What Nozzle Size Should You Use For 3D Printing? (Thin VS Thick)


The extruder is arguably the most important part of a 3D printer. This is where filament is squeezed out onto a print bed to produce a 3D print.

Which Nozzle Size Should I Use?

Nozzle sizes range from the ultra-thin 0.1 millimeter to the thicker 1 millimeter diameter. Thinner diameters offer finer details while thicker diameters offer better print speed. The standard 0.4 millimeter nozzle is suitable for most prints. It is a compromise between speed and detail. It is the nozzle size most printers are shipped with and it can print any material from PLA to polycarbonate. 

If you are looking to create high resolution prints then you want to pick a nozzle with the thinnest diameter. If precision is not important and you are focusing on higher volumes, then a larger diameter nozzle allows you to print faster. 

Also, note that an extruder has a cold end and a hot end. 

The cold end of an extruder is where filament is fed into a 3D printer. It holds the motor and gear that push filament through. It is also fitted with a heat sink that prevents heat creeping up the cold end and melting the filament before it reaches the hot end.

The hot end of an extruder is where filament is melted and extruded. It holds the heater cartridge that melts the filament and a heat sensing thermistor or thermocouple that regulates the temperature in the extruder. The extruder also contains the nozzle which deposits filament and a cooling fan which cools the deposited filament. 

Together these components heat and cool a plastic to produce a 3D printed object. Today, we look at one of the key parts of an extruder, namely the nozzle. How does nozzle size affect print quality and which is the best nozzle size for 3D printing?

Does 3D Printer Nozzle Size Affect Print Quality?

The nozzle controls the extrusion of filament from a 3D printer. The quality of a print is affected by how the nozzle deposits filament. How a nozzle deposits filament is determined by the size of the nozzle and the material from which it is made. A smaller or larger size affects the level of detail in a print while the material the nozzle is made from affects what type of filament can be used with it.

How Nozzle Size Affects Print Quality

Nozzles have two sizes. This the length of the nozzle and the diameter.

  • Nozzle length is the size of the nozzle from tip to end. Average nozzle length ranges from 13 to 50 millimeters. The longer the nozzle the more heat it can transfer which allows your printer to extrude filament faster and increases print speed. 
  • Nozzle diameter is the diameter across. Most printers come with a standard 0.4mm nozzle but diameters range from 0.1 to 1 millimeters. 

The most important setting for controlling print quality is layer height. The layer height determines print speed which in turn determines how detailed your prints come out. The nozzle diameter allows you to control layer height.

A nozzle with a thinner diameter allows you to produce smaller layer heights. The smaller your layer heights, the more detailed your prints are. Source 

We also highly recommend that you check out our post “How Small Can A 3D Printer Print? What You Need To Know!

How Does 3D Printer Nozzle Material Affects Print Quality ?

Nozzles are made from brass, steel or hardened steel.  

Brass

Most printers come with a standard brass nozzle. While they are the cheapest type of nozzle, they also have the shortest lifespan needing replacement within a month if you are printing everyday. 

Brass nozzles have a lower temperature threshold which means they have a narrower range of material they can print. They have a maximum temperature of 300 degrees Celsius so they are limited to filament like PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylon, and TPE. 

Brass nozzles cannot handle harder material like metal-filled or composites as they wear the nozzle out much faster.

Stainless Steel

A stainless steel nozzle gives you a broader range of materials to play with since it has a higher temperature threshold. Stainless steel can print at up to 500 degrees Celsius and can print filament like carbon-fiber, metal and wood-filled. 

Hardened Steel

Hardened steel is suitable for all types of material. It heats up to 500 degrees Celsius, and can last for several years. Be prepared to pay more however, as hardened steel nozzles are the most expensive. 

Assembled

Assembled nozzles are less common than the other three. They are made from a mix of different metals. For example you may get an alloy that combines the thermal conductivity of brass with the improved strength of hardened steel. 

Does 3D Printer Nozzle Size Affect Print Strength ?

Nozzle size determines the layer height and shell thickness of a 3D print. Typically, prints made with smaller layer heights or thicker shells display improved mechanical strength over prints with taller layers or thinner shells. Print strength can be achieved with both a thinner or thicker nozzle diameter by adjusting layer height or shell thickness. 

Nozzle size is not the most significant factor that determines print strength. The most important consideration is the material used. Certain materials will produce stronger prints. 

Polycarbonate for example is considered one of the strongest materials to print with. It has a tensile strength of 47.7 MPa and has a high temperature resistance. It is stronger than ABS which has a tensile strength of 46.4 Mpa with a lower temperature resistance.

PETG is also a strong material. It has a tensile strength of around 50.0 Mpa with a high temperature and chemical resistance. Source

How Do You Choose A 3D Printer Nozzle Size?

Nozzle size should be a factor of the requirements of the print. For example, nozzle size will determine the level of detail that can be attained in a print. The thinner the nozzle diameter the higher the level of precision achievable. 

If however, you are printing high volumes, a thinner diameter nozzle will not be optimal as a thinner size nozzle slows down print speed. Printing with a smaller nozzle gives you greater precision but at the expense of print speed. 

Printing with a 0.2 millimeter diameter nozzle compared to a standard 0.4 millimeter diameter reduces the amount of material extruded. This will decrease print speed and double the time it takes to print.

Also, check out our post on ” Can You Use 2.85mm Filament In A 1.75mm Printer? Does Filament Size Matter?

sherifjallad

I am a very well experienced techie civil engineer who's extensively interested in 3D printing technology and even more captivated by the potential of 3D printing livable structures

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