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When working with new FDM printers, it can be easy not to put much thought into the type of nozzle we’re working with and just use what comes out of the box. However, the type of nozzles available can be specifically tailored to work with various materials which can lead to better extrusion and longer-lifespans.
Some Qualities worth looking out for in 3D printing nozzles include high thermal conductivity, low coefficients of friction, wear resistance (against abrasion), and accurate nozzle hole sizing. Having a high thermal conductivity allows heat to easily transfer and flow in the material and creates even heating of the thermoplastics. Low coefficients of friction in a nozzle material creates the least amount of resistance against the flow of the material, preventing clogs and allowing even flow. Wear/abrasion resistance is exactly what it sounds like, and is the property of the material that determines how a material is worn down by abrasives (such as filled filaments). Lastly, accurate nozzle hole size ensures that there is proper communication between the slicing program used to control extrusion and the actual capacity of the nozzle.
For Non-Abrasive Thermoplastic Filaments:
Brass nozzles are the typical go-to nozzle head type for 3D printing. They are high performance with non-abrasive filaments such as PLA, ABS, PET, and other unfilled thermoplastics. However, these are not very resistant to abrasive fillers and composites and may wear out quickly if used with them frequently. Brass nozzles also have a high thermal conductivity.
For Moderately Abrasive Filaments:
Moderately abrasive filaments require some higher tolerance for abrasion, but do not necessarily need highest grade nozzle materials (although printing non-abrasives with abrasion resistant nozzles will not have any negative effect). An excellent material for moderately abrasive filaments is hardened steel. Although it is great for wear resistance, its thermal properties are not as good as others and may require compensation based on the way the material extrudes on your printer.
(Hardened Steel Nozzle)
For Highly Abrasive Filaments:
3D printing with highly abrasive filaments can produce great, unique and useful results. However, the trouble comes when these materials wear down the 3D printing gear. Two options for highly abrasion-resistant nozzle materials include ruby nozzles and tungsten carbide nozzles. Ruby nozzles are made with a brass body and ruby press fit tip, and can last through many abrasive prints. However, the ruby tip must be carefully monitored so that it does not chip or break due to “crashes” with the print-bed.
Alternatively, tungsten carbide nozzles are known to be the toughest nozzles in the industry, and can last through many tough prints. These are meant to last throughout the lifespan of their corresponding machines and have excellent thermal conductivity as well.
(Tungsten Carbide Nozzle)