At Rapid last week we came across a very intriguing piece of hardware from Heatron.
Heatron is a Kansas-based company that specializes in industrial heating elements; they do not make 3D printers in any way. But they’re very interested in them after observing typical heating approaches.
And those typical approaches involve a metal heating block where the nozzle is attached for plastic extrusion. The heat is usually provided by a cylindrical stock cartridge heating element that is inserted into a matching hole in the block.
This image shows roughly how that works. If you look closely, you can see a cylindrical artifact on the right that is in fact the heating element that’s inserted into the block.
The problem, according to Heatron, is that the heat radiates from the heating element and is not focused on the nozzle, where the heat is actually required. The nozzle is heated as a side effect of the off-to-the-side heater.
But how does Heatron think it should be done? Check out one of their heating elements shown at top. As you can plainly see, it is actually a surface-mounted circular element that is adjacent to the nozzle.
And its heat should warm the nozzle in an entirely uniform manner, unlike the typical heating approach. Here you can see a diagram of how this works. Note the red “hot spots”.
This infrared scan shows how the heat is distributed in hot ends equipped with the Heatron device as well as a typical hot end. Note that the heated volume is less with the Heatron equipment.
There are several advantages to this approach, not the least of which is that the nozzle will be uniformly heated. Another advantage is that it is heated more precisely as there is less distance for heat to travel through the block. As well, it’s likely the heater requires less energy as the heat is closer to the nozzle.
Heatron also claims their heater will last longer: they’ve performed tests running the heat up and down continuously for up to 3,000 hours straight, far more than you’d experience if actually using the device for 3D printing operations.
What’s this thing called, we asked. Heatron doesn’t really have a fancy product name for it, but prefers to call it a “thick film nozzle heater”. I’m thinking they need a brand to assist their entry to the 3D printing market, like the “Heatron Ring” or something like that.
What’s the price of this? It all depends on the situation. Their customers are actually 3D printer manufacturers, each of which would negotiate a price for the specific style, size and power of heating element.
I’m hoping this device soon becomes a standard among extrusion-based desktop 3D printers, as it would certainly aid reliability, longevity and quality.