Best Way to Determine Nozzle Size & Material for 3D Printing


The nozzle size and material make a significant difference in your 3D printing results, especially when you are using more abrasive materials. You want to make sure you are selecting the best nozzle sizes and material for your project, so this article will help you do exactly that.

The best way to determine nozzle size & material is to know your goals, whether you want a detailed model or to print several models in the quickest time possible. If you want detail, choose a small nozzle size, and if you are printing with an abrasive material, use a hardened steel nozzle.

Once you get further in your 3D printing journey, you’ll start to make improvements in several areas which increase your print quality performance. The rest of this article will help you in the nozzle size and material area and give you some useful information that should help you along the way, so keep on reading.

How Do I Pick the Right Nozzle Size For 3D Printing?

Usually nozzle size ranges from 0.1mm to 1mm and you can choose from various options depending on your requirements. 0.4mm is considered the standard nozzle size of a 3D printer and almost all manufacturers include a nozzle of this size in their printers.

The nozzle is one of the most essential parts of the 3D printer that contributes to the printing process of 3D models.

There is an important decision in balancing out speed vs quality, where if you are printing a large, functional item, a bigger nozzle diameter like 0.8mm is just fine.

On the other side, if you are printing a detailed model like a miniature, anywhere from 0.4mm down to 0.2mm makes the most sense.

Keep in mind that some 3D printers are limited in their print resolution, with FDM 3D printers usually seeing a print resolution of 0.05mm to 0.1mm or 50-100 microns. A small nozzle won’t make much  of a difference in these cases.

Below I will go into a little more detail to explain which factors are effected in choosing a smaller or a larger nozzle for your 3D printer.

Should I Use a Small 3D Printer Nozzle Diameter? – 0.4mm & Below

Resolution, Precision & Printing Times of Smaller Nozzles

As previously mentioned, you are going to get the best resolution and precision with smaller nozzles at 0.4mm, down to 0.1mm, although the time taken to create each 3D model is going to be considerably higher.

I put the Makerbot Headphone Stand from Thingiverse into Cura and put in different nozzle diameters, ranging from 0.1mm up to 1mm to compared overall printing times.

The 0.1mm nozzle takes 2 days, 19 hours and 55 minutes, using 51g of material.

Determine Best Nozzle Size 3D Printer - 0.1mm Nozzle - 3D Printerly

The 0.2mm nozzle takes 22 hours and 23 minutes using 55g of material

Determine Best Nozzle Size 3D Printer - 0.2mm Nozzle - 3D Printerly

The standard 0.4mm nozzle takes 8 hours and 9 minutes, using 60g of material.

Determine Best Nozzle Size 3D Printer - 0.4mm Nozzle - 3D Printerly

The 1mm nozzle takes just 2 hours and 10 minutes, but uses a whopping 112g of material!

Determine Best Nozzle Size 3D Printer - 1mm Nozzle - 3D Printerly

Normally, there would be a considerable difference in the resolution and precision between these nozzles, but with a simple design like above, you wouldn’t see such a huge difference because there aren’t any precise details.

Something like a Deadpool model would require mode precision, so you definitely wouldn’t want to use a 1mm nozzle for that. Pictured below, I used a 0.4mm nozzle and that came out pretty well, though a 0.2mm nozzle would’ve been a lot better.

Although, you don’t have to change to a 0.2mm nozzle, and you could just lower the layer height to benefit from that precision. It’s only when you want to use a layer height so small that it falls out of the 25% range of nozzle diameter to layer height recommendation.

So I could still use a 0.1mm layer height for the Deadpool model, rather than the 0.2mm layer height that was used.

Determine Nozzle Diameter - Deadpool Model 0.4mm - 3D Printerly

In some cases, the layer lines can be beneficial to the final model, if you are looking for a raw, rugged look.

Determine Nozzle Diameter - Muscle Groot 0.4mm Nozzle - 3D Printerly

Easier to Remove Supports with Smaller Nozzles

Okay now another factor that comes into play with smaller nozzles is the supports, and making them easier to remove. Since we have more precision, it also comes in our favor when 3D printing supports, so they don’t overextrude and bind firmly with the model.

Supports printed from a small diameter nozzle are usually easier to remove compared to supports 3D printed from a large nozzle.

I actually wrote an article about How to Make 3D Printing Supports Easier to Remove which you can check out.

Smaller Nozzles Give Clogging Issues

Smaller diameter nozzles can’t extrude as much melted filament as larger nozzles so they require less of a flow rate. The smaller the nozzle, the more it is susceptible to clogging due to its smaller hole.

If you do run into clogging issues with a smaller diameter nozzle, you can try increasing your printing temperature, or more helpful may be to slow down the printing speed, so the extrusion out the nozzle matches the extruder flow.

Very Small Layer Height

It is recommended that the layer height should be between 25% and 80% of the nozzle size which means that a small diameter nozzle will have a very small layer height. For example, a 0.2mm nozzle would have a minimum layer height of 0.05 and a maximum of 0.16mm.

Layer height is the most significant factor in determining the print precision and printing time, so balancing this proper is essential.

Smaller Nozzles Have Better Quality Overhangs

When you are trying to successfully print an overhang, which is a long extrusion of material between two elevated points, they are said to perform much better with smaller nozzles.

This is mainly because overhangs are assisted by cooling fans, which work better when cooling smaller layer heights or line widths, because there is less material to cool. This leads to faster cooling, so the material hardens mid-air without many issues.

Also, when calculating the degrees of overhang in a model, thicker layers would have more of an overhang distance to overcome, while thinner layers have more support from the layer below. This leads to thin layers on a small nozzle needing to overcome less overhang.

The video belos goes over how to get really good overhangs in your 3D prints.

Smaller Nozzles Can Have Trouble With Abrasive Filament

Similar to the trouble with clogging, smaller diameter nozzles aren’t the best to use when 3D printing with abrasive filament. Not only are they likely to clog, but also damage the nozzle hole, which would have more effect on a precise, small nozzle.

Abrasive filaments that you should avoid are ones like wood-fill, glow-in-the-dark, copper-fill, and nylon carbon fiber composite.

It’s still very possible to use a smaller nozzle with these abrasive filaments, but I’d try to avoid it in most instances.

Should I Choose a Large 3D Printer Nozzle Diameter? – 0.4mm & Above

We’ve gone over the significant time savings by using a larger nozzle in the section above, so let’s look at a few other aspects.

Strength

CNC Kitchen and Prusa Research have looked into the difference in the strength of 3D prints, when using small vs bigger nozzles, and they found that bigger nozzles do much better for strength.

It mainly gives 3D prints more strength due to the extra thickness extruded in the walls. For example, if you have 3 perimeters in a 3D print then use a larger nozzle, you are going to be extruding larger walls, which translates to strength.

It’s possible to extrude thick walls with a smaller nozzle, but when you also factor in time, you would have to make the sacrifice.

You can  increase the line width and layer height of your 3D prints with a smaller nozzle, but at a certain point, you might have trouble printing objects successfully.

Prusa found that an advantage of using a larger nozzle, going from 0.4mm to a 0.6mm nozzle gave objects a 25.6% increase in impact resistance.

A large nozzle provides an extra bunch of strength, especially to the end parts. The results of the Prusa Research claim that the object printed by a large nozzle has great toughness and has a higher shock absorption capability. According to the research, the model printed with a nozzle of 0.6mm in diameter can absorb 25% more energy as compared to the object printed with a 0.4mm nozzle.

Clogging is Less Likely with A Large Nozzle

Similar to how clogging is likely with smaller nozzles, larger nozzles are less likely to clog, due to have more freedom with the flow rates of filament. A larger nozzle won’t build up as much pressure and have trouble extruding filament, in line with the extruder.

Faster Printing Times

A nozzle with a large diameter will allow more filament to extrude that will lead to printing the model in a much faster way. These nozzles are perfect when you need to print an object that doesn’t need an appealing look and is not so complex. It is also an ideal choice when it comes to saving time.

Abrasive Filaments Flow Easier with A Large Nozzle

If you are looking to 3D print with abrasive filament, I’d recommend sticking with the standard 0.4mm nozzle or larger, since they are less likely to clog.

Even when a larger diameter nozzle does clog, you’re going to have an easier time fixing the issue compared to a smaller diameter nozzle like a 0.2mm.

One even more important factor when it comes to abrasive filaments is the nozzle material you are using, since the standard Brass Nozzle won’t last very long, being a softer metal.

Layer Height is Larger

Large nozzle sizes will have a higher layer height.

As it is recommended, the layer height should not exceed 80% of the nozzle size, so a 0.6mm nozzle diameter should have a max layer height of 0.48mm, while a 0.8mm nozzle diameter should have a max  layer height could be 0.64mm.

Low Resolution & Precision

As mentioned above, your print quality isn’t going to be very detailed as you go higher in nozzle diameter.

Since a large nozzle extrudes thicker layers, it should be used when higher precision or higher resolution is not necessary. A large nozzle is an ideal choice for those 3D prints.

Determine Nozzle Diameter - Headphone Stand - 3D Printerly

Which 3D Printer Nozzle Size Should You Choose?

The best nozzle size to choose is a 0.4mm nozzle for most standard 3D printing. If you want to 3D print highly detailed models, use a 0.2mm nozzle. If you want to 3D print quicker, use a 0.8mm nozzle. For filaments that are abrasive like wood-fill PLA, you should use a 0.4mm nozzle or larger.

You don’t necessarily have to choose just one nozzle size. With the LUTER 24PCs MK8 M6 Extruder Nozzles from Amazon, you can try them out yourself!

I always recommend trying out a few nozzle diameters so you can get first-hand experience on what it is like. You’ll feel that increase in printing time with the smaller nozzles, and see those lower quality prints with the larger nozzles.

You get:

  • x2 0.2mm
  • x2 0.3mm
  • x12 0.4mm
  • x2 0.5mm
  • x2 0.6mm
  • x2 0.8mm
  • x2 1mm
  • Free storage box

 

With the experience, you are a lot more well-equipped to decide which nozzle you should choose for each 3D print. Many people just stick with the 0.4mm nozzle because its the easier choice, but there are many benefits that people are missing out on.

Something like a functional 3D print, or even a vase can look awesome with a 1mm nozzle. Functional 3D prints don’t need to look pretty, so a 0.8mm nozzle can be very warranted.

A detailed miniature like an action figure or 3D print of a famous persons’ head is better off with a smaller nozzle like a 0.2mm nozzle.

There are different factors that should be considered while choosing the nozzle size for your 3D printing.

As all the important facts are described above about the small and large nozzles, below are some points that will help you to choose a nozzle size accurately.

If time is your major concern and you have to complete a project in a specific short period then you should go for a nozzle with a large diameter because it will extrude more filament. They will take less time to complete a project as compared to a small nozzle size.

If you want to print large models or are printing something with time constraights, the larger nozzle sizes like 0.6mm or 0.8mm will be the ideal choice.

For finer detail models, or high precision models, you’ll want to go for a 0.2mm or 0.3mm model.

For normal 3D printing activies, anywhere from a 0.3mm nozzle to a 0.5mm nozzle is perfectly fine.

Is It Possible to 3D Print With a 0.1mm Nozzle?

You can indeed 3D print with a 0.1mm nozzle, but you have to first set your line width to 0.1mm in Cura, or your chosen slicer. Your layer height should be between 25%-80% of the nozzle diameter, so it would be between 0.025mm & 0.08mm.

I wouldn’t advise 3D printing with a 0.1mm nozzle for a number of reasons, unless you are making some really small miniatures.

The first thing is just how long your 3D prints would take with a 0.1mm nozzle. I would, at minimum, go for a 0.2mm nozzle to 3D print really fine details since you can get amazing quality at a nozzle diameter that low.

You are more likely to run into print failures with such a small nozzle, due to the first layer height needing to be so small for the small nozzle diameter. Also, the pressure that is required to push melted filament through such a small hole is going to be troublesome.

You would need to be 3D print really slowly and with a high temperature to get things doing something meaningful, and this can lead to its own printing problems. The steps required to move can be really small and even result in print artifacts/imperfections.

Another thing is requiring a highly-tuned 3D printer from getting a perfect tolerance, to calibrating the steppers/gear ratios almost perfectly. You would need a solid 3D printer and much experience to successfully print with a 0.1mm nozzle.

Extrusion/Line Width Vs Nozzle Diameter Size

Many people ask whether your line width should be equal to your nozzle size, and Cura seems to think so. The default setting in Cura is to have the line width automatically change to the exact nozzle diameter that you set in the settings.

The standard rule in the 3D printing community is to not set your line or extrusion width below the nozzle diameter. To get finer quality prints and good adhesion, you can do around 120% of your nozzle diameter. The Slic3r software automatically sets line width to 120% of nozzle diameter.

In the video below by CNC Kitchen, Stefan’s strength tests found that an extrusion width of around 150% produced the strongest 3D prints, or had the highest ‘Failure Strength’.

Some people say that the line width should be set by considering the layer height and nozzle diameter.

For example, if you have a nozzle of 0.4mm and you are printing at a layer height of 0.2mm then your line width should be the sum of these two figures such as 0.4 + 0.2 = 0.6mm.

But after deep research, experts claim that the ideal line width for printing 3D models at high quality should be about 120% of the nozzle diameter. According to this suggestion, the line width while printing with a nozzle of 0.4mm should be about 0.48mm.

Extrusion width can bring many benefits but a major one is strength.

Where a thin line width assures better accuracy and smooth object’s shape and minimizes the chances of flow errors, high extrusion width provides an extensive strength because it brings layer together and substance is compressed.

If you want to print something such as a functional object that needs strength, then setting a high extrusion width can help.

While changing the extrusion width, it is recommended to manage the temperature and cooling mechanism accordingly so that the printer can have the best printing environment.

There is a phenomenon called die swell which increases the actual width of extruded material, so a 0.4mm nozzle won’t extrude a line of plastic that is 0.4mm wide.

The extrusion pressure inside the nozzle builds up as it extrudes through the nozzle, but also compresses the plastic. Once the compressed plastic gets extruded, it exits the nozzle and expands. If you wonder why 3D prints shrink slightly, this is part of the reason.

This does a good job in helping with bed adhesion and layer adhesion throughout a 3D print.

In instances where you are getting poor adhesion, some people will increase their ‘Intial Layer Line Width’ setting in Cura.

What is the Best Nozzle Material to Pick for 3D Printing?

There are a few types of nozzle materials that are used in 3D printing:

  • Brass Nozzle (most common)
  • Stainless Steel Nozzle
  • Hardened Steel Nozzle
  • Ruby-Tipped Nozzle
  • Tungsten Nozzle

In most cases, a Brass Nozzle will do just fine for printing with standard materials, but when you get into more advanced filament, I’d advise changing to a harder material.

I’ll go through each material type below.

Brass Nozzle

Brass Nozzles are the most widely used nozzle in 3D printers for many reasons, its cost, thermal conductivity, and stability.

It allows you to print with almost all types of filaments such as PLA, ABS, PETG, TPE, TPU, and Nylon.

The only drawback with Brass Nozzles is that you cannot print with abrasive filaments as it cannot handle such filaments extensively. As long as you stick with non-abrasive filaments, Brass Nozzles are great.

They won’t last very long with a filament like Carbon Fiber, which is known to be highly abrasive.

As mentioned above, I’d go with the 24PCs LUTER Brass Nozzles, which gives you a high quality, full range of nozzle sizes.

Stainless Steel Nozzle

One of the nozzles that can handle abrasive filaments is the Stainless Steel nozzle, though another upside is how it is widely used for products involving food.

You do have to make sure your nozzle is lead-free so it doesn’t contaminate the 3D prints, which Stainless Steel nozzles can attest to.

It is safe and can be used to print objects that may come in contact with skin or food. Do keep this fact in mind that these nozzles can only live for a short period and should only be purchased if you need to print an object with abrasive filaments occasionally.

Do make sure you are purchasing the nozzle from a reputable supplier.

Uxcell 5Pcs MK8 Stainless Steel Nozzle from Amazon looks pretty good.

Hardened Steel Nozzle

Users can print with abrasive filaments and one of the best things about a Hardened Steel nozzle is its durability, it can live for a longer time as compared to Brass and Stainless Steel Nozzles.

One thing to know about Hardened Steel Nozzles is that they offer lower heat transmission and require higher temperatures to print and they are not lead-free which restricts users to use them for printing objects that may come in contact with skin or food.

This is best for the users who print with abrasive filaments often as it can live much longer than stainless steel nozzle.

Hardened Steel nozzles work beautifully with NylonX, Carbon Fiber, Brass-filled, Steel-filled, Iron-filled, Wood-filled, Ceramic-filled, and Glow-in-Dark filaments.

I’d go with the GO-3D Hardened Steel Nozzle from Amazon, a choice that many users love.

Ruby-Tipped Nozzle

This is a nozzle hybrid which is mainly made up of brass, but has a ruby tip.

The Brass provides stability and good thermal conductivity, while the ruby tips increase the life of the nozzle. This is another material that can work nicely with abrasive filaments offering amazing durability and precision.

They are specially designed for the users of the abrasive filaments and are considered as one of the best options as they can withstand constant abrasion. The only thing that makes it less popular is its high price.

The BC 3D MK8 Ruby Nozzle is a great choice from Amazon, working smoothly with special materials like PEEK, PEI, Nylon, and more.

Tungsten Nozzle

This nozzle has high wear and tear resistance and can be used for plenty of time constantly with abrasive filaments. No matter how much time you use, its size and shape should be the same to provide you with consistently great results.

It offers good thermal conductivity which helps heat to reach the tip of the nozzle and maintain the temperature for the molten filament.

The unique inner structure and good thermal conductivity enhances the print speed without compromising the print quality. It can be used with both abrasive and non-abrasive filaments.

I’d have to go with the Midwest Tungsten M6 Extruder Nozzle 0.6mm Nozzle from Amazon. It is safe and easy to use, also being completely non-toxic. This nozzle also comes from a US-based manufacturing company, which is always welcome!


For a more in-depth answer on the main materials, you can check my article 3D Printer Nozzle – Brass Vs Stainless Steel Vs Hardened Steel.

What is the Best Nozzle for 3D Printers?

The best nozzle to choose is a Brass 0.4mm nozzle for most standard 3D printing. If you want to 3D print highly detailed models, use a 0.2mm nozzle. If you want to 3D print quicker, use a 0.8mm nozzle. For filaments that are abrasive like wood-fill PLA, you should use a hardened steel nozzle.

For the full answer to this question, it really depends on your 3D printing requirements and applications.

If you are using common printing materials such as PLA, PETG, or ABS for simple home 3D printing applications then a standard Brass Nozzle will be ideal for you. Brass has the best thermal conductivity, which works well for 3D printing.

If you are going to print abrasive materials then you should consider options other than Brass such as Hardened Steel or Stainless Steel Nozzles.

A Ruby-Tipped Nozzle or Tungsten Nozzle should be a good choice if you regularly print large models with abrasive filaments.

If you print objects that come in contact with the skin or food very often then you should go for a nozzle that is lead-free. Stainless steel nozzles are ideal in such scenarios.

3D Printer Nozzle Size vs Layer Height

Experts suggest that layer height should not be more than 80% of the nozzle size or diameter. It means that your layer height should not exceed from 0.32mm while using a 0.4mm nozzle.

Well, this is the maximum layer height, if we talk about the minimum layer height, then you can go low to the point where your machine can print properly. Some people claim that they have even printed objects at a layer height of 0.04mm with a 0.4mm nozzle.

Even if you can print at 0.4mm layer height, experts suggest that your layer height should not go less than 25% of the nozzle size as it will not have a major impact on the print quality but will only increase the printing time.

Recent Content