Nozzles on a 3D printer are a consumable that gets used, abused and replaced many times in a 3D printer’s lifespan. The problem is, when should you be changing your nozzles over?
After wondering about this question I decided to search around for the best answers and share it with you guys.
When you notice lower quality prints, when maintenance doesn’t improve things your nozzle is most likely due for a replacement.
Some people have changed their 3D printer nozzle 6 times in 3 years, but start printing with a new filament and require nozzle replacements every 3 months.
If you are interested in seeing some of the best tools and accessories for your 3D printers, you can find them easily by clicking here (Amazon).
How Often Should You Change/ Replace Your Nozzle?
There isn’t a specific time frame in which you should change or replace your nozzle, but generally you should change your nozzle every 3-6 months. This really depends on how often you are using your 3D printer, what kind of filaments you are using, and how high or low the quality of your nozzle is.
If you have an expensive, high quality nozzle, designed for long-lasting smooth printing, it’s a lot more likely to last you more printing hours than a cheap, Chinese manufactured brass nozzle.
3D printer users that only 3D print with low temperature PLA could technically use one brass nozzle that lasts for years and have great results throughout.
In some cases, you may have leveling issues where your brass nozzle scrapes against the build plate and wears out, so it would need replacing sooner.
The factory brass nozzles that come with 3D printers tend to be fairly cheap so that the price of the 3D printer overall is competitive.
A good set of nozzles that last a long time is the LUTER 24-Piece Brass Nozzle Set from Amazon. It is very popular and sometimes runs out of stock so check the link to see if they are available.
Not only are you getting a wide range of brass nozzles sizes with a storage box, it’s also the highest rated on Amazon, mainly because of the premium quality and the great price.
Compatible with MK8 extruders such as the Ender 3, Creality CR-10, Makerbot, Prusa I3 and many more.
You always have the choice of upgrading your printer’s nozzle to something of a higher quality, which later in this post I will explain which ones are good. The usual response here is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Your 3D printer may produce successful print after successful print, so generally you shouldn’t need to change your nozzle until you actually see some evidence of print quality being affected.
This is so you can maximize the printing hours of each nozzle and not throw out nozzles earlier than you needed to. This may not be an ideal strategy if you are someone who does long, complex 3D prints because it could ruin the whole print.
You may have a resume printing function, but if your layers aren’t done adequately in the middle of a print, and you switch out the nozzle, your print might not get resume to a print that finishes properly.
How Do You Change & Install a 3D Printer Nozzle (Ender 3 Pro/V2)
To change and install a nozzle for your 3D printer you should first remove the main fan shroud on the print head to access the heat block and nozzle. Heat up the nozzle to normal temperature and turn the printer off. You can then use pliers to hold the heater block while using a wrench to remove the nozzle.
Some people use a nozzle torque wrench of 3nm to make sure they don’t over tighten the nozzle but it’s not necessary. Just tighten the nozzle until you start to feel a decent amount of resistance. It doesn’t have to be very tight.
This is the standard technique, but it isn’t the best since many people manage to accidentally touch the hotend and burn their fingers.
There is now a professional solution that works almost too well, that several users have grown to love.
I would recommend getting the ZCatch 3D Printer Nozzle Removal Tool from Amazon, a great addition to your 3D printing tool kit. It was made specially for users to easily change 3D printer nozzles.
The removal tool comes with a 10-piece ¼ Vanadium Chrome Socket Set, 1-ZCatch Decal & Instruction Manual. Reviewers of the product only have positive things to say about it because it works so well!
It’s a tool that makes changing your 3D printer nozzle so much easier. You will no longer have to struggle with getting a good grip with pliers on the heat block while removing the nozzle.
This tool sets the heater block in place while removing the nozzle through a few simple twists. You don’t have the most leverage to hold the hotend so in some cases you may still have to hold the hotend, but once it’s loose, you can easily remove the nozzle.
It has a nice area where the nozzle can drop into, rather than trying to balance the nozzle and keep it gripped.
How Do I Know My Nozzle is Worn Out?
There are a few ways that you can check or know that your nozzle is worn out. Some aren’t 100% thorough, but it will generally get the job done if you can spot the signs.
Checking Your Nozzle Visually
The first way I recommend for checking if your nozzle is worn out is simple by visually checking your nozzle. You want to check for distinctive differences between when the nozzle was fresh and how it is now. The main differences you’re looking for is the diameter size.
If you notice the size of the hole on your nozzle has increased, this is a pretty good sign that your nozzle is wearing out, and isn’t producing the best quality prints. Sometimes you won’t notice this visually, but there is a quick test you can do to check this out.
Get a set of tiny drill bits and check your nozzle by trying to fit one of the larger sized drill bits into your nozzle hole.
If say a 0.5mm drill bit fits into a 0.4mm nozzle, then you know that your nozzle has significant wear that will likely cause a decrease in the quality of your prints.
The second method for checking your nozzle is to check for ridges, grooves, curves, marks, bumps, whatever you can find on your nozzle.
The reason this method works is that a lot of the time, your nozzle will be worn out on the inside rather than at the tip, so being able to see deterioration in the nozzle’s material is important.
It means that your nozzle is wearing away, possibly leading to unpredictable, inconsistent layering. You’ll probably still be able to print successfully, but it means your nozzle is getting to a point where it soon needs to be changed over.
This ties in with the nozzle diameter, but the tip of your nozzle becomes rounded, you know that it’s coming to the end of its life. Abrasive materials will affect a nozzle, and it’s shape, creating a nozzle that is no longer sharp at the tip.
It can lead to adhesion issues because the height of the nozzle and bed will be off balance over time. This one is a bit easier to spot so keep an eye on it and get a replacement ready if you see this.
Do The Straight Extrusion Test
This is a quick test you can carry out to give you a sign that your nozzle is worn out. What you want to do if pull your print head to the side, off the bed and have your printer extrude. What you want to see when this happens is a squirt of plastic straight down.
If you see the plastic bending and wonky, or extruding in one direction and curling around, it’s a pretty good sign of nozzle damage.
How to Make Your Nozzle Last Longer?
Now that we have learned how often to change a nozzle and how to tell if it’s worn out, we can move onto how to make sure your nozzle is getting the most life that it can get.
The simplest piece of advice to make your nozzle last longer is to not use abrasive filament such as carbon fiber, exotic and composite filament or some brands of glow in the dark filament.
These filaments have certain properties that don’t react very well to some nozzle materials over time, and some are definitely worse than others.
Basic filament like PLA, ABS and PETG don’t usually have these type of problems because they aren’t abrasive and are fairly smooth.
Not only are they abrasive, but they are more likely to lead to common filament feeding problems making them get clogged and jammed.
When you pick up a few good practices of 3D printer maintenance, you can definitely avoid these common issues and make your nozzle last longer.
Follow these steps to make your nozzle last longer:
- Use a filament cleaner sponge
- 3D printer flushing
- De-gunk your 3D printer routinely
- Disassemble your printer from time to time to clean up accumulation of materials
Using these techniques, along with a high quality nozzle can lead to a very long nozzle life which gives you numerous successful prints.
Many times, this is what makes the difference between someone who enjoys 3D printing and gets good results, and people who constantly get frustrated with 3D printing and don’t have the knowledge to overcome some problems.
Don’t be afraid to give your nozzle, extruder and printer a good clean.
What Happens If You Print With a Worn Out Nozzle?
3D printing with a worn out nozzle is the equivalent to setting your nozzle diameter in your slicer to a bigger size than your actual nozzle, setting your bed level too high, or printing with a partially blocked nozzle.
In some cases, your print may still complete without any huge differences, but in most cases your print would see many defects that you would want to avoid at all costs. This can include under-extrusion, bad layer adhesion, rough surface finishes and blobs of material around your print.
What Are the Best Nozzles 3D Printer Users Use?
There are many types of nozzles, the most popular being brass and ranging to materials like stainless steel, hardened steel and even ruby.
Get a Hardened Steel Nozzle if you plan on printing with abrasive filaments, or if you just want a high quality nozzle in general. The reason brass is used so widely in 3D printers is because of its thermal conductivity and ease of manufacture.
Instead of sticking to just brass you can opt in for a Micro Swiss Plated Nozzle from Amazon. They are a pretty good price, and users are definitely happy with the quality of these nozzles.
I have a pretty in-depth article called 3D Printer Nozzle – Brass Vs Stainless Steel Vs Hardened Steel so check that out for more info about the best nozzle to use.
Not only do they last longer, but they have been known to improve your print’s quality overall while causing less printing issues. It’s a no-brainer when it comes to switching from a factory nozzle that came with your 3D printer so get yourself an upgrade now.
If you get stringing with your stainless steel or hardened steel nozzle, you may want to increase your retraction settings. You could possibly decrease the printing temperature slightly, but since the thermal conductivity isn’t as high as brass, this could result in under extrusion.
Now that you’re at the end of the post you should have a better idea of nozzle maintenance, what the best nozzles are and when to replace your nozzle.
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