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What Is The Hot End in a 3D Printer?

What Is The Hot End in a 3D Printer? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone


January 12, 2023

We often see guides to 3D printers, but seldom do we find information on some of the smaller components of these 3D printers - such as 3D printer hot ends.

The hot end of a 3D printer heats the filament during the printing process. This makes the hot end one of the most crucial components in any 3D printer. It is responsible for keeping the temperature at the right point to ensure that the filament comes out just the right way for an accurate print. 

While one would think there is only one type of hot end that's used in a 3D printer, there are actually two groups – PEEK-based and metal-based hot ends (more on this later).

If 3D printing has piqued your interest, then you will need to get familiar with all of the components of a 3D printer, including the hot end groups, for more efficient and accurate 3D prints. Our team has years upon years of experience in 3D printing as both a hobby and a business and is more than happy to share their knowledge with you. We have also asked some of the experts in the industry who were ready to guide us as we make our way through the murky waters of 3D printer hot ends.

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Table of Contents

Hot End: Explained

In order to get a better understanding of the hot end of a 3D printer, we must first take a look at where it is used and its function in a 3D printer. For instance, every 3D printer has an extruder, which is one of the main components in 3D printing. The extruder is made up of two elements; the cold end and the hot end. The former is basically to the upper part of the extruder system of a 3D printer. This is the area where the filament feeds into the 3D printer.

On the other hand, we have the hot end. This is where most of the work of the 3D printer is done, as in melting the filament and then pushing it out to design an object.

3D Printer Cold End

The cold end of a 3D printer is made up of quite a few components, all of which are extremely critical to the quality of the 3D print. Some of the cold end components include the toothed gearing, stepper motor, and spring-loaded idler, which are used to keep the filament in place and guide it through the tubing during the 3D printing process.

The stepper motor that is located at the cold end helps to drive the motion along with the extrusion of the filament in many 3D printers. This is normally a DC motor that is brushless and tasked with providing a high level of precision during the printing process. The motor can achieve this by making small movements while providing full torque while working at a low speed.

The Hot End – How Does It Work?

Now that we know the inner workings of the cold end of a 3D printer, we can get a better understanding of what goes on at the 3D printer's hot end. While the cold end in the 3D printer is responsible for manipulating the filament as it goes through the tubing for designing a print, the hot end is where that hard filament is melted so that it can be molded into the required shape during the print. 

The filament is passed through a heated chamber in the hot end, where it goes from a hard solid to an easily molded liquid. In the case of using a Bowden extruder in your 3D printer, the filament is then fed via a tube that takes it directly from the heat sink to the heat break during the printing process. In the heat break, the filament meets the nozzle and liquifies, which makes it easy to mold the filament into the required shape during the printing process. The nozzle is also considered to be one of the most important parts of the 3D printer's hot end.

This is basically a small piece of plastic or metal with a hole through which the melted filament escapes during the printing process. The nozzle is normally screwed onto the hot end heater block of the 3D printer. Brass is usually used for 3D printer nozzles, but there are also several other options available.

These nozzles are also interchangeable, which means you can change the size of the nozzle according to your specific requirements. While there are many different nozzle sizes, the most commonly used one is 0.4mm, which is found in most desktop 3D printers.

How to Choose a Quality Hot End?

The cold end is the cold component of the 3D printer extruder's top half. This is now when the filament goes through the heating process. This is merely the motor and gearing assembly which pushes the filament into the 3D printer's hot end. Different methods exist, and the movement of the printing filament is generally dictated by a mix of hobbed bolts and gears.

It is important to keep the following factors in mind when shopping for a quality hot end to go with your 3D printer and printing project.

First, choose the materials you wish to print on. Some 3D printer hot ends may reach temperatures of up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing you to use a wider selection of professional 3D printing materials.

It's preferable to go for high quality as opposed to saving a few dollars over the course of a few years of 3D printing. Frustration is more expensive than a few dollars saved on a product.

Good 3D printer hot ends are made of high-quality materials and have great machining.

It's critical to have a strong design that works with a variety of 3D printers. A large number of clones on the market is one signal of successful design.

Types of 3D Printer Hot Ends

The following are some of the popular types of hot ends that are used in 3D printers:

E3D V6

The E3D V6 is regarded as the gold standard for all-metal hot ends. Its tried-and-true dependability and expanding variety of spare parts make it the favorite amongst beginner and experienced 3D printing enthusiasts. From small 0.15-mm nozzles to nickel-plated brass nozzles, there's something for everyone. The E3D V6 hot end fits most FDM printers and can be used in 3 mm and 1.75mm filament sizes.

Diabase Flexion Extruder

The Flexion Extruder was created to excel at one thing: printing flexibles. Flexibles are notoriously tough to work with, but the Flexion, made by the same company that makes the revolutionary Ninjaflex filament, takes on the challenge head-on, pumping out flexible plastic twice as quickly as most other hot ends.

DisTech Automation Prometheus V2

DisTech Automation hot ends from Germany are well-known for their dependability and compatibility. The nozzle is particularly distinctive since the Prometheus comes equipped with a stainless steel nozzle out of the box. This provides a small boost in wear resistance over standard brass nozzles and allows for the printing of food-safe goods.

The hot end of a 3D printer is basically where the filament moves out onto the construction plate – it is here that the filament is converted from solid to liquid. It uses a heating unit to maintain the exact temperature, allowing the solid filament to melt correctly, which produces accurate prints that cool quickly enough to take shape.

The heat break, working in partnership with the heat sink, maintains this temperature boundary that the filament gets exposed to.

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What Is The Hot End in a 3D Printer?


William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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