DIY Spacer Increases FDM Flow Rate For Faster, Better Printing

The host of problems to deal with when you’re feeling the need for FDM speed are many and varied, but high on the list is figuring out how to melt filament fast enough to accommodate high flow rates. Plus, the filament must be melted completely; a melty outside and a crunchy inside might be good for snacks, but not for 3D printing. Luckily, budget-minded hobbyists can build a drop-in booster to increase volumetric flow using only basic tools and materials.

[aamott]’s booster, which started life as a copper screw, is designed to replace the standard spacer in an extruder, with a bore that narrows as the filament gets closer to the nozzle to ensure that the core of the filament melts completely. Rather than a lathe, [aamott]’s main tool is a drill press, which he used to drill a 0.7 mm bore through the screw using a PCB drill bit. The hole was reamed out with a 10° CNC engraving bit, generating the required taper. After cutting off the head of the screw and cleaning up the faces, he cut radial slots into the body of the booster by threading the blade of a jeweler’s saw into the bore. The result was a bore wide enough to accept the filament on one end, narrowing to a (roughly) cross-shaped profile at the other.

Stacked up with a couple of knock-off Bondtech CHT nozzles, the effect of the booster was impressive — a 50% increase in flow rate. It’s not bad for a prototype made with simple tools, and it looks a little easier to build than [Stefan]’s take on the same idea.

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CPU Cooler In A Printer’s Hot End

[Proper Printing] often does unusual 3D printer mods. This time, he’s taking a CPU cooler made for a Raspberry Pi with some heat pipes and converting it into a 3D printer hot end. Sound crazy? It is even crazier than it sounds, as seen in the video below.

Heat pipes contain a liquid and a wick, so bending them was tricky. It also limited the size of the heat break he could use since the two heat pipers were relatively closely spaced. Once you have the cooler reshaped and a threaded hole for the heatbreak, the rest is anticlimactic. The heatbreak holds a heat block that contains the heating element and temperature sensor. A few changes were needed to the custom extruder cut out of acrylic, but that didn’t have anything to do with the fan and mount.

Normally, a hot end assembly has a substantial heat sink, and a fan blows air over it. The heat pipe technique is a common way to move heat away from a tight space. So, the way it is used here is probably not very useful compared to a conventional technique. However, we can imagine tight designs where this would be viable.

Heat pipes aren’t the same as water cooling, even though some use water inside. A heat pipe is a closed system. The fluid boils off at the hot end, condenses at the cool end, and wicks the liquid back to close the cycle. On the other hand, you can use more conventional water cooling, too.

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Looking Inside A 3D Printer Nozzle With Computed Tomography

Have you ever wondered what’s actually going on inside the hotend of your 3D printer? It doesn’t seem like much of a mystery — the filament gets melty, it gets squeezed out by the pressure of the incoming unmelty filament, and lather, rinse, repeat. Or is there perhaps more to the story?

To find out, a team from the University of Stuttgart led by [Marc Kreutzbruck] took the unusual step of putting the business end of a 3D printer into a CT scanner, to get a detailed look at what’s actually going on in there. The test setup consisted of a Bondtech LGX extruder and an E3D V6 hot end mounted to a static frame. There was no need for X-Y-Z motion control during these experiments, but a load cell was added to measure extrusion force. The filament was a bit specialized — high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) mixed with a little bit of tungsten powder added (1% by volume) for better contrast to X-ray. The test system was small enough to be placed inside a micro CT scanner, which generated both 360-degree computed tomography images and 2D radiographs.

The observations made with this experimental setup were pretty eye-opening. The main take-home message is that higher filament speed translates to less contact area between the nozzle wall and the melt, thanks to an air gap between the solid filament and the metal of the nozzle. They also saw an increased tendency for the incoming filament to buckle at high extruder speeds, which matches up with practical experience. Also, filament speed is more determinative of print quality (as measured by extrusion force) than heater temperature is. Although both obviously play a role, they recommend that if higher print speed is needed, the best thing to optimize is hot end geometry, specifically an extended barrel to allow for sufficient melting time.

Earth-shattering stuff? Probably not, but it’s nice to see someone doing a systematic study on this, rather than relying on seat-of-the-pants observations. And the images are pretty cool too.

roetz shows off his multi hot end 3d printer

Maximum Throughput Benchie

Have you ever needed to make a few hundred of something quickly? [Roetz 4.0] has got you covered with his massively parallel entry into the SpeedBoatRace competition.

The idea behind the SpeedBoatRace is how quickly you can print a Benchy — the little boat that is used as a test print for a 3d printer. Speeding up a print is quite tricky as it means moving the head quicker and giving layers less time to deposit and a whole other host of problems. So [Roetz] took a page out of a CPU designer’s playbook, and rather than increasing the latency, he raised the throughput. The original plan was for 20 hot ends, but due to cooling issues, that had to be reduced to 18. Perhaps even more impressive than the scale of the machine is that the only off-the-shelf parts on it are the fans for cooling. Everything else is printed or machined by [Roetz] himself. The whole run was completed in less than an hour, which technically gives him a sub 3.6 minute time per benchy, even accounting for a few that failed.

This isn’t [Roetz’s] first custom 3d printer. He turned a CMM into a 3d printer a while back that offered incredible accuracy across a large build area. Thanks [Jan Roetz] for sending this one in! Video after the break.

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spinning thread extruder

Spinning Threads Put The Bite On Filament In This Novel Extruder Design

When it comes to innovation in FDM 3D printing, there doesn’t seem to be much room left to move the needle. Pretty much everything about filament printing has been reduced to practice, with more or less every assembly available off the shelf. Even the business end — the extruder — is so optimized that there’s not much room left for innovation.

Or is there? The way [David Leitner] sees it, there is, which is why he built this rolling-screw extruder (if you can get to the Thingiverse link, [David] cross-posted on reddit, too). Standard extruders work on the pinch-roller principle, where the relatively soft filament is fed past a spring-loaded gear attached to a stepper motor. The stepper rotates the gear, which either advances the filament into or retracts it from the hot end. [David]’s design instead uses a trio of threaded rods mounted between two rings. The rods are at an angle relative to the central axis of the rings, forming a passage that’s just the right size for the filament to fit in. When the rings spin, the threads on the rods engage with the filament, gripping it around its whole circumference and advancing or retracting it depending on which way it’s spinning. The video below shows it working; we have to admit it’s pretty mesmerizing to watch.

[David] himself admits there’s not much advantage to it, perhaps other than a lower tendency to skip since the force is spread over the entire surface of the filament rather than just a small pinch point. Regardless, we like the kind of thinking that leads to something like this, and we’ll bet there are probably unseen benefits to it. And maybe the extruder actually is a place for innovation after all; witness this modular nozzle swapping system.

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No Filament Needed In This Direct Extrusion 3D-Printer

Ground plastic bits go in one end, finished 3D-prints come out the other. That’s the idea behind [HomoFaciens]’ latest build: a direct-extrusion 3D-printer. And like all of his builds, it’s made from scraps and bits most of us would throw out.

Pellet agitator is part of the extruder. All of this travels along with the print head.

Take the extrusion screw. Like the homemade rotary encoders [HomoFaciens] is known for, it appears at first glance that there’s no way it could work. An early version was just copper wire wrapped around a threaded rod inside a Teflon tube; turned by a stepper motor, the screw did a decent job of forcing finely ground PLA from a hopper into the hot end, itself just a simple aluminum block with holes drilled into it. That worked, albeit only with basically powdered PLA. Later versions of the extruder used a plain galvanized woodscrew soldered to the end of a threaded rod, which worked with chunkier plastic bits. Paddles stir up the granules in the hopper for an even flow into the extruder, and the video below shows impressive results. We also picked up a few tips, like using engine gasket paper and exhaust sealant to insulate a hot end. And the slip coupling, intended to retract the extruder screw slightly to reduce stringing, seems brilliant but needs more work to make it practical.

It’s far from perfect, but given the inputs it’s pretty amazing, and there’s something attractive about reusing all those failed prints. It reminds us a bit of the trash printer we featured recently, which is another way to stick it to the filament man. Continue reading “No Filament Needed In This Direct Extrusion 3D-Printer”

A Better Bowden Drive For Floppy Filaments

You might not think to use the word “rigid” to describe most 3D-printer filaments, but most plastic filaments are actually pretty stiff over a short length, stiff enough to be pushed into an extruder. Try the same thing with a softer plastic like TPE, though, and you might find yourself looking at this modified Bowden drive for elastomeric filaments.

The idea behind the Bowden drive favored by some 3D-printer designers is simple: clamp the filament between a motor-driven wheel and an idler to push it up a pipe into the hot end of the extruder. But with TPE and similar elastomeric filaments, [Tech2C] found that the Bowden drive on his Hypercube printer was causing jams and under-extrusion artifacts in finished prints. A careful analysis of the stock drive showed a few weaknesses, such as how much of the filament is not supported on the output side of the wheel. [Tech2C] reworked the drive to close that gap and also to move the output tube opening closer to the drive. The stock drive wheel was also replaced with a smaller diameter wheel with more aggressive knurling. Bolted to the stepper, the new drive gave remarkably improved results – a TPE vase was almost flawless with the new drive, while the old drive had blobs and artifacts galore. And a retraction test print showed no stringing at all with PLA, meaning the new drive isn’t just good for the soft stuff.

All in all, a great upgrade for this versatile and hackable little printer. We’ve seen the Hypercube before, of course – this bed height probe using SMD resistors as strain gauges connects to the other end of the Bowden drive.

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