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All Metal Hotends - Out with the Old, In with the New

Desktop 3D printing has come a long way in the past few years. It wasn’t long ago that PLA and ABS were pretty much the only filament options. PEEK-based hot ends – once the industry norm – aren’t able to print all the material options available now. Unleash the potential of your printer by upgrading to an all-metal hot end.
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3D printer hardware has come a long way over the past few years. With these advances has come the ability to print new materials. While all of the filaments we use in 3D printing are thermoplastics, they have widely varying processing requirements. Until recently, by far the most common hot ends found on 3D printers have been PEEK/PTFE based hardware like the Budaschnozzle and J-Head. Though different, these two hot ends are fundamentally the same.

'PEEK' Hot end

 


Filament travels through a low friction PTFE tube into a melt zone (typically aluminum or stainless) and then through the nozzle.

For ABS, this worked fine. PLA, for the most part, was also easy. PLA is prone to thermal creep, and some hot ends can struggle with that, but for the most part, PEEK based hot ends work well for the materials they are able to print.

Unfortunately, both PEEK and PTFE begin to breakdown at temperatures above 240°C.  Get them above 250°C for too long and you’ll be treated to noxious fumes and a blackened mess.

The introduction of all-metal hot ends to desktop 3D printers introduced a wide range of materials that were not possible to print with PEEK/PTFE hot ends.

All-metal hot ends do not have PEEK or PTFE in or near the melt zone – only metals like aluminum and stainless steel. These metals are able to withstand much higher temperatures than PEEK or PTFE, so extrusion temperatures are no longer limited by the maximum operating temperature of PEEK and PTFE.

To be clear, all-metal hot ends aren’t, necessarily, “all metal”.  The E3D v6, for example, uses a PTFE tube that feeds into a stainless steel heat break. The PTFE tube, however, is never exposed to temperatures above ambient temperature.

'All-metal' Hot end (E3D)

 


Now that you have a basic understanding of the hardware, here are the top 3 reasons you should consider upgrading your 3D printer to an all-metal hot end:

Top 3 reasons to upgrading your 3D printer to an all-metal hot end

1)      Print with any material available

Sure, there are some great filaments that extrude at temperatures below 240°C, but the strongest, and most durable filaments currently available – like Nylon, PET+, Tritan, and Polycarbonate - all print above 240°C.

2)      Cleaner prints

All-metal hot ends have active cooling in order to isolate the melt zone. A smaller, more controlled melt zone provides cleaner retractions and less oozing for better print quality. Who doesn’t want cleaner prints?

3)      Easy maintenance

Fewer parts and connection points make jams less likely and much easier to clear.
There are also a wide range of nozzle diameters – from .25mm to 1.2mm – and they are very easy to change out. Many PEEK hot ends were simply not designed to be changed or adjusted.

We offer a few different all-metal hot end options, so check out our hot end section, and let us know if you have any questions.

Happy Printing!