Shouting purple monster. Source: Shutterstock.com
Shouting purple monster. Source: Shutterstock.com

If you have recently read those dreaded words: “Filament Flow Fail” on your Cube’s digital screen, don’t despair. This troubleshooting guide will help you get up and running again in no time.

Why save the best for last? This author has learned from experience that patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to 3D printing. One of the best pieces of advice you can get about solving your flow errors is to not rush ahead of the Cube on the loading cartridge process. If you get impatient, bits of liquid filament remain in the tube and prevent the filament from moving naturally. So take a deep breath (or two) and count to 100.

For starters, here is a sneak peak under the hood of the Cube:

·         First, you may want to watch the official Cubify video tutorial found here.

·         Second: Go to the Setup screen>Change Cartridge. The screen will ask if there is filament in the head. Press the checkmark. While the print head is heating up, use the metal stick included in your Cube’s box to press through any residual plastic that might be stuck inside. If there is material left inside, it should press out of the nozzle. If you don’t have the wire, you can use a paper clip or similar-sized shaft.

·         When you are in the Load Cartridge setup, make sure the gear is grabbing the filament as you feed it into the top of the print head. You should feel it pulling the filament down a bit at a time. Once inside, the filament should stay firmly lodged if you pull on it. If you can’t tell if the filament is moving, mark it just above the cover hole with a bend in the line, fingernail or permanent marker. This will provide a good visual reference point.

·         Listen for a clicking sound inside the print head cover. If there’s an issue with the gear slipping, you’ll see the filament stutter each time you hear the click. Pull the filament out and try to insert it again. You may need to cut off a section if it has been stripped. this could be caused by a buildup of filament on the gear itself (see first image below) or a misalignment of the flywheel and gear (see second image below).

If these solutions don’t work, taking off the cover is a good next step. This allows you to see what’s happening inside the print jet and be able to diagnose with less guess work. To remove the cover requires taking out the two small screws on the top, slipping the cover off then using a small allen wrench or hex key to undo the fan (do not disconnect the electrical wires). From here, you’ll have a clear view of the gear, fly wheel, filament tube and heated print head (see first image above).

·         With the cover off you may notice that you have old filament stuck between the top of the tube leading into the print head and the gear/fly wheel assembly. With some small tools you should be able to remove the material cleanly. Note: If you’ve recently printed with silver filament it will be difficult to see against the metal.

·         If there is filament threaded through the gears and into the nozzle but the black and silver flywheel on the right is not moving you may have a misalignment. You’ll need 2-6 washers to place in between the metal fittings on the opposite side of the gears. This will readjust the filament’s path (see image above).

·         If everything seems to be working correctly inside the cover but you’re still getting the error, try putting the cover back on and give it another shot. A customer service rep from 3D Systems gave me this advice and I thought it was silly but I did it and the next print worked perfectly. Shrug. Party!

·         Note: be sure to replace all parts to their proper places before reattaching the cover. There should be no loose wires and everything should be in its correct position.

If the Cube is printing well but aborting prints and giving the “Filament Flow Fail” screen, there is most likely something misplaced inside the cover. This has happened to me twice because I didn’t put loose items back where they belonged.

Remember that problems, like puzzles, may have many pieces to them. It may not be one simple thing causing your flow error as much as a combination of them.

If you find other problems and/or solutions, post them in the comment section below so other people can benefit from your hard-won wisdom.