Desktop 3D printer manufacturer Airwolf3D announced a new option for their AXIOM and AXIOMe 3D printers: direct drive.
Previously, the well-regarded AXIOM machine employed a Bowden-style extruder, where the filament was pushed through a tube towards the hot end. This approach relieves the moving part of the system from the weight of the extruder motor, but adds some challenges with certain types of materials.
The direct drive approach involves placing the extruder motor adjacent to the hot end, making the “push distance” very short.
The major issue with the Bowden approach, for certain users, is its difficulty in 3D printing flexible materials. The problem is that you can push a flexible filament a short distance (as in the direct drive approach) but when you make the filament much longer (as in the Bowden approach) it simply bends instead of moving forward. It’s like pushing a wet spaghetti noodle – you can’t easily do it.
Another less noticeable problem with Bowden extruders is that they are sometimes challenged by prints requiring significant and repeated retraction movements, which are more difficult to accomplish over the long length of the Bowden tube.
Some materials vendors have approached this problem by introducing flexible materials that aren’t quite so flexy, making it just barely able to be used by Bowden equipment. But if you require a more flexy object, you’re out of luck unless you have a direct drive.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, and you’ll find desktop 3D printers use either system.
Until now. Airwolf3D’s announcement revealed an optional upgrade for their existing AXIOM systems that converts it from Bowden to Direct style. You can also order a new AXIOM with the direct drive already installed.
I find this quite interesting because, perhaps for the first time ever, you can order a specific model with EITHER drive method. I’m not sure any other commercial vendor can do this.
This leaves the buyer with a bit more choice than previously had You must ask the question: will I be 3D printing flexible filament? If so, then you can choose the AXIOM. Without this choice, you might have had to select another vendor’s product, and I’m sure Airwolf3D wouldn’t like that. With this announcement, they’ve probably enabled many more potential customers.
The new direct drive is available for Airwolf3D’s AXIOM DUAL, AXIOM and AXIOMe systems for a USD$200 premium over their standard pricing.