Improving the quality of a 3D print is mostly about skill and experience. The more skilled and experienced you are, the more capable you will be at designing better models, choosing the right materials and selecting the best printer settings.
While skill and experience are important, so too is the equipment you use. One piece of equipment on a 3D printer that does not get enough attention is the nozzle. This is a potentially huge oversight as the condition of the nozzle can mean the difference between a perfect print or a ruined one.
Today, we want to explore this simple but very important part of a 3D printer. Relatively speaking a nozzle has a short lifespan compared to most of the other parts on a printer. But exactly how long does it last before you need to replace it? And how do you clean and maintain a printer nozzle?
How Often Do 3D Printer Nozzles Need To Be Replaced?
3D printer nozzles last between 3 months to a year or more. The lifespan depends on the material the nozzle is made from and how frequently the printer is used. A nozzle made from steel will last up to a year while a brass nozzle may need replacement within 3 months. Also, a nozzle that is used more frequently will wear out quicker and need replacement sooner.
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- How Often Do 3D Printer Nozzles Need To Be Replaced?
- What Determines Speed and Quality of 3d Printing Nozzles?
- How Do You Know If A 3D Printer Nozzle Needs To Be Replaced?
- How Often Should You Clean A 3D Printer Nozzle?
- How Long Does A 3D Print Last?
What Determines Speed and Quality of 3d Printing Nozzles?
Nozzles are the point at which filament from a 3D printer is extruded. Nozzles have three main characteristics which determine the speed and quality of a 3D print. These are size, diameter and material.
Size is the mass and length of the nozzle. A bigger nozzle transfers more heat to the filament. This allows it to melt and extrude filament faster. If it is speed you are looking for then you want to pick a bigger nozzle.
|NOZZLE||AVERAGE LENGTH (MM)|
Nozzle diameter ranges from 0.1mm up to 1mm. Most 3D printers use a standard 0.4mm nozzle.
The inner diameter of the nozzle gives you control over the flow of the printer as well as the layer and wall thickness of your models. A thinner diameter will allow you to create models with thinner layers. If it is more detail you want in your prints then you need a nozzle with a thinner diameter.
For more on this, we highly recommend that you check out our post ” What Nozzle Size Should You Use For 3D Printing? (Thin VS Thick)“
Nozzles are made from different types of metal. The most common are made from brass, steel or hardened steel.
Brass nozzles are the cheapest but they wear out the quickest. A brass nozzle that is used infrequently, for example at most twice a week will last between 3 to 6 months before it needs to be replaced. If the printer is used everyday, it will likely need replacing within a month.
Brass is a soft metal so trying to print hard materials like carbon fiber or metal-filled filaments will quickly erode the nozzle. You want to steer clear of abrasive materials when working with a brass nozzle.
A stainless steel nozzle will last up to a year or longer depending on the frequency of use. Stainless steel is more abrasion resistant than brass.
Plastics also stick a little less so steel nozzles are easier to clean. They also don’t contaminate your prints with lead which makes them food safe. They have a wider range of materials they can be used with but they have a lower thermal conductivity compared to brass.
Hardened steel is the most abrasion resistant of all three nozzles. It is also the most expensive. A hardened steel nozzle can last for several years depending on how often you print and what type of materials are being printed.
They do, however, take longer to heat up as they have the lowest thermal conductivity of all three. They’re also thought to produce lower quality prints as they have a rougher internal surface. Source
|NOZZLE MATERIAL TYPE||MAX HEATING TEMPERATURE ° C||USE WITH|
|Brass||300||PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylon, and TPE|
|Stainless steel||500||Nylon, carbon fiber, glow-in-the-dark, metal-filled, wood-filled, and ceramic-filled.|
|Hardened steel||500||All materials.|
How Do You Know If A 3D Printer Nozzle Needs To Be Replaced?
The clearest indication that a nozzle is worn out and needs replacing is the quality of the prints it produces. If the quality of the prints has declined, it is highly likely the nozzle is at fault. Other signs of a bad nozzle are if the diameter has increased or if there is visible deterioration on the nozzle.
The first sign will usually be the quality of your prints. If they are not as good as they once were, that’s a red flag. Bearing in mind what material the nozzle is made from and how often you’re printing you will want to check your nozzle for signs of wear either after a month or two for brass or every six months for steel nozzles.
You want to check for visible signs of deterioration. Measure the diameter to see if it has increased. Check to see if the tip of the nozzle has rounded. A new nozzle should have a sharp tip.
Extrusion testing your nozzle
One way to check for damage or abrasion on your nozzle is through an extrusion test. Simply pull your print head to the side and let it extrude. The plastic should extrude straight down if your nozzle is in good condition.
We also highly recommend that you check out our post ” Is Your 3D Printer Nozzle Worn Out? Sign, Impact, Causes & How To Clean It“
How Often Should You Clean A 3D Printer Nozzle?
During extrusion, a nozzle can get clogged as plastic sticks to the inner surface. This can cause issues such as under-extrusion or print blobs which will affect flow rates and the overall quality of the print. The nozzle should be cleaned when prints are turning out badly or if it shows visible signs of clogging.
Other signs that your nozzle is clogged and needs cleaning include:
- Plastic is not flowing or it is flowing slowly or inconsistently.
- Some layers in your prints are missing.
- Dirt sticking to the nozzle.
- How to clean a 3D printer nozzle
The easiest fix for a dirty nozzle is a wipe down with a damp cloth while the nozzle is hot. This should clear any dirt stuck to the outside of the nozzle. The inside of the nozzle can be cleaned with a needle or through a cold pull.
Cleaning the interior with a needle or wire is the simplest way to unclog the nozzle from any filament that may be stuck inside. The cold pull method involves heating a high temperature filament like nylon inside the nozzle. Then you let it cool before you pull the nylon and the obstruction stuck to it out.
We also highly recommend that you check our post Why Does Your 3D Printer Keep Clogging? Potential Reasons Listed!“
How Long Does A 3D Print Last?
A 3D print can last anywhere from 6 months to years depending on what material it is made from. Materials vary in strength, flexibility and durability. Although PLA is the most popular printing material, it is not as strong as ABS or nylon for example.
You can expect your 3D printed part to have the characteristics of the material it is made with. Nylon is stronger than either PLA or ABS. This means it is more impact resistant and durable. You can therefore expect a part made from nylon to have a longer lifespan.
For more on this, you can check out our post How Fragile Are Printers & Prints? Do They Easily Break! (Contributing Factors)