For a lot of people, one of the biggest hurdles with 3D printing isn’t cost or quality, it’s time. My interest in 3D printing came from the perspective that it was a tool I could use to ramp up the detail for my props and personal cosplay projects in a passive way; I was not a user with strict deadlines. If I set a “deadline” for an upcoming convention, not finishing a print in time had no real consequence other than disappointment that I didn’t finish it in time. A professional doesn’t have that luxury, and I’ve talked to plenty that use more traditional mediums like clay sculpting, carving, or “kitbashing” to make something, specifically because a 3D printed project may take a week of print time and they only have a couple days, not counting the time it would take them to finish the prints as well. Print time is directly related to nozzle size; enter the Volcano hotend.

By the numbers

Let me start off by explaining what makes a Volcano the right choice for this project, and what are some of the expected problems that can come with it. Printing a statue in pieces with a standard 0.4mm nozzle would take an incredibly long time to print, but with the 1.2mm nozzle, prints take a fraction of the time. With a 1.2mm nozzle, you can achieve 0.9mm layers, and at the scale of this project, 0.9mm layers would be the same as printing a normal sized Phil at 0.05mm layers. With a layer height that large, prints on average are printed 3 times quicker. For reference,  box the full build volume of the Pulse would take 37.5 hours with the standard 0.4mm nozzle, but the Pulse HV can do the same in 12.5 hours.

Filament Consumption

Printing with a 1.2mm nozzle is not for the faint of heart; you can watch as your brand new spool of filament rapidly empties over the span of a couple hours. While printing with a larger nozzle does open up the possibility for printing large, basic parts over the course of several hours, it does mean you will go through filament at an incredible rate. That full size box I mentioned before? That was estimated to take 1.6kg of PLA, a rate of 130g/h. Consider that instead of sticking with a spool designed for a nozzle a third of the size, you should instead be moving up to larger spools to ensure you don’t run out mid print. Ten pound spools can be expected to be the new normal to keep pace with just how much material a 1.2mm nozzle can churn through.

When would I want a bigger nozzle?

All that being said, a larger nozzle isn’t for everyone; if you need fine detail or your prints are small, a large nozzle isn’t made for that. You would be better suited using a Moai or a 0.25mm nozzle for those sort of projects. I would suggest that if you need something that has a tight deadline or takes up most of your build volume or even requires printing in sections and you intend to finish the part anyways, then try out a larger nozzle.

Are print settings any different?

With the Volcano hotend system, the nozzle is longer to give filament more time to melt and the heater cartridge is parallel to the filament path (as opposed to perpendicular like on the v6) to improve the heat transfer from the cartridge to the larger heater block. While this does give the 3D printer the ability to print thicker layers, there are some settings you will need to think about differently with a 1.2mm nozzle than with a 0.4mm nozzle:

  • Printing temperature
    • While the bed temperature won’t need any changes, the nozzle temperature will need to be significantly raised from your usual; usually PLA is printed at about 200°C, but I regularly print PLA at 250°C with a volcano. This is because you are melting a lot more plastic at once and need even more heat to transfer to the filament AND ensure that it sticks to the previous layer. I’ve had even had layers separate at 230°C.
  • Perimeters
    • You don’t need as many perimeters to achieve the same strength, but you also don’t want to have less than 2 perimeters if you can avoid it. One perimeter, while equivalent to three perimeters on a 0.4mm nozzle, you open yourself up to the possibility of gaps between the start and end of the perimeter. With two perimeters, I’ve dropped prints from chest height, had them bounce around the concrete floor, and not even crack.
  • Infill
    • The pattern you use isn’t as important as the density. I use 5% infill for most of my big prints since the walls provide most of the structure;  but this does open up to some regular problems like top solid layers not having enough support to bridge over, leaving gaps in the top surface. At 5% infill, I’ve increased my top layers to 5 to be able to adequately cover each pass and that seems to work well enough. Of course, experiment with different infill percentages but I would suggest not going too high unless you want to print a cinderblock.
    • Also, be sure that your perimeter and infill overlap percentage is set to 0.6 (half of the nozzle size) or 50%
  • Layer Height
    • You could theoretically set the layer height to 0.05mm, but that’s kind of extreme. Normal use for a 1.2mm nozzle is between 0.3mm and 0.9mm layer height (25%-75% the nozzle size). If I’m using a 1.2mm nozzle, I’m almost always printing at 0.9mm because to me, that’s the whole point of it.
  • Speed
    • Speed will need to be significantly slower to make sure the filament has enough time to heat up. With a 0.4mm nozzle I usually keep the speeds around 45mm/s to balance speed and quality, but with a 1.2mm nozzle, 25mm/s is normal.
  • Cooling
    • Printing at a temperature significantly higher than normal means that you want really good cooling to make sure that your corners aren’t curling and that subsequent layers aren’t just melting your part into one big blob.
  • Support
    • Even though your nozzle is bigger, you will probably want to keep the pattern spacing the same because bridging is harder to manage. 3 interface layers works well and as usual an air gap of twice the layer height works well (which means a 1.8mm gap is to be expected).
  • Bed Adhesion
    • Bed adhesion isn’t any different than normal, just make sure to have the proper adhesives, Z offset, and brims to keep your print secured while also being able to remove it when they’re done. Poor adhesion can lead to really big and bad problems, like the Heart of Darkness:

To put this all in perspective, I printed this Master Sword in less than twelve hours using a 0.8mm nozzle and 0.6mm layer height. It doesn’t have a lot of detail, so I could solve the most of this with some bondo and save myself the print time it would have otherwise taken. I’ve also taken on a really big project here: Big Phil. This one part of him is more than one spool of filament, and yet it only took 8 hours to print. I wanted to start a really big evergreen project that we could proudly display at MatterHackers, and a life-size Phil seemed like the perfect idea. We will have more details about that project in the future, so stay tuned.

I hope this has given you some direction in taking a big step towards printing large and fast, but if you’ve already been using a Volcano hotend, I’d love to see what you’ve been creating, so feel free to tag us on social media with your big nozzle prints.

Thanks for reading and happy printing!