0.15MM High-Resolution Nozzles: For Extremely Small Prints

 

E3D are continuously trying to develop new and better technology for 3D printers, with the Volcano they solved the problem of printing big, strong and fast, but how about 3D printing really small and fine details?

 

 

The Experimental High-Resolution nozzles can print very small details. The prints produced at this scale allow you to resolve a level of detail which rivals even SLS methods and when you take into account the cost saving you quickly realise how amazing these nozzles are. This is a level of reliability and quality you simply won't see in most other tiny nozzles, with painstaking attention paid to details like tip-flat size and orifice length.

 

With such a tiny orifice, you can expect a proportional increase in detail and quality across the part and there is also a massive decrease in the number of unwanted print artifacts like oozing and angel-hair strands. Once E3D dialled in their slicer settings these problems disappeared almost entirely. More research is needed, but E3D’s hypothesis at this time is that the small nozzle significantly reduces the propensity of the flow without extrusion force.

 

Whilst the tiny nozzle produces incredible results, it does have some very specific printing requirements that need to be met in order to print successfully. These nozzles are not easy to print with! E3D have broken down the challenges they faced into a few areas and have outlined their experience below, but the majority of the issues come from printing such small parts at such slow speeds.

 

Material
First, printing small parts also has the benefit of using very little plastic and you can use all those scraps from not-totally-finished spools (as long as they're clean!) and have close to no waste!

 

Unfortunately, the materials that E3D were able to achieve successful prints from was fairly restricted. Best results were obtained with MG94 ABS, PC-ABS and PMMA. All of these materials have a very high melt-flow rate and so can easily be extruded through the tiny orifice. Other materials like PLA and PETG aren't really reliable at this scale of printing.

 

Even the tiniest amount of debris in the filament can cause physical blockages in the nozzle which are almost impossible to clear. It’s recommended to only use clean, high-quality filament and even keeping a couple of spare nozzles in stock if you're planning on doing a lot of tiny printing.

 

XYZ Resolution
E3D have managed to reach the limits of the motion systems resolution with every 3D printer that they have mounted these nozzles onto (including Nophead Mendel90s and the BigBox). Microstepping becomes very noticeable at this scale - no standard FFF style 3D printer was designed with this level of detail in mind!

 

Don’t be put off by this though - any high-quality 3D printer should be able to produce stunning results with this nozzle. Just be prepared to notice imperfections in your machine that you may not have even been able to see before.

 

Socks
Using a silicone sock on your heater block is essential when printing with these nozzles. This is necessary due to the large surface area on the bottom of the block radiating heat onto the print. This is of course an effect seen with all sizes of nozzle, but is much more of an issue with these smaller nozzles for two reasons. Firstly. because they are used to print smaller parts and secondly because they print more slowly. These two factors mean that the print will spend a lot more time directly below the hot block. Additionally, the tiny details are much more prone to warping as their thermal mass is so low.

 

Part Cooling Fan
Keeping the print cool is much more important, but also more difficult when printing small parts. E3D also recommend using a part cooling fan – the bigger, the better. Because your print speed is so low, adding mass to your carriage should not affect performance. On the other hand, this does make use of a sock even more important as it will protect the HotEnd from overcooling, which could cause poor printing performance and thermal runaway errors.

 

Some fans E3D have used have actually sent parts flying off the bed, in their experience this was mainly due to the small contact area of some of the (comparatively) tall, thin prints they were testing. As the height of the print increases, the effects of the heated bed reduce. Therefore, fan power can be progressively lowered during the printing process. 

 

Bed
Using UHU Stick is recommended by E3D for best adhesion. With a first layer of less than 0.1mm tall, having a level and well-calibrated build platform is extremely important. Fortunately, because parts tend to be small, the area over which this level of accuracy needs to be maintained is relatively small.

 

If using a part cooling fan, you may also find that it cools the bed as well as the print. Increasing the temperature of the print surface will compensate for this issue.

 

Extruder
The flowrate through these nozzles are incredibly low. Accordingly, so is the speed of the filament. However high force is required to extrude through this small nozzle, meaning that a geared extruder is essential.

 

Slicer Settings

 

Nozzle Size
0.15mm 

 

Layer Height
E3D recommend somewhere in the region of 0.08mm. 

 

Print Speeds
Make sure to turn your speeds and accelerations down. This is all about precision, and precision takes time. E3D ran their printers at 18mm.s-1, with outline and infill under-speeds at 75-80%. The overhangs were left at the default 45°, and the minimum infill length at 5 mm.

 

Retraction
Stringing can be almost entirely tuned away in your retraction settings, however poor tuning can make things much worse due to the higher extrusion forces and pressures. E3D were using 1mm at 30mm.s-1.