Reduce maintenance in 3D Printer / educate and inform customers

We are a Fablab that grants our members 24/7 access to our makerspace. There is a wood, metal and digital area. For certain machines, courses must be attended in order to learn how to use the machines. This is for safety reasons and to prevent the machines from breaking down. We have been having problems with our Prusa MK3(S) for some time. The printer has regular blockages in the extruder and we also have problems with the bed adhesion. We installed the following upgrade maybe a year ago: Bondtech LGX Shortcut Mosquito Upgrade Kit For Prusa i3 MK3S (+)
We are aware that the problems with 3D printers increase when non-professionals work with them and the maintenance requirements of the machine also increase as a result.

We are collecting ideas on how we can better understand defects. So that we can also train people better.

The next thing we’re going to try is a (analog) logbook where all prints have to be entered. If something breaks, we can check the logboock and ask the people that printed last.
And we we are also like to create a small information sheet to attach to the printer. But the problem is, that (probably) not all people are going to read the informations.

Now my question: Does anyone have experience with a similar setting? Any ideas on how to reduce defects and the need of maintenance? How do you educate your “customers” or update with the newest information and changes? How do you make sure, that people read information on site?

Hi Daniel,

In which fablab are you working? I cannot find a connection between your name and a fablab.

Best from Suriname,
Pieter van der Hijden

Hi Pieter

I’m associated with this makerspace Quartier Werkstatt Viktoria - Swiss FabLabs
We just made our entry on the site and our entry on has not been requested yet.
I will take care about that in january next year. But my name probably won’t appear on our website.
We have an new internal fablab group and other groups as well. But this new structure hasnt been updated on our website.


Three suggestions:

  1. Annual review

Once a year, hold a session on health and safety in the fab lab with the fab lab staff (this can also include care to prevent damage to machines, installations and buildings); you can do this, for example, using the fablab safety (board) game. See for: Fab Lab Safety Game; Facilitator’s Guide; 2016

  1. Workstation concept

Use workstations in your fab lab. A workstation is a place where one specific type of action takes place, e.g. “laser cutting”. Instead of having 1001 tools and machines in your workshop, you can also divide the workshop into a limited number of workstations, each for its own type of process/machine. This is much clearer for visitors, spectators, users and supervisors (e.g. Ikea Micke desk). Develop a prototype of such a workstation, eg:

  • top shelf: title in large letters, lighting, the 7 most characteristic samples you would like to display for this workstation; information card with explanation for the general public;
  • middle shelf with tool board: the 7 tools associated with this workstation that must be present in any case; manuals, booklets; information card for spectators, supervised users, independent users, staff; including safety instructions;
  • work surface with machine plus space for a laptop; possible emergency stop; protective equipment (e.g. safety gloves);
  • under the worktop; standard stock of materials and substitutes; stock administration list.
  1. Info cards

Use the same layout and layout for the various information cards; manage them in one master document (consistency); provide a version in local language and English.

Does this help you?

Thank you very much. Yes it is helpfull.
Our approach goes in this direction. But we can do more with documentation on site for sure.
But people tend to overlook instructions. Especially if there are too many.
But even experienced users can make a mistake.

If something has happened, it is also difficult to understand what exactly happened in order to better solve the error and possibly set up something or to add a note on site to avoid it in the future.

Do you have experience with unsupervised access to the 3D printers in a fablab?

Fablabs mainly use 3D printers with filament; these can catch fire, for example if the heating of the nozzle is on and the control loop to switch it off is disturbed. So always keep a human eye on things, possibly from a distance, but at most from the adjacent room, for example via a RaspberryPi with camera and Octoprint.

Powder-based 3D printers do not use heat during the actual printing; in principle they could work unattended. For example, the Z 850 is (was) a large, closed machine with a relatively large print volume that can print for days on end without human intervention. If desired, the machine will send an email when a print job is almost complete. Such machines do require quite a bit of attention in terms of ventilation, not because of fire hazard, but for health reasons. They are relatively expensive and are mainly used by larger institutes where the costs for some extra sensors are not a problem and there are always night watchmen nearby.

Does this help you?