Two is always better than one. In FFF technology, dual extrusion can print a lot more interesting part than single extrusion. Often first extrusion as printed part while second extrusion as support structure. Dual extrusion was pioneered by Stratasys and implement by default in its big machine for more than 20 years ago until today’s uPrint and Mojo.
Dual extrusion 3d printer commonly seen in the market is having a second extruder mounted next to the single extruder. And both nozzle are sitting at the same height. However they do have problem.
The root cause:
Many of the print came out to have color contamination due to plastic material remain in hot molten state, it leak out when it’s idler. Slicer able to temporarily reduce the oozing by generating a Ooze Shield but the root cause is still exist in the extruder hardware.
Print knock off
Slicer software enable second hotend to cold down to minimize oozing, but a bit of plastic still will leak out before plastic being solidify. This causes the second nozzle with a bit of solid plastic on the nozzle tip to scratch on the print surface while first nozzle is printing. Severely, this can knock off the print from build plate.
Instead of printing with dual extrusion, most user just simply treat the second extrusion as spare part. The problem mentioned above are not easy solved by firmware and software. Hence, printer manufacturers and communities are working to redesign a better extruder hardware. Below are some interesting and innovative solution that either in beta stage or being used as product.
1. Mechanical tilting
This solution is used in uPrint and Micron3dp. The switching is done by rotating certain degree to allow active nozzle to be parallel against the print bed while idler nozzle tilted away. The rotation is performed when the printhead move to the side to allow sliding bar hit on an obstacle. The hitting linear toggle mechanism of sliding bar then convert it into rotation.
- Fully mechanical without need of extra electronic
- Required offset calibration
Image: uPrint SE’s printhead
2. Servo/stepper motor tilting
The mechanism of switching in between extruder is the same as mechanical tilting, instead of sliding bar, it uses servo or mini stepper motor to perform the rotation. Commercial product such as RoboxDual, Spiderbot ABSolute and D3D HPX2-MAX
Image: Tilting mechanism with needle valve by RoboxDual
Stratasys has patented a cool solution used in uPrint which is the tilting mechanism to toggle nozzle and at the same time engage the active filament to drive gear. Drive gear just simply reverse direction to drive the filament when switching occur. Single motor dual extruder designed by Sega Liu have similar concept as Stratasys but tilting mechanism is performed by high torque servo motor. Furthermore, the design is improved in Gianni3d version of Dondolo. The plus for these open source version have stopper which stop idler nozzle from oozing. This setup also save one stepper motor’s weight to get the benefit from direct drive. Peter Stoneham full metal version is also look promising and able to perform much more consistent tilting. Eric Sarellana’s version design is quite indifferent and unique.
- Digital servo motor is not constant and will affect x offset.
3. Mechanical lifting
Mechanical lifting mechanism is made popular with the release of Ultimaker 3. Genkei T-Lifter also have a similar setup which toggle second hotend while first hotend remain static. Printhead slide across the hook to mechanically toggle the switch. The switch is then lift the second hotend higher than first hotend when printing with first extruder and vice-versa.
- Required calibration of x and z offset.
- Need prime tower to clear bit oozing, Prime tower may fall for tall print.
- Only bowden setup
Image: Genkei’s T-Lifter (right hotend drop down)
4. Servo revolve lifting
3DGence Industry’s Revolver Hotend using servo motor meshed with gear to do 90° rotation while lift the hot end up and down with CAM mechanism. The design is smart and unique. Digital servo motor is not constant and will affect offset even with high gear ratio but compress spring should be able to resolve the backlash.
- No offset calibration is required
- Only for bowden setup, direct drive setup impractical to lift stepper motor up and down
- Need to some priming to purge out bit of oozing
Image: One’s Revolver Hotend
Markus Seidt’s Ultimaker Mark2 is designed to allow Ultimaker 2 user upgrade to dual extrusion as Ultimaker had gave up on dual extruder upgrade. The idea is store the second hot end to the side while not being used. When need to active second extruder, the print head will move to the storage and second hotend will stuck on print head. Three pair of magnets are used to achieve highest repetivity of alignment. The wiring length of second hotend need to have enough strain relief to reduce the frictional force created from wiring.
- Simple upgrade setup
- Easier offset calibration
- Only for bowden setup, high weight of motor on direct drive setup may cause magnet to detach
- Switching in between extrusion consume time for big printer
Image: Markus Seidt’s Mark2 upgrade
Electromagnet technique is pretty much same as magnet with a plus of higher suction force. Printhead carriage will move to storage to attach active extruder. Electricity current flow through will generate high magnetic force, hence direct drive with heavy stepper motor is not a problem here. This is part of Lulzbot research project reveal in MRRF 17.
3D-Proto’s dual parking extruder is one of the pioneer that put into practice.
Image: Lulzbot Indepedent Electromagnetic Extruder
- Open wide range of possibility to attach variety of nozzle size
- Switching in between extruder is time consuming for large printer
7. Independent Dual Extrusion System
One of the printer axis have two printhead which drive independently by respective motion system. Each individual printhead has it own endstop to allow machine understand its own path. When is time to print with first printhead, second printhead will move to side storage. After free out the build area space, first printhead then move to the build area to do its job and vise-versa. First printer do this trick was BCN Sigma IDEX System then follow by other manufacturer Leapfrog Bolt and MakergearM3 Independent Dual for better dual printing.
Image: BCN Sigma IDEX system
- Capable ditto mode
- Offset calibration is tedious
- Limited to dual extrusion
8. Switching filament also known as Y-Splitter
All in one out is switching filament in beforehand. A plastic part called Splitter which consists of multiple filament path is mounted on the printhead entrance. Tool change script will call the extruder to retract the idler filament until exit the intersection. And then, the other extruder will extrude the active filament into the hot end melt zone to start the next color. Prometheus System and Atom2.5 have 2 in 1 out while Prusa Dual/Quad upgrad make it further to 4 in 1out.
Image: Prometheus System Y-Splitter’s internal view
- No offset calibration is required
- Easy upgrade to existing machine
- No oozing
- Build plate size remained
- Required high torque of extruder motor as melted filament blob has slightly bigger diameter causing friction against hot end path
- Bowden setup only
- Only work with similar temperature range of material
- Waste material, need prime tower
9. Mixing and Blending
All in one out but this time the intersection is at melt zone. RepRap.me’s Diamond hotend with 3 in 1 out and Builder3d with 2 in 1 out started commercialize this product. In this setup, besides you can achieve pure color from extruder one and two but also a range of blending color. So, basically is unlimited color depends on the ratio mixed. Zmorph’s Dual Pro Extruder use Voxelizer’s image mapping with dual color blending make kind of like 3d model with jpg wrap around it. Even much more advanced is gonna be 5 in 1 out which tend to mimic the WCMYK process of inkjet printer. Manufacturer that are working on this solution are Ord Solution Rova4d- 5 color, Something3d’s Chameleon and Jason Powell.
Image: Jason Powell patented 5 to 1 water-cooled hot end
- More color range
- No offset calibration
- Need prime tower
- Same range material temperature
- Might have color contamination especially changing from darker to lighter color
10. Splice and joint
Plastic has a properties easy to cut and fuse weld joint. Mosaic Manufacturing’s Palette carry the task automatically through innovative combination of hardware and software. Four stepper motor are used to feed four different color filament respectively into Palette and cut accordingly to length. The filament is arranged in order in one strand and 2 separate filament is then fuse together in heater die. The printer is just operate normally without much of modification.
- No offset calibration.
- Implement to most open sourced printer
- No consumption of build plate
- Not plug and play, required learning curve to dial in color changing calibration
- Big prime tower, same range material temperature
- Not able to splice flexible and polycarbonate ductility material
- Only for same type of material, hence multi-color not multi-material
This is so far the most unique dual extrusion that I seen designed by galaxyman7. The goal is to create fully mechanical by enabling hot end nozzle tilted on the stopper while not being used. The design is to translate the rotational motion from one of the extruder motor to filament linear motion. Filament act as bowden cable like in bicycle braking system to control the pivoting on the hot end carriage. While the extruder keep rotating, the magnet wheel allow filament skip the linear motion step while remain the filament position.
Image: Fully mechanical hot end pivoting extruder
- Easy upgrade, no extra electronic and firmware
- Easy offset calibration
- Annoying clicking sound
- Only for bowden setup