The nozzle you use to print your choice of filament from your 3D printer will significantly impact the quality of your prints. It can get confusing when you need to replace one, given all the different types and brands of nozzles. There’s an overwhelming amount, and if you’re looking for the best quality nozzles, you need to understand how they are made and what materials they consist of.
3D printing nozzles are made by turning a brass, stainless steel, or hardened steel tube on a lathe to give it a tip and threads. Then, manufacturers drill a small hole of a specific diameter in the end so it can dispense even layers of filament.
In the paragraphs below, I’ll explain in more detail how 3D printing nozzles are made. I’ll compare and contrast the different types of metals from which the nozzles can be made and explain which metals are the most durable and can handle the most heat.
How 3D Printing Nozzles Are Made
3D printing nozzles start as a block of metal with no details. They can be brass or steel rods, but they are very plain at the beginning of the process.
The nozzle manufacturer then inserts the rod into a lathe, a machine that will spin the rod at a very high speed. As the rod rotates, the operator places specialized metal-cutting blades along the metal surface, peeling and slicing off certain sections until the nozzle’s tip appears.
Then, the operator will follow the same procedure to cut threads into the rod’s base, making it easy for 3D printing enthusiasts like us to screw the nozzle into the heat block.
After the nozzle is cut down and looks like a 3D printer nozzle, the manufacturer will cut a hole in the center. This hole must be very straight and result in a clean channel. If it comes out warped, bent, or rough, your filament will have issues gliding out of it.
To see what the process looks like, check out this youtube video from CNC Kitchen:
Different Metals That Are Used To Make 3D Printing Nozzles
3D printer nozzles are made of any metal or combination of metals. So, let’s explore the materials used to construct 3D printer nozzles and discuss their benefits and shortcomings.
Stainless steel 3D printing nozzles are the most popular type of nozzle among those who 3D print because they are incredibly affordable and provide excellent heat resistance while preventing melted plastic from sticking inside.
Stainless steel nozzles make for a much cleaner workspace. The fact that plastics will not stick to nozzles made from this metal eliminates the need to clean it after use and reduces the possibility of having to replace it due to filament buildup.
Stainless steel 3D printing nozzles can handle temperatures up to 500° C (932° F). However, it is also less thermally conductive than other metals on this list, reducing the chances of heat creeping into your hotend.
Stainless steel is an ideal metal type for your 3D printer nozzles, but you should never use it with abrasive filaments. Abrasive materials will wear away at the steel, destroying the inner components of the nozzle and compromising the diameter of the extrusion channel, lowering the quality of your prints over time until the nozzle becomes unusable.
Stainless steel 3D printing nozzles are affordable and can even stand up to a high amount of heat. Still, their longevity is questionable, primarily if you use this type of nozzle to work with abrasive filament.
Hardened Steel 3D Printing Nozzles
If you regularly work with abrasive materials in your printing, you must get nozzles made of hardened steel. This durable, ultra-hard metal will stand up to any abrasive material without showing a single scratch.
Hardened steel 3D printing nozzles will last much longer than other nozzles. It is not unheard of for hardened steel 3D printing nozzles to last for multiple years, especially if you do not regularly use abrasive materials.
Because of this added longevity and the heavy-duty nature of hardened steel 3D printing nozzles, they are more expensive than others. However, purchasing one of these is a wise investment since you won’t have to replace it for years, and using one will expand the pool of materials you can use.
Hardened steel nozzles will last the longest and are also the least thermally conductive metal on this list. This metal is challenging to heat up and does not hold heat well, which is great for 3D printing since it reduces heat creep.
The drawback of hardened steel 3D printing nozzles is that some claim the metal is so hard that even properly machining it can be problematic. Low-grade hardened steel nozzles may have clumps and rough edges inside the hollow center, reducing the quality of your prints.
So, if you want a hardened steel nozzle, choose one from a reputable brand and be prepared to spend an extra few dollars.
Brass 3D Printing Nozzles
Brass is the most widely used metal to make 3D Printer nozzles. That’s because it is the cheapest material. While that makes brass nozzles very affordable, brass is also more susceptible to damage and can handle less heat than the other metals on this list.
A brass 3D printing nozzle’s maximum temperature is 300 °C (572°F). That’s a low temperature compared to the other metals on this list.
It has this lower temperature threshold because it is a more thermally conductive metal than stainless steel or hardened steel. So, it’s easier for brass to attract and hold heat than stainless or hardened steel, increasing the chances of heat creep and filament clogs.
Brass nozzles also deteriorate more quickly since it is a softer metal than the other two on this list. It is simply not as durable as stainless or hardened steel. It doesn’t stand up to use with abrasive materials like carbon fiber or metal-filled filaments. These filaments will cause erosion inside the nozzle, affecting print quality.
A 3D printing nozzle is a metal tube that has been machined with a lathe to give it a tip and threads so that it can attach to the heating block.
The most common metals used to make nozzles are stainless steel, hardened steel, and brass. Brass is the cheapest and easiest to damage, and hardened steel is at the other end of the spectrum. Stainless steel is somewhere towards the middle of these two.
The best metal type will depend on your needs for heat reduction and the filaments you prefer.