Add a High Temperature Extruder to Your Desktop 3D Printer

By on July 13th, 2017 in Hardware

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 The I3D Innovation extruder, part of their high performance extrusion system
The I3D Innovation extruder, part of their high performance extrusion system

France-based I3D Innovation has launched a high temperature extrusion system for desktop 3D printers. 

Many desktop 3D printers are capable of user-initiated upgrades, including the extruder itself. For some models, this is a routine practice as stock equipment may fall short of expectations. In fact, several companies now make a decent profit providing third party extruder and hotend upgrades for existing equipment. 

These suppliers thrive because their equipment tends to be more reliable than stock components, and reliability is the name of the game in today’s world of desktop 3D printing. Early devices had ridiculous failure rates, usually due to extruder or print bed issues. Now those have been solved by most manufacturers, and many smaller 3D print vendors now use third party extruders and hot ends directly rather than developing them in house. 

But now there’s a new player in this game, I3D Innovations, who have launchd a Kickstarter campaign for their new extrusion system. It’s said to be “Reliable and high-speed”, and can hit an astonishing 480C, far higher than most hotends. 

 The I3D Innovation hot end, part of their high performance extrusion system
The I3D Innovation hot end, part of their high performance extrusion system

Designed for 1.75mm filament, the unnamed extrusion system is all metal, as one might expect for a system hitting 480C. 

The system can deliver 120g per hour and can print at quite high speeds. In their video below you will see the system printing at 300mm/second, far faster than the typical 60mm/second on other machines. Of course, the 3D model they are printing in the video has a simplified geometry, so more testing would be required to validate the true speed potential of this system. 

Ultra High Performance 3D FDM Printing System

I3D innovation is raising funds for Ultra High Performance 3D FDM Printing System on Kickstarter! Reliable and high-speed extruder, 480 ° C print head capability, compatible with all 3D printers.

One problem often enountered with high temperature systems is cooling. While the hotend must maintain the peak heat, you don’t want that heat leaking upward into the rest of the extrusion system where it may cause material to prematurely soften and cause a jam. 

 The I3D Innovation cooling block, an optional part of their high performance extrusion system
The I3D Innovation cooling block, an optional part of their high performance extrusion system

I3D Innovation offers an optional water-cooling block that can be attached to the extruder. As they explain, the temperature is so high that fan-based approaches are simply not viable here, whereas they may work for machines at lower temperatures. 

Part of their print speed is obtained through the use of a very long heating zone, 30 or 50mm in length, depending on which model you choose. This provides more time for rapidly moving plastic to soften as it moves through the system. In systems with shorter heat zones, rapidly moving material is not exposed to the heat long enough for sufficient softening to occur. 

The high heat of this extruder will permit 3D printing of many more materials, including PEEK, ULTEM and others. However, it is not as simple as replacing your current extrusion system with I3D Innovation’s. 

You will also need to ensure your build chamber is fully enclosed, as it should be heated to very high temperatures (perhaps even as high as 200C) to ensure the engineering plastics do not warp during printing. 

If you do heat your build chamber this high, then you must consider other components within that heat zone. Belts, for example, may soften at such temperatures. An all-metal build chamber is probably in order for this situation. 

You may also want to upgrade your build surface. It must be heated to at least 100C to attempt printing exotic materials, and perhaps should be made of a material providing sufficient – but not too much – adhesion for the material being printed. 

So this is not an upgrade for everyone, unless you’re simply looking for the speed upgrade for use with lower temperature materials like PLA and ABS. 

Instead, I suspect this component may be of greater interest to 3D printer manufacturers looking for a way to upgrade their printer offerings to include a high temperature machine. I can imagine a deal between I3D Innovations and a printer manufacturer to include the high temperature extrusion system as an option for equipment. 

Meanwhile, if you’d like to experiment with a high temperature extrusion system, I3D Innovations is offering early access at only €75 (USD$) for a kit. 

Via Kickstarter and I3D Innovations

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!