If you’re a newcomer to 3D printing it can be easy to assume that your 3D printer can print every material. Theoretically this is somewhat true, but in practice there are often limitations. These limitations can be worked around, but requires you to get another printer that is more capable or to modify your existing printer. Below we’ve listed four of the main restrictions on what filaments your printer supports.
There are a few standards for 3D printing filament diameter: 1.75mm, 2.85mm, and 3mm. You need to make sure that you get the right diameter of filament for your printer. If you get too large a diameter, then your printer won’t be able to take it at all. If you get too small a diameter it may not make proper contact with the melt-zone, causing incomplete melting and under-extrusion. Your printer’s manufacturer should advertise the compatible filament diameters.
It is possible to modify your printer to change this, but it will likely require you to change most of the hot-end assembly.
Maximum extruder temperature
Each material has a temperature it melts at. Your 3D printer needs to be able to reach this temperature at a minimum to be able to print that material. All printers will be able to print the lower temperature filaments. Many printers, however, will not be able to print high-temperature filaments. This is especially true of entry level printers.
Generally, you can replace the heating cartridge or entire hot-end. Given the amount of heat involved, however, you should be careful. The rest of the printer may not be able to handle a significantly hotter extruder.
The presence of a heated print bed
Some materials require a heated print bed to prevent them from warping during the printing process. If you don’t have a heated bed and need one you will experience warping issues. If your printer offers such a feature, you’ll be able to configure it in the settings. Additionally, the manufacturer will advertise it as a feature.
If your printer doesn’t include a heated bed, it is possible to add one. There are heated silicone print bed covers you can buy that you can use to cover your existing bed. It’s generally a good idea to also cover that with a glass or other heat conductive bed for ease of cleaning. You will also have to relevel your print bed after doing so.
The nozzle material
Most printers use a brass nozzle because its cheap and conducts heat well. Unfortunately, it’s also a relatively soft metal that can be eroded surprisingly quickly when printing with abrasive filaments. This can lead to a range of extrusion and print issues if you don’t notice the problem.
Thankfully it’s relatively easy and cheap to buy a stainless-steel nozzle that is much more wear resistant. It is also relatively simple to swap out the nozzle, although you may notice need to increase temperatures to allow for the reduced heat conductivity.
Have you got any other tips for determining what materials a printer can and can’t print? Let us know down below.