The nozzle is the real business end of your 3D printer. As the last part of the printer to come into contact with the filament, the nozzle dictates a lot of things, from what filaments you can print to print speed and the detailing on your printed objects. This clearly shows why a deep understanding of the 3D printer nozzle is paramount for a 3D printing enthusiast, hobbyist, or professional.
Check out 3D filaments page for important considerations when buying 3D printing materials.
Are 3D Printer Nozzles Universal/Interchangeable?
No. Different 3D printer nozzles are not interchangeable. While most 3D printer nozzles look alike, there are a few subtle differences between them, especially on the side where they screw to the hotend. Using the wrong printer nozzle may not only lead to leaking issues, but you could also end up damaging the rest of the heating block. So, when buying a new nozzle for your 3D printer, always ensure that it’s designed for your specific hotend.
There are 3 major areas that you want to pay attention to when trying to understand 3D printer nozzles: size, bore diameter, and material. Let’s have a quick discussion about each of these aspects.
Nozzle size in 3D printers is often confused with bore diameter (explained below). Nozzle size refers to the actual length of the nozzle measured from the tip to the topmost thread at the top of the nozzle’s shaft. This is a crucial aspect of the nozzle as it determines how fast and how well the printing material is heated.
Here are the 3 major nozzle sizes on the market today;
1. Standard– nozzles in this category are 12-13 mm long. These are the most common as they easily fit in most V6 hotends and MK8 extruders.
2. Volcano– these nozzles have an extra-long heated melt zone of up to 21 mm. They are engineered for the E3D volcano heater block, which is mostly used when there’s a need to print large layer heights at high flow rates.
3. Supervolcano– these nozzles are built for the E3D Supervolcano heater block. They are longer versions of the volcano nozzles and have elongated melt zones of up to 50 mm. Supervolcano nozzles are designed for printing super strong parts at high speeds.
Nozzle diameter (a.k.a bore diameter) refers to the size of the tiny hole at the tip through which the melted filament is extruded. Nozzles come in different diameters and can range from 0.1 mm to 1.0 mm. The 0.4 mm nozzle is the most common and probably what your printer shipped with.
The nozzle diameter is the core parameter in 3D printing as it affects printing speed and how much filament is extruded.
Generally, large nozzles (above 0.4 mm) extrude more material as the layers are thick and wide. Consequently, the printing time will be reduced significantly.
On the other hand, nozzles with a smaller diameter (below 0.4 mm) have a lower flow rate, which results in a slower printing speed. Also, smaller nozzles have increased risks of clogging, and they are not always easy to clean.
On the positive side, smaller nozzles allow you to print in lower layer heights. This guarantees you incredibly stunning prints with almost invisible layer lines and top-of-the-range details.
As I’ve just mentioned, the 0.4 mm nozzle is the most common as it’s a good tradeoff between printing speed and precision. I suggest having several nozzles in different diameters, though, if you want to widen your horizon in the world of 3D printing.
I should point out that nozzle diameter limits the maximum layer height of your prints. The rule of thumb is to ensure that the layer height readings don’t exceed 80% of the nozzle diameter values. That’s to say that the best layer height when 3D printing with a 0.4 mm nozzle will be around 0.32 mm. If you go higher than that, the layers won’t bond effectively as the nozzle won’t be able to squish the current layer onto the previous layer nicely.
There are 4 materials to choose from when buying 3D printer nozzles;
1. Brass– this copper-zinc alloy is relatively easy to machine, so its nozzles are significantly inexpensive. These nozzles conduct heat reasonably well, and they are fairly hard. These attributes make brass nozzles ideal for common printing materials, such as PLA, ABS, TPE, PETG, and Nylon. However, note that brass is vulnerable to wear. As such, its nozzles aren’t the best for printing abrasive filaments.
2. Stainless steel– this material isn’t the best at conducting heat, but it’s much more wear-resistant than brass. This makes it great for light use when printing filaments with a hard fiber, such as carbon and glass fiber. Also, unlike brass, stainless steel doesn’t contaminate the printing material with lead. So, it’s considered a much safer option when printing food-grade materials.
3. Hardened steel– nozzles cut from hardened steel have a much higher wear-resistance rating compared to the 2 above. As such, they are the best for heavy-duty printing with abrasive materials. The only catch is that they have a considerably lower thermal conductivity. This means that they take quite some time to achieve the desired heating temperatures.
4. Assembled nozzles– these hybrid nozzles have become very popular nowadays. They combine 2 materials, for instance, copper with a hardened steel insert or brass with an actual ruby gemstone insert. The intention is to offer the best of both worlds: higher thermal conductivity and excellent abrasion-resistance properties.
– Here you will find best sellers in both generic or branded extruder nozzle categories – Creality, Makerbot, Quidi Tech Extruder nozzles, in all the sizes you may want to kit your printer out with. Also, there are hardened steel nozzles and 3D printer nozzle cleaning kits.
Clogging in 3D Printer Nozzles- Causes and How to Fix
A clogged-up nozzle is every creator’s biggest nightmare. But knowing what causes clogging in 3D printing nozzles, how to prevent it, and how to fix it can offer tremendous relief.
Among other causes, incorrect printing temperature is the most common cause of clogging in 3D printing nozzles. If the print temperature in the hotend is too low, the filament won’t melt correctly. This causes the material to stick to the interior walls of the nozzle leading to clogging. You also need to be wary of higher print temperature as it often causes heat creep. Heat creep affects the performance of the extrusion motor and eventually causes clogging in the nozzle.
Other common causes of clogging in 3D printing nozzles include incorrect nozzle height, poor quality filament, and dust and dirt. You can prevent these by buying quality printing materials, storing your filaments properly, and ensuring that your layer height is around 20% the size of the nozzle diameter.
How to Unclog a 3D Printer Nozzle
Jammed nozzles are common, especially if you’ll be printing different materials with varying print temperatures. Whenever this happens, here are various ways you can use to deal with it:
Method 1: Brass wire brush
Use a brass wire brush to clean any debris around the nozzle.
Method 2: Use acupuncture needle or guitar string
Start by preheating the hotend to the previous printing temperature and then insert an acupuncture needle or guitar string through the nozzle. This may help in breaking down the clogged-up debris for melting.
Method 3- Use Acetone
If your nozzle is clogged up with ABS and none of the above methods works, remove the nozzle and dip it in a container containing acetone for 15 minutes to 24 hours. The ABS should dissolve easily.
3D Printer Nozzle Cameras
3D printing is fun- but what’s even more interesting is having a close-up look as the nozzle drops the filament layer-by-layer when building the print. Besides being oddly satisfying, following the nozzle from a close range also opens up more about the 3D printing process as a whole. It also gives you a much more interesting perspective when creating 3D printing time-lapse videos.
For this, you’ll need a compact camera with a short focus distance mounted right next to the nozzle. A camera that fits this description may be hard to come by. But if you’re an enthusiastic DIYer, an endoscope and a few LEDs (to illuminate the nozzle) should work just fine.
The nozzle is one of the mechanical parts in your 3D printer that makes it a 3D printer. It comes in different sizes, diameters, and materials allowing you to experiment more and grow your hobby or business. I hope you found this 3D printer nozzle guide helpful.