Procedures for shutting down your 3D printer to avoid costly damage

Article by Pierre Hart updated March 27, 2020

Due to the current COVID-19 situation, there may be a need to shutdown your 3D printer for an undetermined amount of time. If this is the case, it is very important to follow the proper procedures for shutting down your 3D printer to avoid damage or downtime when the printer is powered back up.

Below are the step-by-step instructions for the proper way to shut down your PolyJet or FDM 3D printer.

PolyJet shutdown procedure

What can happen if I don’t properly shut down my PolyJet printer?
  • Print heads can become clogged and jammed and require replacement. If not properly purged, cleaned and in some cases filled with cleaning solution before shutting down, resin will solidify in the orifices and clog them.
  • Resin will drip from the nozzles into the machine when the printer is powered off and lose vacuum pressure, during a proper shut down process the printer will drain all the resin from the block and park the head over the purge area to prevent leakage into the printer.
  • Over extended periods (more than 10 days) the resin inside the printer can gel and clog all the tubing and manifolds inside the printer. This can result in severe damage to the printer,as most of the fluid delivery components (including print heads) need to be replaced. This type of damage could ultimately cost over 10 thousand dollars in repair.
Is there any case where I don’t need too shut down if I am not going to use the printer for more than 7 days?

Yes, if you can print a small object every 7 days then you won’t need to shut down; the printer can be left on indefinitely in this situation. The print only needs to be about 25-30 minutes long, a 1.5” x 1.5” x 1.5” cube would work, either hollow (filled with support) or matt (surrounded by support. By printing it in GLOSS, you will only jet a small amount of support material (for the raft) and we want to exercise both the model and the support head with this activity. After you complete the print, perform a heads cleaning wizard, in this fashion the printer can be left on indefinitely but only if it is used every 7 days.

What type of shutdown can I do on my PolyJet printer?

The type of shutdown you perform will be determined by two factors: how long you plan on shutting down and what type of printer. Because the J series printer uses a different print head, these printers can sit idle for up to 30 days before they require a full shutdown, whereas all the other PolyJet machines can only sit idle for 10 days before requiring a full shutdown.

Less than 10 days – If the printer will be sitting idle for less than 10 days, pick this option in the shutdown wizard. In this case, the printer will drain the fluid in the pint block (~20g) of model and support fluid and then open the purge door and park the head over the purge area. The process takes about 10 minutes.

More than 10 days – If you are planning on having the printer sit idle for more than 10 days, pick this option in the shutdown wizard. In this case, the printer will purge all the existing resin in the system out of the nozzles and fill the system with cleaning solution. The amount of resin used depends on what material is loaded but it will be in the hundreds of grams and the process can take up to 40 minutes. You will need to be present during the process to remove the support and model material canister and install the cleaning solution canister. There is a model cleaning solution and a support cleaning solution, make sure you have both types and they are not expired. Expired cleaning solution will not be accepted by the printer and like resin it also starts to gel as it ages and should not be used. For PolyJet desktop machine you will need at least one full container of model cleaning fluid and one full container of support cleaning fluid. For big box PolyJet printers that have one or more material cabinets, you will need a minimum of four model cleaning solution canister and two support cleaning solution canisters.

How do I do it?

Fortunately, there is a wizard for this (see below)!

On all PolyJet printers navigate to –> OPTIONS –> WIZARDS –> SHUTDOWN

Select which type of SHUTDOWN (more then 10 days or less than 10 days) and follow the prompts. Once the WIZARD is complete you can shut down the printer. Don’t forget to shut down windows first before powering off the printer.

shutdown wizard on Objet260

Starting shutdown wizard on an Objet260

Should I do anything before running the SHUTDOWN WIZARD?

Yes!! Please run a heads cleaning wizard before shutting down the printer; there’s never a bad time to run a heads cleaning wizard!

FDM shutdown procedures

What can happen if I don’t properly shut down my FDM printer?

With FDM, an improper shutdown won’t cause damage to the machine but can cause damage to the material loaded. FDM materials are all hydroscopic and will absorb moisture from the environment. If you leave material in an FDM machine and turn it off, over time the material will absorb moisture and become unusable. The Fortus machines have an air dryer system that pressurize the filament delivery tubes with dried air keeping moisture out. When the machine is running, moisture is kept out, however, once the machine is shut down moisture can readily migrate into the material. Moisture in the material will vaporize inside the extruder causing bubbles and pressure which can ultimately cause clogging and can lead to a head encasement. See below for an image of a head encasement on Dimension SST120ES; typically the whole head needs to be replaced if this happens.

head encasement

Running wet material can result in a head encasement

When to unload material?

Ultimately it depends on your environment. High humidity regions like the East and West coast or those who are not operating the printer in a climate-controlled environment will need to be more careful. The below guidelines are a good rule of thumb to follow.

For Fortus Series Printers:
  • If you are going to power off the machine indefinitely, you should unload the model and support material and store it correctly (see below).
  • If you are keeping the machine powered on but not planning on running it for more than 14 days, unload the model and support material and store it correctly (see below).
For F123 Series Printers:
  • If you are going to power off the machine, you should unload the model and support material and store it correctly (see below).
  • If you are keeping the machine powered on but not planning on running it for more than 14 days, unload the model and support material and store it correctly (see below).
  • If you are not going to run the machine for more than 72 hours unload the material from the printer and spool it onto the spool but leave the spool in the machine.
For uPrint and Dimension Series Printers:
  • If you are going to power off the machine, you should unload the model and support material and store it correctly (see below).
  • If you are keeping the machine powered on but not planning on running it for more than 14 days, unload the model and support material and store it correctly (see below).
How do I correctly store my material?

To maintain the material in its optimal condition, Stratasys recommends that the material be stored in its original packaging in a cool (65 – 75 ºF), dry environment (<50% RH).

After unloading all CANISTERS, CARTRIDGES and SPOOLS, they should be stored in the MYLAR bag that the material was received in (see image below). Large MYLAR Ziploc bags are also shipped with some materials (F123 spools) for storing; these can also be purchased. If you are re-using the MYLAR bag, make sure to tape it and seal the bag completely, otherwise moisture will get in the material.

For Fortus material canisters, you will need to replace the snout cover and re-seal the foil tape on the anti-rotation plug area before storing into a MYLAR bag. Also, its best to store material vertically; when lying flat the spool can unravel inside and cause cross winding.

storing material properly

Always store used material spools, canisters and cartridges in a sealed mylar or ziplock bag and store vertically to prevent cross winding.

Stay healthy and don’t forget to properly shut down your FDM and PolyJet printers to avoid costly damages and material losses.

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Pierre Hart