More nozzle notes
There are so many nozzle options available today that it can be a bit overwhelming.
These notes are based on my experiences with the Prusa i3 Mk3 printer. If you are using a different printer, please verify the hardware details are same. These pages may be a bit rough as I revise them and add new material. Please check back regularly for updates.
Nozzle materials and coatings¶
Nozzle materials don’t have an immediatelly obvious impact on prints, but they do vary signifcantly in cost.
Brass nozzles are the most common and inexpensive. Brass has good heat transfer characteristics, so moves filament efficiently. Brass is a relatively soft material, so can be worn away when printing abrasive materials such as glow-in-the-dark, carbon fiber or other filled filaments. Brass works well at all sizes, and the nozzles are inexpensive enough to try several sizes without a significant investment. I’ll usually try a plain brass nozzle for experimenting with different settings.
Stainless steel nozzles are really meant for producing food-safe prints, and don’t gain the average user anything. They cost more and don’t provide any benefit.
Nickel-plated copper nozzles have better heat transfer characteristics than plain brass, and the nickel coating is less “sticky”. Sticky materials like PETG are less likely to stick to the nozzle, so may be easier to print with. In my experience, this makes no real difference. Costs are between plain brass and hardened steel. I use nickel-plated copper nozzles for nozzles smaller than 0.40mm.
Hardened steel nozzles are recommended if you want to try metal, wood, carbon fiber or other exotic fills. Hardened steel nozzles don’t transfer heat as well, so you may want to bump print temperatures up slightly. Hardened steel nozzles work fine for everyday printing, so I’ll mount one and use it for any materials. I use hardened steel nozzles for nozzle sizes of 0.40mm and up.
Ruby and other exotics¶
The Olssen Ruby nozzle is designed for printing exotic, high-temperature materials. While it can be used for printing other materials, it is an expensive way to do so. The ruby itself can be fragile. With the high cost, you’ll also be limited in the number of nozzles you can try. Hardened steel is as good an alternative in most hobbyist 3D printing situations.
Notes on coated nozzles.
There’s a vocal contingent claiming that the cheapest nozzles are good enough, and that at the price, you can just replace cheap nozzles for a fraction of the price of better quality nozzles. Ignore this advice. It doesn’t take into account that a failing nozzle can ruin an all-day print that ate up most of an expensive spool of filament. Saving $5-10 on a nozzle can easily cost you $40 worth of expensive filament and hours of lost time. The nozzle is your paintbrush. Spend a couple of bucks extra to get the most out of the expensive printer you bought. Unless you like making art with crayons, of course.
If you want good nozzles for everyday non-abrasive filament, pay the premium for E3D or slightly less for P3-D. I like the nickel-plated copper E3D or P3-D Apollo series for everyday use. They have excellent thermal characteristics, and the coating helps somewhat with filament grabbing onto the nozzle mid-print. P3-D offers a 1.00mm size not available from E3D.
For abrasive materials, P3-D’s Hercules are my go-to coated hardened nozzles now. They have the same relatively-meager thermal characteristics of other hardened steel, but they’re a bit cheaper and coated.
The E3D Nozzle-X is great, but overkill. It’s a real benefit if you need very high printing temps in a hardened nozzle. The coating is nice, but Nozzle-X doesn’t offer any better thermal characteristics than normal hardened steel. For PLA and PETG and most consumer materials, it doesn’t gain you much. (I bought 2 before I realized this.)
The ruby is considered a dud by many. Do you own research, but I am able to buy a stable of good hardened nozzles from P3-D for that same price.
If you really need to economize with basic brass nozzles, go for the TriangleLabs clones off AliExpress. They’re actually cut to E3D dimensions. Avoid the dirt-cheap craptastic nozzles. They don’t match the original dimensions at all. There are reasons nozzles are shaped the way they are. I’ve seen many reports of the clone brass nozzles shearing off, particularly at higher temps. They’re OK as an emergency backup and some testing to see if you like a particular size, but I always pop for a quality nozzle once I decide on a size to use.
I find the following selection from E3D or P3-D a good choice.
- For detail work:
- 0.25mm nickel plated copper
- 0.35mm nickel plated copper
- For functional parts:
- 0.40mm hardened steel
- 0.60mm hardened steel
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