What Is Thermal Runaway on a 3d Printer?

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If there is a thing that the business industry to be thankful for, particularly those in the printing business, it would be the advancement of technology and the invention of 3D printers. Who would have thought that the process and the quality will be improved? It is still early but who knows, its improvement will surpass our expectations.

With an increase in customer demand, if you are in this industry, you should always be one step ahead from your competitors – this modern printer is the key. If there are any printer issues like a thermal runaway, it is only reasonable to have it fixed.

What is thermal runaway on a 3d printer?

The Thermal Runaway

When talking about thermal runaway with your 3D printer, people would remember the error that will be flashed on the screen of your printer if there is something wrong with its temperature. It is the 3D printer’s safety feature where it automatically puts any printing action to stop once the machine reaches an extremely dangerous temperature.

This increase in temperature happens when the printer’s thermistor is damaged or loosened. There is a lot of popular firmware out there that you can install and enable this safety feature by default.

How does the thermal runaway error occur?

Your 3d printer has its own way of monitoring its temperature and compares it to the desired temperature as well. For instance, if it is already too hot, your printer’s heater will cool down. If it is too cold, it heats up – it is just the same with ovens that we have today.

If its thermistor is damaged or loose, there is a greater possibility that it will affect the printer’s temperature. It may record way below the desired temperature. Since it is no longer reaching the desired temperature, the printer will try to heat up the element to be melted without making any change to the temperature it had read. This is now where the safety feature, thermal runaway, will be triggered.

What will happen next? The printer’s heater block will continue on melting the heater block. It will melt but the temperature will just worsen things – it will just start up a fire, burning your machine or your place. So, if you notice that your printer is acting or not. Stay calm and think of a solution to prevent that.

Your printer will not be giving that thermal runaway error for no reason. In fact, there are instances that trigger a change in temperature, prompting for that error. It may be an issue with the hot end, the bed, the ceramic cartridge, or the heated bed. Loose wirings and incorrect PID tuning can also be an issue. Well, there are other issues that you should look into. 

Even if it is not a thermal runaway error, once your printer suddenly stopped printing, it is an early sign that you shouldn’t ignore.

What is Bed Thermal Runaway Error?

Although it has a “thermal runaway” in its name, it refers to a completely different error. Let’s distinguish first their differences:

  • Bed thermal runaway error indicates a change in the hotbed’s temperature readout.
  • Thermal runaway error indicates a change in the hotend’s temperature readout.

Basically, both of them indicate a change in temperature. Since it may be about two different parts of your 3d printer, you should be precise with your observations to make sure you are doing the right troubleshoot for this.

What should you do during thermal runaway error?

Now that you’ve got a pretty good grasp on what thermal runaway is, then it is time to learn the troubleshooting methods to try in case it happens.  Here are the following things that you can do with thermal runaway:

  1. look into its ambient temperature. The suggested temperature is 20 degrees or more.
  2. Keep your printer away from “cool” places. Don’t place your printer near open windows or air-conditioning units as it might be the cause of your printer’s temperature drop.
  3. Check the thermistor if it is securely attached to the heater’s bock body. The thermistor connector will loosen over time. That is why it’s better to check this connector if it is still attached or have it reseated.
  4. Make sure to check on the fan power settings and the material temperature settings. It should not be set too high. Just have it suitable to the slicer that you are using.
  5. Check the fan shroud for damage. There are cases where this part is damaged during assembly or while the printed object is being removed. This may just be a rare case to some, but if it is damaged, your heater is not as powerful as to overcome it, leading you to a “hot” situation.
  6. Perform a PID or Proportional Integral Derivative tuning. Depending on the brand or unit that you are using, this tuning process is an optional and easy calibration procedure that you can do fix this thermal problem. You want to check into your printer’s manual for this procedure.

There you have it – steps in troubleshooting your printer’s thermal runaway. If you have a hazardous runaway, you can also do the nos.1 and 2 but you need to check the bed thermistor to see if it is still secured and underneath the Kapton tape. If ever you are printing small objects with the use of PETG, you may want to remove them away from the heat beds center, or you can try printing all of them at once.

Enabling Thermal Protection

Earlier, we have mentioned that thermal runaway is one of your printer’s safety features. Why would your printer be displaying an error report with this feature? Well, it serves as a heads up for you that something is not right with your printer – and you need to take necessary actions to avoid further problems.

With this, you might want to enable its thermal protection. You might probably be thinking that the unit that you are using doesn’t include this.

Well, there may be various brands that create 3D printers, but everyone is sure that they have this kind of protection. You just need to update its firmware, and you are all set. To make sure you are doing it right, you might want to look for your printer’s manual and be guided.

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