220 °C. For ABS and PETG, 240 °C will work for both!
And if you don’t know how to change the temperature, you can do it on the LCD interface on all versions of the Ender 3. Alternatively, you can send a G-code command to your printer manually to change the temps.
2. Pull Out the Filament
The second step is to pull the filament out of the extruder and hot end. You can do this by squeezing the lever on the extruder and gently, but with force, pulling the filament strand back until it comes all the way out. Try to pull the filament out pretty quickly because you don’t want the hot filament expanding inside the PTFE tubing.
Once it’s out, I advise you to cut off the last bit of filament from the strand. That’s because the tip of the filament strand is a little deformed from being pulled out from the hot end, so it’s best to just cut it off and throw it out.
3. Insert the New Filament
Next, you have to insert your new filament into the printer.
But before you even put the new spool on your Ender 3’s spool holder, make sure to set the hot end temperature to the suggested printing temperature of your new filament. This is mainly important if you’re switching filament materials because the printing temperature for PLA won’t melt ABS filament.
Once you’ve done this, put the filament spool on the spool holder, grab the tip of the filament strand, and bring it down near the extruder.
Next, squeeze that extruder lever, and push the filament into the extruder assembly. Continue pushing the filament through the PTFE tubing until you feel it reach the bottom of the hot end, where there will be resistance. Then stop and move on to the next step!
4. Clear Out the Old Filament from the Nozzle
Now that your filament is inside the hot end, you have to purge the old material. Even though you removed the old filament from your printer, there’s a little bit of that old material still in the hot end assembly that you have to remove.
To do this, slowly but still forcefully, push the filament down so that you see melted plastic flowing out of the nozzle. Keep pushing the filament until you see the last of the old material and a bit of your new filament come out.
How to Change the Filament Mid-Print:
Changing the filament on your 3D printer is a pretty easy process when the machine isn’t doing anything. But it’s a bit more technical when you change it in the middle of a print job.
But why would you change the filament then, you ask? Well, changing the filament mid-print is a great way to achieve multi-color prints because you can create color changes by layer. It’s not true multi-color printing, but it’s a DIY method that’s free and decently easy!
There are two ways you can perform a mid-print filament change, which we’ve covered in the sections below!
1. Manual Method
The first method is by manually changing the filament after pausing an ongoing print job. I personally like this method the best because I find it easiest, but it takes some practice because you have to act fast! Like very fast!
The first thing you have to do is prepare. Make sure you have a pair of scissors (or those sharp pliers that Creality gives you) and the filament spool you want to use right by your printer before you move on.
Also, make sure you know what time you have to pause the print because you wouldn’t want to perform the color change too early or too late. The layer-by-layer mode in your slicer can help you determine how long you have to wait before starting the process!
Once you’re prepared and it’s time to start, pause your ongoing print job on the Ender 3’s LCD! Let the printhead go to its paused position and, on the LCD, set the hot end temperature to the suggested value of your new filament spool.
Next, pull the extruder lever and quickly remove the loaded filament from the printer. Make sure you don’t wiggle the printer too much, as it can cause layer shifting if the printhead or print bed moves.
Now load the new filament in and purge out the old filament from the nozzle using the process we’ve explained previously.
Lastly, resume the print and watch the first two or three layers go down to make sure it’s running smoothly!
If you accidentally moved the printhead or print bed during the process, you may see some layer shifting, with the new layers being slightly offset from the pre-pause ones. Sadly, there’s nothing you can really do if this happens besides restarting the print entirely. So make sure you’re careful and note that practice makes perfect!
2. Cura Method (Automatic)
The second method is what I like to call the Cura method and is a bit more automatic. Per the name, you have to use Cura for this method to work.
First, open up your model in Cura and identify the specific layer you want to make the mid-print filament swap at. Then, from the top toolbar in Cura, click the “Extensions” tab, then “Post-Processing”, and then “Modify G-Code”.
In the pop-up menu, click “Add a script”. Then locate and select the “Filament Change” option, and a mini settings menu will appear on the side. Fill in the proper information, such as the layer the change will happen at and how far the filament should be retracted to make removing it easy.
Then, as normal, slice your model and start the print job. Once the print reaches that layer, it will pause and retract some of the filament. So all you need to do is pull the rest of the filament out, heat up the nozzle again, and load (and purge) the new filament into the hot end.
A lot less work for the process compared to the manual method, but it also means the print could sit paused for a long time before you come and resume it.
Changing the filament is a necessary part of the 3D printing process and the only way to keep printing once you’ve run out of filament. Make sure you do it right so that no jamming occurs by only pushing or pulling the filament when the nozzle is hot and always purging your old filament out of the nozzle.
And, if you’re feeling adventurous, try using a mid-print filament swap to achieve cool, multi-color models!