3D Printer Nozzle Guide: Sizes, Materials, and Types

Mario De Lio

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A brass, stainless steel, and hardend steel 3d printer nozzle

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Nozzle selection impacts print quality and efficiency.
  • The size and material of nozzles influence your printing experience.
  • Regular maintenance and upgrades ensure nozzle durability and performance.

3D printer nozzles play a crucial role in the quality and efficiency of your prints. Nozzles are small but essential components that determine the flow of molten filament.

Smaller nozzles have a higher precision but longer print times; larger nozzle diameters print faster but less accurately.

Selecting the correct nozzle size and material can significantly improve your 3D printing experience.

Upgrading and maintaining your nozzle should also be considered for optimal performance and to extend lifespan.

Importance of the 3D Printer Nozzle

Close up of the hot end and nozzle on an anycubic vyper 3d printer

Your 3D printer nozzle is part of the machine that extrudes filament onto your model. The thermal energy provided by the heat block melts the filament so that it flows freely through the nozzle.

Your nozzle size and material are essential to the quality and speed of your print.

The size of the 3D printer nozzle influences the print’s speed and details, while the material of the nozzle affects its durability and compatibility with different filaments.

The Impact of Nozzle Size

The size of your 3D printer nozzle is crucial in determining the quality and detail of your final print.

There are two components to nozzle size: length and diameter.

Nozzle Length

The nozzle length is how long the part is from end to end. Longer nozzles provide better thermal conduction, allowing higher flow rates, faster printing, and more consistent extrusion.

There are three standard nozzle sizes:

There are three different types of nozzle sizes:

  • Standard: Standard nozzles are the most common type of 3D printer nozzle on the market. Standard nozzles are 12 to 13mm long and compatible with MK8 and V6 extruders.
  • Volcano: Volcano hot ends are designed to print at higher speeds and temperatures. A volcano hot end uses a 21mm long nozzle.
  • SuperVolcano: SuperVolcano hotends are designed to reach insane temperatures of up to 500°C. You’ll rarely find a SuperVolcano extruder on a stock 3D printer. The nozzle size is 50mm in length, with a heater cartridge rated for 80W. 

Nozzle Diameter

A small diameter nozzle beside a large diameter nozzle

The standard nozzle diameter is 0.4mm, which offers a good balance between print speed and precision.

A 0.4mm nozzle is found in nearly every 3D printer as it is the industry standard bore diameter.

However, other nozzle sizes are available, ranging from 0.1mm, which is the smallest, to larger nozzles, like 0.8 mm, 1.2 mm, and 1.4 mm.

Smaller nozzle sizes (0.1mm, 0.2mm, and 0.3mm) allow you to achieve higher levels of detail and precision in your prints. The smaller layer heights created by small nozzle diameters create smoother surfaces and intricate details. However, printing with a small nozzle takes longer to complete.

Small nozzle diameters are also more prone to clogging, leading to print defects.

Larger nozzle sizes (0.6mm, 0.8mm, or even 1.2mm) enable shorter print times as more material is extruded with each pass. Larger nozzle diameters benefit larger prints that don’t contain intricate details. However, larger nozzles sacrifice resolution, and fine details aren’t as pronounced as smaller ones.

Brass 3d printing nozzles of different diameters

To summarize the impact of different nozzle sizes:

  • 0.4mm nozzle: This is the standard size used by most 3D printers, offering a good balance between print speed and precision.
  • Smaller nozzles (0.1mm – 0.4mm): Best for detailed and intricate prints but take longer to complete and are more prone to clogging.
  • Larger nozzles (0.6mm – 1.2mm): Ideal for faster prints and printing in bulk, but fine details are sacrificed.

Choosing the right nozzle size for your 3D printing project depends on your priorities. A smaller nozzle is the best choice for creating high-resolution, detailed objects.

However, bigger nozzle sizes are better for fast prints that don’t have a high level of detail. Regardless of your nozzle size, always ensure that the nozzle you use is compatible with your 3D printing machine and its extruder system.

It’s important to note that the bore diameter limits your layer height. You should not exceed a layer height of over 80% of the nozzle diameter.

For example, the maximum recommended layer height when using a 0.4mm nozzle is 0.32mm. 

Similarly, the minimum layer height should be no less than 25% of the nozzle diameter.

When printing with a 0.4mm nozzle, the minimum layer height you can use is 0.1mm.

Choosing the Right Nozzle Material

3D printing nozzles come in a range of materials with different performance characteristics.

This section covers common nozzle types to help you select the best material for your needs.

Brass

a brass 3d printer nozzle

Brass nozzles are the most popular material for budget-level 3D printers. Brass nozzles are affordable and work well with common filament types like PLA, ABS, and PETG.

The bass provides excellent heat transfer, but it’s a softer metal that wears down quickly when printing with abrasive filaments like wood-fill or metal-filled filaments.

Some manufacturers coat the inside of brass nozzles with nickel or chrome to reduce friction with filament and lower the nozzle’s wear. 

  • Max temperature: 300°C
  • Compatible filaments: Non-abrasive PLA, ABS, PETG, nylon, and TPU.
  • Advantages: Low cost and high thermal conductivity.
  • Disadvantages: Wears quickly and is not suitable for use with abrasive materials.

Stainless Steel

a stainless steel 3d printer nozzle

Stainless steel nozzles are a step up from brass, offering greater durability and resistance to wear and tear. Stainless steel is more durable and can be used with standard and slightly abrasive filaments.

Unlike brass nozzles, stainless steel is better for printing food-grade materials because it doesn’t contaminate the molten filament. 

While they will last longer than brass nozzles, we don’t recommend using stainless steel nozzles with highly abrasive filaments. They’re also not as thermally conductive as brass nozzles.

  • Max temperature: 500°C
  • Compatible filaments: Non-abrasive PLA, ABS, PETG, nylon, TPU, glow-in-the-dark, and food-safe materials.
  • Advantages: Can be used with food-safe filaments.
  • Disadvantages: Lower thermal conductivity than brass and unsuitable for abrasive filaments.

Hardened Steel

a hardened steel 3d printing nozzle

Hardened steel nozzles are durable and can withstand abrasive filaments without significant wear. Hardened steel is the best choice when printing with abrasive filaments.

Hardened steel nozzles are inexpensive. We often recommend upgrading to a hardened steel nozzle right away, as they last longer and don’t clog as often as brass or stainless steel.

However, hardened steel nozzles have a lower thermal conductivity than brass and stainless steel. It takes longer for hardened steel nozzles to reach printing temperatures, but they can be used with all filament types.

  • Max temperature: 500°C
  • Compatible filaments: All filament materials.
  • Advantages: Highly durable and wear-resistant, making it suitable for abrasive materials.
  • Disadvantages: Low thermal conductivity and more expensive than brass. Slightly lower print quality.

Assembled Nozzles

Assembled nozzles combine multiple materials to achieve a balance between durability and performance. For improved heat transfer, many assembled nozzles consist of a wear-resistant tip, like hardened steel or ruby, combined with a conductive material, such as brass or stainless steel.

Assembled nozzles are suitable for various filaments, including abrasive materials.

  • Max temperature: High temperatures. But varies based on the assembled components.
  • Compatible filaments: All filament materials.
  • Advantages: Advantages depend upon the materials assembled.
  • Disadvantages: Disadvantages depend upon the materials assembled.

Ruby Nozzles

An Olsen Ruby tipped 3d printing nozzle
(Source: u/DizzySoftware via Reddit)

Ruby nozzles come with a synthetic ruby tip. Ruby printing nozzles are one of the most durable options for printing with abrasive filaments.

The ruby tip provides excellent heat conductivity while also minimizing wear from abrasives. Ruby nozzles are a premium choice for various filament types, including wood-fill, metal-filled, and carbon fiber-infused materials.

Price is the biggest downside, at around $90 per nozzle.

  • Max temperature: Up to 500°C
  • Compatible filaments: All filament materials.
  • Advantages: High wear resistance, thermal conductivity, and high temperatures.
  • Disadvantages: High cost.

How to Upgrade Your Nozzle

Upgrading your 3D printer nozzle can provide enhanced print quality, faster printing, higher, less clogging, and improved wear resistance.

You’ll need a few tools to upgrade your nozzle – typically a crescent wrench or two. One is to grip the heater block, and another is to hold the nozzle.

Before you start, it’s essential to ensure your 3D printer is turned off and the hot end has cooled.

Once it’s safe to proceed, remove the cover and use the wrenches to grip the heater block and the nozzle, turning the nozzle counterclockwise to remove it. Replace it with your new nozzle, screwing it clockwise until snug and tight. But be careful not to overtighten it, as it could strip the threads and damage the heat block.

And that’s all it takes to upgrade your nozzle.

Essential Nozzle Maintenance

Using a small pin to clean the clogged nozzle of a 3d printer

Taking good care of your 3D printer nozzle is crucial for maintaining high-quality prints and a smooth printing experience. The nozzle is a vital component of your printer’s hotend, and regular maintenance helps extend its life and keeps your prints looking their best.

Simple cleaning and maintenance steps can help prevent clogs and minimize wear and tear on the hot end.

First, always ensure that your printer’s extruder and hotend are clean and free from debris or filament residue. A clean and well-maintained hotend will ensure that your extruder nozzle remains clog-free.

You can use a soft brass wire brush to gently clean the nozzle without damaging its surface.

When you notice under-extrusion or a sudden loss in print quality, cleaning your nozzle is a good idea. I recommend performing a cold pull to remove debris, but you can also use a small pin or wire brush to clean the inside of the nozzle carefully.

By regularly maintaining your 3D printer and cleaning the nozzle, hotend, and extruder, you’ll ensure a reliable and consistent printing experience.

If you continue to notice print issues after cleaning the nozzle, it might be time to get a replacement part.

When to Change Your 3D Printer’s Nozzle

If you use a brass nozzle and only print once or twice a week, you can expect it to last between 3 and 6 months. However, if your printer runs continuously, you may need to replace a brass nozzle every month or two.

Upgraded nozzles like stainless steel, hardened steel, and ruby-tipped nozzles have longer lifespans, making them suitable for more frequent use and printing with abrasive filaments.

Pay close attention to the quality of your prints. Sudden print defects like gaps, holes, and stringing are common signs of a nozzle that require replacement.

Lastly, don’t forget about regular 3D printer maintenance. Cleaning your nozzle and keeping it free of debris can prolong its life and help you avoid unexpected issues.

Article by

Mario De Lio

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