What Are The Benefits Of Being Able To Print With Multiple Materials?
In many cases, a single spool of filament is enough to do the trick. However, it’s not unusual that you’d want to try using multiple materials in one print, and there are good reasons why.
First, being able to print with multiple spools of a filament means that you can use multiple different types of materials in your prints. This often comes in the form of using stronger materials in certain parts of your print to reinforce its most vulnerable points. More complicated structures with holes and spaces between layers may also require you to use a water soluble secondary support filament like PVA in addition to whatever other filament you’re using.
Another clear advantage of being able to print with more than one spool of filament is the ability to include multiple colors in the same print. Though one color is often enough, being able to add more colors to a print can allow you to be more creative in the aesthetic design of your print and possibly add a bit of artistic flair.
Whatever your motivation is, the world of multi-material printing is an exciting one filled with plenty of opportunities to expand your horizons and be more creative with your designs.
The Best Dual Extrusion 3D Printer For Mixing Colors
As mentioned before, you can’t just go out and buy a mixing nozzle and expect to be able to print with multiple spools of filament. First, you will need a dedicated dual extrusion 3D printer. There are also triple extrusion printers, as well as, some that can use even more than three input filaments, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll be focusing mostly on the more common dual extrusion printers because that is the bare minimum needed to print with multiple materials.
If you feel that you are ready to invest in a new dedicated multi-material 3D printer, there are plenty of options to choose from. However, not all of them will be able to mix colors. Of course, many printers can be modded with a mixing nozzle to allow the mixing of colors but it is important to be aware of what exactly the printer you’re buying can do out of the box and whether it will be compatible with third party mixing nozzles.
Since we’ll be getting to the best mixing nozzles later, I am just going to mention some of the best 3D printers that are able to mix filaments out of the box. After all, if you need to buy a new machine anyway, you might as well have one that’s already able to mix filaments without needing to buy anything extra.
However, before moving on to the best dual extrusion printers, it's helpful to know a bit more about the different types of dual extrusion printers offered. There are basically three different types of dual extrusion printers, although these varying configurations have minimal influence over whether the printer will be able to mix colors. The differences have much more to do with how the printer physically prints and how it uses filament.
Single nozzle printers are usually the cheapest of the bunch. As expected single nozzle printers print multiple different filaments out of one singular nozzle. This works well for anyone that wants to print in multiple or mixed colors, however, if you aren’t mixing colors, the nozzle will have to stop printing and purge the nozzle of all of the filament currently inside before starting to print in another. This can add to print time and waste filament.
Dual nozzle printers are again exactly what they sound like. Instead of a singular nozzle, they have two separate nozzles on a single printhead that allow the printer to print with multiple materials without having to purge in between. The ability to mix colors or add a mixing nozzle depends on the type of printer; however, though these printers can often mix colors, they are much more useful if you want to print with multiple different materials at once.
IDEX systems are the most expensive and complicated of the printers. They include two nozzles on two different print heads that can act independently of one another and print simultaneously. This is incredibly useful to cut down on print times, and if you find the right compatible parts, you may be able to fit two mixing nozzles to them at once to really step up the color over your prints.
The decision of which type to go with will ultimately be down to preference. Think about what exactly you want the printer to do and what kind of budget you have. If you just want to be able to print in multiple and mixed colors, the cheaper single nozzle setup is the best option. However, if you want to be able to efficiently print with more than one material, in addition to being able to mix and match colors, a more expensive dual nozzle or IDEX system may be your best bet.
Geeetech A10M And A20T
I’ve included these two printers together because they are from the same company and are quite similar to each other with only a few small differences. However, I still wanted to mention them both because they are both great options.
The Geeetech A10M is the cheaper of the two and easily one of the best budget dual extrusion 3D printers. Coming in at just $209, this printer is a great choice for anyone just starting to get into dual extrusion printing.
The A10M offers four different printing modes. They are single color, dual color, graded color, and mixed color. Geeetech even has their own color mixer software that you can use to create any whatever color or shade you want.
If you are willing to spend a bit of extra cash, however, the Geeetech A20T has all of the great features of the A10M , including its 4 different printing modes, but allows for triple extrusion instead of just double. This can obviously make allow you to be even more creative with the different colors that you use and mix. At $335, it is a bit more pricey than the A10M but if you want to be able to mix three colors, it is well worth the investment.
The Best Dual Extrusion Upgrade
If you don’t feel like investing in a whole new 3D printer, many printers can be upgraded to allow for multi-material printing for less money than it would be to buy a completely new machine, so I’ll be mentioning the best, and my favorite, dual extrusion upgrade here.
Mosiac Palette 3 And Palette 3 Pro
The Mosiac Palette 3 is possibly the most versatile dual extrusion upgrade on the market. It’s compatible with the vast majority of 1.75mm filament printers, and outdoes most other similarly priced printers with the ability to take four different spools of filament at the same time.
The Mosiac Palette 3 works by splicing the the different filament into once single mulit-colored thread. It then feeds the newlñy created filament into your single nozzle printer. At $699, it is a bit expensive, but we challenge to find a quad extrusion 3D printer for cheaper.
If you really want to get creative and willing to shell out the extra cash the Mosiac Palette 3 has a pro version that ups possible input filaments to eight. Having the ability to use eight different colors in yout prints opens up a whole new world of opportunity for what you can create. The Palette 3 Pro even splices the filaments faster than the base Palette 3, so if you can afford the $899 dollar price tag, it’s well worth it.
As mentioned before, both of these machines are compatible with the vast majority of 1.75mm printers, however, it is important to check to make sure that your particular printer is compatible before making such a big purchase. Luckily, Mosaic includes a spec sheet on their website, so be sure to go there and make sure that your printer is able to be used with these fantastic machines.
The Best 3D Printer MIxing Nozzles
If you’ve gone ahead and bought a dual extrusion printer, or perhaps you already had one but want to upgrade mixing nozzles. Either way, the mixing nozzles listed below are some of the best on the market. However, not every nozzle is compatible with every 3D printer, so be sure to check if your printer is compatible with each nozzle before you decide to buy it.
1. Diamond Hotend
The Diamond Hotend is probably the best and most versatile mixing nozzle out there. The Diamond Hotend’s ingenious design allows it to use three different types of filament at once, with the ability to print in three different colors or mix the colors into one filament.
It does this with its unique design. Normally, hotends are only able to handle one type of filament at a time. This means that in order to use a different filament, the printer will need to use a different hotend. Now this normally isn’t much of a problem if you simply want to print in multiple colors, but being able to mix colors is a lot different than simply printing them in succession.
That’s why the Diamond Hotend includes three separate heating chambers, all connected to one single nozzle. This allows each filament to be heated equally, preventing your nozzle from clogging. This also means that the nozzle can mix together the three different colors on the spot with ease.
At a price of $42.50, this hotend and nozzle is an absolute steal for anyone looking to upgrade their printer, and the fact that it is easily compatible with most machines makes it an even better choice.
2. Sovol Mixing Hotend Dual Extruder
If you own a Sovol SV02 dual extrusion 3D printer, congratulations, you made a great decision in choosing your dedicated dual extrusion printer. However, there is one problem. While this printer does have the ability to print using one or multiple colors, you might notice that a key feature is missing.
Unfortunately, despite being a great dual extrusion printer, the Sovol SV02 is not able to mix colors out of the box. Obviously, this is a huge missed opportunity by Sovol, as including the ability to mix colors just might have made me reconsider crowning the Geeetech A10M as the best dual extrusion printer. Luckily, however, Sovol has an easy solution to this.
The Sovol Mixing Hotend Dual Extruder is designed specifically for the SV02, and is a definite necessity for anyone who owns one of these printers. At just under $32, its an affordable way to give your printer the ability to print with mixed colors, and I highly recommend it to anyone whose a fan of Sovol 3D printers.
3. E3D Cyclops+
E3D is one of the most respected 3D printer nozzle manufacturers around, so its no surprise that they would have one of the best mixing nozzles available to the public. It’s versatility allows it to be cooled by water or air and it is able to print in one, two or mixed colors.
That being said, this nozzle does not allow for the mixing of different types or material. For example, mixing red PETG and blue PETG will work just fine with this nozzle, however, if for whatever reason you want to mix PETG and PLA, this mixing nozzle is not right for you.
The price tag is also pretty steep, at around $100, so though the Cyclops+ is a great mixing nozzle, you may be better of with one of the other cheaper options that give you more bang for your buck.
Common Problems With Mixing Nozzles And Troublshooting Them
Now that I’ve talked about the best 3D printer mixing nozzles as well as some of the best dual extrusion printers and upgrades, its important to be aware of the common problems associated with mixing colors in one nozzle.
The most common problem with mixing nozzles, is that they tend to clog a lot more than nozzles that use only one filament. This is oftentimes caused by inadequate heating. If the filament gets to cold and begins to harden in the nozzle, it will clog the nozzle and prevent any more filament from passing. It might also cause the filament to ooze out of your hotend simply because there’s no where else for it to go.
If this happens there are a few things that you do. If its a small clog you may not need to do much at all. Sometimes a thin piece of wire or a guitar string can be enough to poke the residue causing the clog out of the nozzle.
However, if its a larger clog, you’ll most likely have to remove the nozzle to get it out. Once removed, you’ll want to soak the nozzle in acetone for at least 15 minutes. This will help dissolve some of the plastic stuck inside the nozzle. After that, you’ll want to heat up the nozzle with a torch in order to soften whatever residue is left inside. Once heated, bring that thing piece of wire back out to clear whatever material remains. If you’ve completed this process but there’s still filament clogging the nozzle, simply repeat the steps over and over again until it is fully cleared.