The ZCatch Nozzle Removal Tool

By on June 19th, 2019 in Hardware

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 The ZCatch nozzle removal tool [Source: Kickstarter]
The ZCatch nozzle removal tool [Source: Kickstarter]

The ZCatch nozzle removal tool should be a tool found in every 3D printer operator’s toolbox.

That is, if they use a filament-based 3D printer with a nozzle / hot end, which turns out to be most of the 3D printers worldwide. Each of these systems employs one or more metal nozzles that forms the thermoplastic deposition from the system.

The issue is that these nozzles have to be occasionally removed and replaced. This happens due to several reasons.

One reason is wear. In many current desktop 3D printers, the nozzle is made from relatively soft brass material. While brass is entirely suitable for use with non-abrasive thermoplastics such as PLA, ABS or others, it is not good for use with many engineering or composite materials.

Composite materials often include high-hardness particulate matter mixed with a binder. These embedded materials could include metal particles, such as steel, glass fibers or even carbon fibers. All of these particle types are much harder than brass and a stream of them through the nozzle gradually wears it out, causing the dimensions to change and printing quality to become less predictable. Nozzles must thus be periodically replaced or exchanged with a high-hardness steel or tungsten nozzle.

Swapping 3D Printer Nozzles

The other reason for swapping nozzles is to obtain a different extrusion diameter. Typical nozzles are 0.4mm in diameter, limiting the extrusion volumes. To obtain a faster, but more coarsely finished print, some operators swap in larger diameter nozzles, such as 0.6, 0.8 or even 1.0mm diameter nozzles.

With all this nozzle swapping taking place, it’s surprising there hasn’t been a proper tool to do so. This is because the process for swapping nozzles is not particularly fun. You must heat up the nozzle to instant-finger-burn levels, then somehow secure the heater block with one wrench, while turning the nozzle itself with a second wrench.

In some machine designs, the heater block is tricky to grab with a wrench due to overhangs and other structural bits. If you don’t secure it, it could rotate and yank off the delicate thermistor wiring and put your machine out of business.

Dangers Of Swapping 3D Printer Nozzles

And you must do all this without burning any of your precious body parts.

A recent incident at our local makerspace showed the magnitude of this issue: someone decided to swap a nozzle on a 3D printer, but evidently did not realize they had to secure the heater block. While the machine was fortunately not damaged, the heater block was badly twisted. No damage occurred, but subsequent machine users were certainly puzzled by unexpected results from a larger diameter nozzle.

 Overview of the ZCatch nozzle removal tool [Source: Kickstarter]
Overview of the ZCatch nozzle removal tool [Source: Kickstarter]

Enter the ZCatch nozzle removal tool. This is a steel tool that, in one mechanism, can grab both the heater block and nozzle, allowing near instant removal and installation of nozzles. And there is virtually no risk of burning any additional fingers.

Here’s how it works:

Nozzle Removal Tool For FDM 3D Printers

Samuel is raising funds for Nozzle Removal Tool For FDM 3D Printers on Kickstarter! This invention is The First Universal Nozzle Removal Tool For FDM 3D Printers

The device is built to adapt to different sizes of heater blocks, and it supports these desktop 3D printers, and likely a lot more that are not yet listed:

 3D printers currently supported by the ZCatch nozzle removal tool [Source: Kickstarter]
3D printers currently supported by the ZCatch nozzle removal tool [Source: Kickstarter]

ZCatch Runs Second Campaign

The device is currently available on a Kickstarter, which seems to be the second time around for the company, who had previously launched the device last year. It seems that campaign was unsuccessful, but we feel this is such a useful device it deserves another try. We’re told that the design has been improved and this time there are additional offerings available, including a cleaning kit, socket sets and more. Behind the scenes, the company has finalized their supply chain and is ready to manufacture and ship many units. The Kickstarter has already exceeded its goal this time around, so the ZCatch team should have more updates once the campaign closes.

If you have a nozzle-equipped 3D printer, you should consider this tool.

Via Kickstarter

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!