Introduction: How to Custom Size a 3D Printing Nozzle

Picture of How to Custom Size a 3D Printing Nozzle

This tutorial will work for any desktop filament-based 3D printer where you can swap out the metal hotend of the nozzle. I did it for an Ultimaker 1+

It's costs less than $30 and only takes a few minutes of work.

Default nozzles are .4mm diameter. But if you are printing large objects, it takes forever. The easy way to print large things faster is to use a nozzle with a wider diameter. Like .8mm or 1mm. It means you can print thicker shells and infill and also use thicker layer settings. It's really useful for printing solid things and hollow things with thicker walls. The great part of your prints being larger and heavier is that they will feel more like real household objects. You can make vases that really feel like vases and it will only take 2 or 3 hours instead of the whole day. This is also a great trick for printing large sculpture parts.

Supplies needed:

  • Extra nozzles for your 3D printer. Amazon and Ebay are a good source.

Here are some for the Ultimaker 1: http://www.amazon.com/Printer-0-4mm-Extruder-Nozzl...

$14 for 5 nozzles is a pretty good deal. It's good to have some extra because you can make a variety of different sizes.

About $9 and you get a whole range of diameters under 1mm.

That's it. If your 3D printer uses steel nozzles you might need a power drill to go with the drill bits, but the brass is a soft metal and it's easier to use the hand drill.

  • Socket Wrench (and maybe extra wrench or pliers)

Step 1: Drill the Nozzle

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Open the box of drill bits slowly so they don't all fall out of the sorted box. If they all fall out, you'll have to use some digital calipers to find the right sized bit.

Choose your nozzle diameter.

.8mm and 1mm are pretty common because then your printer doesn't have to make 2 passes for the outer wall.

Note that you might want to choose the drill bit that is slightly smaller than your desired size since it's easy for it to take away a bit extra material when you are drilling.

Mount the drill bit in the hand drill. Line up the drill bit with the existing hole in the nozzle. Apply a little pressure and spin the hand drill until it goes through. It's pretty easy since there's already a hole to start with.

Step 2: Swap Nozzles on Printer and Change Your Slicer Settings

Picture of Swap Nozzles on Printer and Change Your Slicer Settings

Replace your existing nozzle with your new nozzle.

Usually this means you need to remove any filament in the printer, and then use a socket wrench while the nozzle is still hot to remove it. You might need an additional wrench or pliers to hold your heat block while unscrewing the nozzle.

Screw on the new nozzle. Usually you can use your fingers before it heats up too much and then tighten with the socket wrench.

Change the print settings in your slicer. You will need to update nozzle size, shell thickness, and layer height.

You can print at .3mm and .4mm layer height with no problem. In the screencap showing the Cura slicer, you can see that printing a giant version of Virtox's Julia Vase will take 3 hours. Normally this print would be about 5 hours and have slightly thinner walls. If you are printing with infill, the time benefit is even greater. A thicker nozzle can decrease time by 75% for print jobs with at least 20% infill.

Of course geometry of the thing you are printing matters. Retraction doesn't work as well with thicker nozzles, so that's a bit limiting.

You might need to adjust temperature and flow rate slightly when printing. I did find that the changes are more dramatic if you go over 1mm nozzle diameter. I made a 1.5mm nozzle, and it extruded material so fast that the difficulty was cooling each layer before the next. So you might need a desktop fan aimed at your printer to help it along.

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