I don’t think anyone is disputing that the expanding variety of 3D printing materials is an exciting thing. Wood filaments, carbon filaments, conductive and magnetic filaments – the range of materials continues to grow, and thus the range of things we can print continues to grow. However, 3D printer nozzles are struggling, somewhat, to keep up. Abrasive materials, like carbon in particular, tend to wear out standard brass or steel nozzles more quickly than standard filaments. A German startup is developing a nozzle that promises to hold up to the abuse of abrasive filaments and high temperatures. DDDMaterial would like to introduce you to tungsten.
Tungsten is a hard, tough material commonly used in arms manufacture and aerospace, among other industries. According to DDDMaterial, they designed a nozzle made from a tungsten alloy that will last no matter what kind of filament you’re using. The material has a lot of advantages, says the team: it won’t soften even in high heat, it offers better thermal conductivity than steel or brass, and, of course, it won’t wear down quickly when used with abrasive filaments. The nozzle was also designed with a flattened tip that won’t scratch glass beds, unlike diamond or sapphire nozzles.
“Professional print-shops, prototyping services and designers want to offer their customers high-quality products at a fair price,” said DDDMaterial founder Christopher Peterwerth. “Any failures in their printing machinery will raise the costs, so we had the idea to scale down the tungsten extruder dies of the plastics industry to the size of a common 3D printer nozzle. Our Tungsten Premium Nozzle was born.”
The nozzle is currently raising funds on Kickstarter, with a goal of €40,000 (about $44,623 USD) by April 14. Currently, they’re offering a 0.4mm nozzle for 1.75mm filament, but they plan to offer additional sizes once the campaign is successfully funded. Early bird rewards have already been snapped up; standard pledges start at €26, which will get you one Premium Tungsten Nozzle with an estimated shipping date of May 2016. Pledge €50, and you’ll receive two nozzles. A bit cash-strapped at the moment? You can still donate €10 for a nice pottery mug with the DDD logo, plus a signed postcard with a thank you message. Stretch goals include the addition of compatible aluminum hotends and additional aluminum nitride coatings for extra hardness and thermal conductivity.
DDDMaterial does caution that their nozzle is made from about 3% nickel, so if you have a nickel allergy or sensitivity, they recommend that you hold off until they release a forthcoming version without nickel. A few concerns have also arisen from the 3D printing community about the safety of tungsten – particularly food safety. Tungsten is a material that comes with some health warnings, and while there’s some conflicting information out there, most researchers seem to agree that the risk depends on level of exposure, type of exposure, and application. DDDMaterial does say that their nozzle wasn’t really designed for the casual user, but more for industrial applications; however, it’s a good reminder that with any crowdsourced product, it’s important to do your research – particularly when new materials are involved. If you’re concerned about a material, a good place to start your research is always with the CDC – they’ve compiled some pretty comprehensive information about tungsten here.
In the near future, DDDMaterial also plans to introduce their own line of filaments and an extruder. You can take a look at their Kickstarter video below. Discuss this new technology in the Tungsten Premium Nozzle forum over at 3DPB.com.