Nozzle the 3D printer heart and everything you should know about it

The 3d printer extruder and 3d printer nozzle are crucial components of a 3D printer. You should know as much as possible about them. Here’s a set of the most important information.

3D printer extruder

The extruder is the 3D printer’s heart. Its main role is to squeeze the filament into the print head. The filament is the material used for 3D printing. It’s a spool of thermoplastic material, such as ABS or PLA. There are two types of extruders: Wade extruders and Bowden extruders. In the latter the head is separated from the drive mechanism and the filament flows from the drive mechanism to the head through a tube connecting both elements. The more popular design, however, is the Wade extruder.

How is the Wade extruder built?

Its drive mechanism is mounted on the block and print head. In this case the extruder is driven by a stepper motor with a gear. This gear works with another, much larger one, which is connected to a thumbscrew. Such a design makes it possible to transfer the momentum of the engine to the bolt.

Nozzle Zortrax M200
Image: 3D printer extruder with nozzle

The bolt is hobbed so that the filament can be placed upon it. The filament is pressed by a bearing. Thanks to this design the filament is pressed into the head with proper force. Inside the head, the material is melted. The extruder’s second job is retraction, that is, pulling the filament from the head. This is to prevent the material from flowing out of the nozzle when it’s moving. Without retraction there would be ugly strands of filament between the 3D printed elements.

Which 3D printer nozzle to select?

The melted material flows out (or more precisely: is squeezed out) through the nozzle, which is the tip of the extruder and the printer itself. Nozzles have various diameters, depending on their intended application. For example, a larger nozzle is useful, if the model needs to be ready quicker. The layer of material coming out of the 3d printer nozzle will be thicker and thus there fewer layers will be needed. Thicker layers also have a larger surface area to be able stick to the filament applied beforehand.

What’s also important is that when the printing is shorter, there is less likelihood of something going wrong during the process. But sometimes smaller diameter nozzles are necessary. This is because a thinner layer of material allows for better details in the model. Therefore, if you want to print quicker and with less hassle, pick a thicker nozzle. But if you value precision, a narrow nozzle is the right choice for you.

How to clean the 3d printer nozzle?

Unfortunately, nozzles often get clogged and the filament no longer comes out, even though the head is heated well enough. This is usually due to impurities finding their way into the extruder. Fortunately, this is not a problematic malfunction and it’s easy to remove.

If you have Zortrax M200 / Zortrax M300 3D printer, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Turn on the 3D printer . From the menu choose “Material” and then “Unload the material” option. The extruder should start to heat up automatically. Once the extruder is hot, the motor will start to unload the material.
  2. Take the spatula from the Starter Kit and gently scrub the material remains from the nozzle.
  3. Unscrew the nozzle counterclockwise (when viewed from below). Use the nozzle key from the Starter Kit box. Removing the nozzle should take place while the extruder is still hot. When the nozzle is loose, take it out using pliers.
  4. Turn off the 3D printer and unplug the power cable. Wait about 15 minutes and let the machine cool down.
  5. If you were printing with Z‑GLASS / Z‑PETG / Z‑PCABS / Z-ESD, print a small-sized object using Z‑ABS. This will help to extrude Z‑GLASS / Z‑PETG / Z‑PCABS / Z-ESD remains from the nozzle. Using the pliers, place the nozzle in a container filled with acetone. MAKE SURE THAT THE NOZZLE IS COLD BEFORE PUTTING IT INTO THE CONTAINER.
  6. After 8-10 hours take the 3d printer nozzle out of the container with pliers.
  7. Install the nozzle in its place in the hotend and screw it clockwise using the nozzle key (when viewed from below).

Full procedure: Nozzle Cleaning