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Brass vs. Steel vs. Hardened Steel Nozzles Compared

While beginners won’t care much about which nozzle their 3D printer has, you may want to consider different options if you’re experimenting with new materials. Most 3D printers come with brass nozzles, but you may need to change your printer’s nozzle when using abrasive or heat-resistant materials. 

Brass nozzles are the cheapest and best for printing using standard filaments with low print temperatures. Steel nozzles are used for printing food-safe products or rough, hi-temp filaments, while hardened steel is for heavy use and all abrasive and hi-temp filaments. 

Are you considering which filament is best for your next 3D printing project? This article will explain the main differences between these 3D printer nozzles so you can choose the ideal one for your next printing task. 

Are All 3D Printer Nozzles the Same? 

All 3D printing nozzles aren’t the same. They have different properties, have specific guidelines for the filaments they print, and each has a unique cost, quality, and durability. 

Here are some basic pros and cons of brass, steel, and hardened steel nozzles: 

Brass Nozzles

Pros

  • Cheaper than steel nozzles. 
  • More accuracy and less chance of printing errors. 
  • They can print at a higher speed and work with all standard filaments. 

Cons  

  • Less durable and wears away faster. 
  • Can’t print abrasive materials such as carbon fiber or nylon. 

Here are some of the best brass nozzles available on Amazon: 

  • Jiawu 3D Printer Nozzles: This small tip brass nozzle meets the highest efficiency standards. Made for small tip-type printing, it’s ideal for smoothing out larger areas in 3D prints. 
  • Fargo 3D Printer Nozzle: This brass nozzle is ideal for printing with most non-abrasive filaments. It also comes in 0.3mm and 0.7mm options. 
  • Uxcell 0.4mm 3D Printer Nozzle: This 24-piece brass nozzle set is everything you’ll need to print PLA, ABS, Nylon, and other non-abrasive filaments. It’s also one of the cheapest options available. 

Steel Nozzles 

Pros 

  • More durable than brass nozzles. 
  • You can use it to print food and medical-grade products or packaging. 
  • Can print with many abrasive materials. 

Cons 

  • More expensive than brass nozzles. 
  • It has less thermal conductivity than brass.

Here are some of the best stainless steel nozzles available on Amazon:

Hardened Steel Nozzles 

Pros 

  • More durable and ideal for printing abrasive filaments. 
  • Extremely wear-resistant and will last at least a year. 
  • You can use it to print any filament. 

Cons 

  • It has lower thermal conductivity than other nozzles. 
  • Higher risk of printing errors. 
  • It’s the most expensive type of printer nozzle.

Here are some of the best-hardened steel nozzles available on Amazon: 

While all these 3D printer nozzles have their advantages, which you use will depend mainly on the type of filament you’re printing. Hardened steel is a better option if you print with an abrasive material. Brass is ideal if you want more accuracy and are printing with PLA or other plastic filaments. 

What Types of Filament Do Brass, Steel, and Hardened Steel Nozzles Print? 

Brass nozzles are best for printing standard thermoplastics like PLA, ABS, and other non-abrasive filaments. Steel nozzles are used for food or medical-grade 3D prints, while hardened steel nozzles are better for printing abrasive filaments that require high temperatures. 

What type of nozzle you use will ultimately be decided by the kind of filament you’re printing. Let’s take a close look at the types of filaments that you can print with each of these 3D printer nozzles: 

Brass 

Brass nozzles are the most common stock nozzles on 3D printers. That’s because they are ideal thermal conductors and offer accuracy and precision. Since they preserve fine details and work well with beginner materials such as PLA, they are the perfect choice for inexperienced 3D printing enthusiasts. 

You can use brass nozzles to print PLA, ABS, Nylon, PETG, TPU, and other standard 3D printer filaments. As long as the filament is non-abrasive and does not require a very hot printing temp, you can easily print it using a brass nozzle. 

Also, brass filaments work more accurately and are more efficient in converting the heat generated by the printer through the filament. That means you can print faster and more accurately using a brass nozzle than other nozzles. 

While this doesn’t mean that you can’t print PLA or ABS with steel nozzles, brass nozzles are just more efficient and accurate with these plastics. 

The downside is that brass nozzles are limited to non-abrasive filaments. Brass is a relatively soft metal, so if your filament isn’t buttery smooth, the nozzle will become scratched and deformed, impacting all of your future prints. So, don’t add abrasive materials such as glass or carbon fiber to your filaments when using a brass nozzle. 

Steel  

Steel nozzles are best for printing lightly abrasive materials such as nylon and carbon fiber. 

The most significant advantage of having a stainless steel nozzle is that you can use it to print food-safe objects that are safe to place against your skin. That is because stainless steel nozzles are pure stainless steel with no plastic tubing inside. They are just as food-safe as a stainless steel pot, pan, or fork. 

If you’re printing products that will come into contact with skin or food, stainless steel nozzles are ideal. That is why steel nozzles are most common in the manufacturing industry and research labs, where the products must be free from all types of contamination. 

Unfortunately, stainless steel nozzles have downsides, even if they look like an attractive upgrade to your 3D printer. Because they don’t have lead or other contaminants and are more durable than brass, they are more expensive. 

They also don’t have the same thermal conductivity as brass filaments, and you may struggle with them if you don’t adjust the heat settings. 

Hardened Steel 

Hardened steel nozzles are usually for printing heavy abrasive materials like metals, wood-filled filaments, carbon fiber, and other abrasive filaments. A hardened steel nozzle consists of specially treated steel and is more durable than both brass and stainless steel nozzles. 

Hardened steel is often the best choice if you’re looking to print metal objects or need to use an industrial 3D printing machine. 

However, you’ll likely have to print at higher temperatures with a hardened steel nozzle, especially if you’re printing abrasive filaments or metals. Just like stainless steel ones, hardened steel nozzles lack the same level of accuracy as brass nozzles. However, they can still be effective if the 3D printer’s settings are correctly set. 

Hardened steel nozzles are also ideal for printing filaments that contain both abrasive and non-abrasive materials. Abrasive plastic filaments usually include glass or nylon, and these materials can damage a brass nozzle. 

However, you can easily print them with a hardened steel nozzle without worrying about damaging the printer. 

Which 3D Printer Nozzle Is the Most Accurate? 

Brass nozzles are the most accurate and produce the best quality prints. They have better thermal conductivity than stainless and hardened steel and can be used to print miniature models with extreme accuracy. 

Brass nozzles are also the easiest to use. The better thermal conductivity of brass means they are more likely to produce smoother prints. If you’re printing with a “soft,” non-abrasive material, then brass nozzles are ideal. 

That is why brass nozzles are often used by 3D printing enthusiasts, as they have higher efficiency and are less likely to cause clogs or damage the printer. Best of all, brass nozzles are the most accurate, despite being the cheapest 3D printer nozzle. 

Stainless steel and hardened nozzles also have decent accuracy with certain filaments. Steel filaments can give you better results due to higher wear resistance if you’re printing a metal filament or other abrasive filaments. 

However, they are also more likely to clog due to lower thermal conductivity, and you may have to stop the print several times to make adjustments. Nevertheless, hardened steel is the best option if you’re printing with more abrasive materials, and stainless steel is ideal if you need an FDA-approved object. 

Which Nozzle Is the Most Durable? 

While stainless steel nozzles are durable and won’t get damaged with abrasive filaments, hardened steel nozzles are the best in terms of durability. You can print abrasive filaments such as metals, glass, and carbon fiber with hardened steel nozzles, as they are heat treated and designed for heavy use. 

Hardened steel nozzles are usually used in industrial 3D printers, although you can get hardened steel nozzles for smaller 3D printers. If you’re looking to experiment with different materials, you’ll need a hardened steel nozzle to prevent major print flaws. 

That doesn’t mean hardened steel nozzles are accurate, but they will last longer than stainless steel or brass nozzles and won’t get damaged easily. 

However, you shouldn’t use hardened steel nozzles if you use standard filaments, even though they are more durable. Hardened steel nozzles may be effective at printing abrasive filaments, but they aren’t very accurate and require different settings than brass nozzles. 

You’ll have to increase the print temperature when printing with hardened steel nozzles since hardened steel has less thermal conductivity than brass. 

It’s also better to use wider nozzles and avoid printing small or detailed models with hardened steel since there’s more risk of blobs and other 3D printer errors. Nevertheless, hardened steel nozzles are ideal if you’re printing with abrasive filaments that aren’t FDA approved. 

Other 3D Printer Nozzles To Consider

While you can do most of your 3D printing with steel or brass nozzles, you can try other 3D printer nozzles for more specific materials. Here are some different types of 3D printer nozzles you can use: 

Ruby-Tipped Nozzles 

ruby tip nozzle for 3d printer

Ruby-tipped nozzles are made from brass but have a ruby tip for abrasion resistance. These nozzles offer the ideal thermal conductivity and durability combination, which is why they are most common in research facilities and industrial 3D printers. 

The only downside of ruby-tipped nozzles is the pricing, which may be too high for most 3D printing enthusiasts. These can also be overkill if you only plan to use the most common filaments like PLA and ABS. 

Tungsten Nozzles 

Like ruby-tipped printer nozzles, tungsten nozzles have outstanding thermal conductivity and are abrasion resistant. They are often used in precision printing tasks or to print miniature models where the risk of printing errors is high. However, they can be pretty expensive and are often unavailable in the market. 

Conclusion 

It’s not always easy to choose a nozzle and use it for all 3D printing jobs. Different nozzles work with certain printing filaments, so select a nozzle that’s ideal for your desired material and design. 

Brass nozzles are efficient, but they only work with non-abrasive filaments. Stainless steel nozzles are ideal for creating prints that pass FDA standards and are more abrasive resistant than brass. In contrast, hardened steel is used for more abrasive filaments but doesn’t have the same accuracy or efficiency.