Sept. 27, 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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