PolyJet 3D Printer Best Practices // Prototyping & Production

A PolyJet-based 3D printer by Stratasys from FATHOM is an impressive piece of technology; one that many of our customers rely on daily for their prototyping and production needs. Like any important tool in the arsenal it must be cared for and properly maintained to maximize its utility and resulting quality. The following are strongly recommended practices that will insure that you are getting the most out of your PolyJet 3D printer. These are processes we adhere to ourselves in our production facilities and cannot stress how key they have been in maintaining machine productivity and efficiency as well as minimizing on downtime and repairs. Many PolyJet owners should already be quite familiar with these procedures but knowing and understanding why these steps should be taken will go a long way towards running a more efficient machine and will translate into significant cost savings down the road.

POLYJET-BASED 3D PRINTER BEST PRACTICES //By Ivan Ferguson—FATHOM Support Engineer and Prototype Technician

Make sure you are getting clean power.

Polyjet printers must be fed clean power. Machine component failures, print glitches, system errors, cable replacements, and failed vacuums are just a sample of the laundry list of issues that can be tied to supplying your PolyJet with unsatisfactory power. First and foremost, your machine must have an adequate UPS; one that explicitly states it is double conversion. A line interactive UPS will only monitor and depending on the power anomaly, increase or decrease power passed onto the equipment; no filtering is occurring. Many users own more than one manufacturing scaled piece of equipment or machinery in their spaces so ensuring that your PolyJet is receiving filtered power on its own dedicated circuit is paramount for machine longevity and efficiency.

Clean the heads after every print.

Yes, you should absolutely clean the heads after every print. Now before you roll your eyes, hear me out. On the surface, wiping down the heads multiple times a day, every day, may seem to the uninitiated unnecessary and overzealous. However, instead consider the greater difficulty of cleaning those heads after a significant buildup of print time. Resin that has time to sit on the surface of these print heads and cure will eventually clog and kill the piezoelectric nozzles, accelerating the aging of the head and directly affecting the quality of prints given the number of axed nozzles. Wiping down the heads after a print is the best way to combat this and will ensure cleanliness for the next user or print job whenever it may occur. We have witnessed countless times the destructiveness of cured resin on print heads and as a result, premature print head replacements. The more time these heads are spent in a clean state the longer they are going to last.

Clean the UV lamps, print heads wiper, and run a pattern test every week.

Now this will depend on your rate of printing but for a user who prints several times a week we recommend cleaning the UV lamps, print heads wiper, and running a pattern test every week. These components are all being worked nearly as often as the print heads but are not quite as delicate or as susceptible to wear from regular printing use. Being aware of the state of these components is an excellent way to gauge your printer’s effectiveness and whether or not a consumable, new component, or even a service visit may be needed at a later date. This can contribute to streamlined trouble shooting in the future and a reduction in down time if one is already conscious of the printers needs.

Clean the roller bath, check waste collector status, and restart server and printer computers on a monthly basis.

This is simple waste management. Cleaning the roller bath will prevent leftover resin waste that the roller knife has picked up and accumulated, from falling onto and potentially ruining your builds. The roller bath is a one-piece assembly with a blade attached that makes contact with the roller and collects partially cured resin that the roller has picked up. Although there are straws that sit in this bath and forward waste into the larger removable waste container; larger print builds in quick succession have a tendency to fill the bath. Therefore, it’s definitely good practice to monthly check, clean and prevent botched prints. It’s also good practice to check your PolyJet’ wastes levels before initiating prints to determine if the removal waste container should be replaced before proceeding. The printer will display a warning message onscreen but will not abort the print when max waste levels are approached. Moving on to another form of waste management—data bugs. These machines are computers, so giving them a reboot will help clear out data caches and go towards minimizing computer bugs that may crop up from simply having the machine run continuously day in and day out. Far too often have we seen seemingly random errors cleared by a simple reboot. Rebooting both the host and embedded computers will help minimize software glitches.

Have a question? Start a conversation with a FATHOM customer support engineer.