The first step before using your new Ender 3 Pro or V2 printer is loading a spool of filament.
Some 3D printing enthusiasts may describe this task as daunting, but loading or changing the spool isn’t difficult.
To load filament on an Ender 3 for the first time, all you have to do is to:
- Preheat the nozzle
- Load the spool and feed the filament through the extruder
- Keep feeding until the filament comes out of the nozzle
How To Load Filament Into Ender 3
Ender 3 printers are popular for a reason – loading filament and using them is intuitive compared to other machines.
Following the quick steps below, you should be able to load the spool without issues.
1. Preheat The Nozzle
If you have never used a 3D printer before, you should know that the filament that constructs the objects is fed through a heated nozzle.
To load the filament properly, you must run it through the nozzle. If the nozzle is not hot during this process, you won’t be able to run in through, and the filament won’t feed.
Regardless of the Ender 3 printer you have (S1 Pro, V2, or Max), there are two ways to heat up the nozzle.
The first and simplest method is to select a pre-programmed heating option.
- Go to Prepare on the main screen.
- Select Preheat and the type of filament you want to load (i.e. Preheat PLA, Preheat ABS, etc.)
With this method, the printer heats the nozzle to a factory-set temperature. The only issue is that some filament types might not be listed.
If you can’t find the type of filament you want to load, you can preheat the nozzle manually. To do this, you must know the ideal temperature range for your filament type.
The table below shows the ideal temperature ranges for popular filament types:
|Filament Material||Nozzle Temperature Range|
|ABS||220°C – 250°C|
|PLA||190°C – 220°C|
|Polycarbonate||250°C – 320°C|
|PETG||230°C – 250°C|
|Nylon||220°C – 250°C|
|HIPS||230°C – 245°C|
|PVA||185°C – 200°C|
|TPU||195°C – 230°C|
You can also check the filament label (usually on the spool) to find out the extrusion temperature of your material.
Once you know the temp, you can set the nozzle temperature:
- On the main screen, go to Control, then select Temperature.
- Select Nozzle and input the desired temperature.
2. Prepare And Load The Filament
Loading the filament without preparing it first, is one of the most common mistakes newbies make – and the reason some enthusiasts define filament loading as annoying.
Before anything else, make sure the spool is dry. There are various ways to get rid of moisture if wet, including drying it in the oven for a few hours. Ideally, though, you should store it in a dry place to begin with to prevent deterioration.
If the filament is dry:
- Find the end of the filament (it should be lodged in one of the spool holes) and straighten a length of the strand.
- Use a pair of scissors and cut the end of the filament at a 45° angle. This operation serves to make the tip pointier and easier to insert into the extruder.
- Mount the spool onto the printer’s spool holder.
- Press and hold the extruder clip. Insert the end of the filament into the extruder and push until it becomes lodged between the idler pulley and the toothed extruder gear.
- Without releasing the arm, keep pushing the filament until you feel resistance. If you have the V2 printer, you can complete this operation by rotating the extruder knob counterclockwise. When you feel resistance, the filament has reached the nozzle.
3. Purge The Nozzle
Your filament is now at the nozzle, but you have to feed it through. Because this component is already hot, you won’t be able to feed it by hand.
If the printer is not new and you’re changing the spool, purging also serves to get rid of all bits and pieces of old filament that are still lodged in the nozzle.
Tip: If you’re switching from a higher temperature filament to one that needs a lower extrusion temp, heat the nozzle to the higher temperature initially. This will enable you to purge the old filament, then you can lower the nozzle temp to load the new material.
Whether you want to feed filament for the first time or change an old filament type, the Ender 3 printers have some software features that make this process easy.
To purge the nozzle:
- Open the settings menu on the printer’s screen and scroll down to Move Axis.
- Select 1 mm and then Extruder.
- Move the extruder axis from 15 mm to 20 mm using the scroll button. This operation will start feeding the material through the nozzle. Wait until the material comes out if you’re loading the filament for the first time. If you’re changing the spool, repeat the process two or three times to make sure all old filament was removed from the nozzle. A change in filament color is typically a good indicator that the nozzle has been purged correctly.
With the filament now loaded, you can start printing your new project.
Common Issues With Feeding Filament In Ender 3
Even though loading the filament on an Ender 3 is a straightforward process, you may run into a range of troubles.
Here are the most common issues and how to fix them.
Filament Stuck in Extruder Path
Regardless of the printer you have, filament might bend and break while pushing it through the extruder. If this happens, the broken piece typically gets stuck and you’ll have to remove it.
There are various ways to remove the filament, depending on where exactly the piece is.
A simple method is to insert a long wire into the hot end and disengage the extruder. Then, feed some filament into the hot end and set the temperature that melts the material you’re using.
Let it reach the temperature and wait for a couple of minutes. Then, turn off the temperature and let the hot end cool down.
The material you just fed will melt around the filament that got stuck, and you’ll be able to pull it out once the hot end is cool.
Clogged Filament Guide Tube
The nozzle is the most problematic component of a 3D printer as far as clogging is concerned, but filament can also get stuck in the guide tube.
This PTFE tube ensures that the extruder can push the filament efficiently, guiding it to the hot end – hence, the name.
To unclog it:
- Open up the extruder carriage and uncouple the tube. The tube is typically held in place by a blue or black clip that looks a bit like a horseshoe. Simply pull it out.
- Place the tube in a vice or ask a helper to keep it firm for you. Make sure the tube is straight, then pick up a wire with a diameter smaller than the tube and push it inside. The wire will push the clog out from the other end of the tube.
- If the material has melted on the tube’s walls and you can’t push it out, dip the tube in hot water for a few minutes. This should loosen the stuck filament so that you can push it out with the wire.
- You can now insert the tube back into the hot end and fasten it with the collet clip removed earlier. Once done, you can put back any other components that you might have removed.
Filament slipping is a relatively common problem caused by the improper temperature of the hot end.
If set too low, the nozzle might not get hot enough to melt the filament properly. The result is a clogged nozzle and, as the filament has nowhere to go as it’s fed through the extruder, it will start to “slip.”
This issue is very easy to prevent by flushing the nozzle accurately before loading the new filament.
If slipping occurs when loading the filament for the first time (new printer or new nozzle), the most likely problem is the temperature set too low for the filament type you’re working with.
To fix the problem, increment the temperature by 5°C at a time until the nozzle is purged and the filament comes out freely.
Tips For Smooth Filament Changing Process
Loading new filament on an Ender 3 isn’t overly complicated, but the tips below can make the process even easier.
Select The Lowest Extrusion Temperature
Most 3D printing filaments have a melting point range. The lowest temperature tells you at which point the material starts to become liquid. The highest temperature is usually the best one to use while printing, as the filament will be hot enough to flow easily.
However, when loading the filament, you want it to be malleable enough to push through the hot end easily, but not fully melted. For this reason, you should select the lowest temperature in the range.
If that temperature is not enough to melt it, increment it by 5°C at a time until you can feed the material easily.
Note: If you’ve preheated the hot end to a higher temperature to purge old material, wait for the nozzle to cool down before loading the new filament.
Selecting the right temperature but not waiting for the hot end to reach it is another common mistake.
The nozzle may require a few minutes to heat up completely. Just wait for the printer to signal that it has reached the temperature before loading the spool.
Straighten The Filament Beforehand
While you wait for the nozzle to reach the temperature, you can unwind and straighten a length of filament.
This will make it a lot easier to feed it manually without risking slipping or a blockage.
Remove Any Excess Filament
After you’ve loaded the new filament, let the nozzle cool down then pull out any excess filament.
The easiest way to do this is with a pair of tweezers.
Loading filament in an Ender 3 is a straightforward process that even beginners can master. The most important thing is to purge the nozzle before pushing the strand and wait for it to reach the optimal temperature for the type of material you want to print with.