Nov 3, 2015 | By Alec

Despite all the manufacturing advantages they bring to the table, 3D printers can be so frustrating. Nothing quite diminishes the joy of a new project that a series of failed prints. However, hardware can play an important role in the likelihood of your printing success, as the very basic nozzle (that often costs just a few bucks to manufacture) can quickly erode. Especially when 3D printing more unusual filaments the damage is quickly done, simultaneously decreasing the quality of future prints. That’s exactly why some makers chose unconventional setups, but a new and very interesting option has just appeared. Called the Dura-Gem, this nozzle by Jonny Hurst features a sapphire jewel tip and is guaranteed to last a lifetime.

In a time when everything breaks down within a few years, the promise of such quality is more than enough to draw our attention. And as Jonny Hurst explains to, the Dura-Gem seems to be just what many users need with the spread of more fun and useful 3D printable filaments. ‘Many of these new materials are made with elements that cause wear to traditional 3D printer parts.  Either the hardness or the abrasive nature of the filler in the plastic causes premature wear to the 3Dprinter parts and produces inaccurate or failed prints,’ he tells us. ‘This is not the a little issue because these advanced materials usually cost 30-60% more than a standard roll of PLA. The cost of a failed print is significant.’

And as he reiterates, the nozzle is often to blame. ‘The current [commonly used] nozzle is an inexpensive brass turned component. This being said it is also one the most important components in a 3D printer. The nozzle is responsible for the accuracy in the layer height and extrusion width. As the height of the nozzle is worn down the layer adhesion will also go down,’ he explains. There are two related problems; the material flow causes friction on the nozzle, while the end is constantly rubbing across previously built layers. ‘Eventually you need to recalibrate the z axis or replace the nozzle. The erosion of the inside diameter of the nozzle will cause increase wall thickness which reduces the accuracy of the finial size of the part.  Small hole will fill in and fit tolerances will have to be increased.  Often you will need to make adjustments and reprint.’ Sound familiar?

Having been a hobbyist for the past four years, Jonny himself was no stranger to this issue, prompting the development of a special nozzle tipped with resistant materials. ‘Sapphire is one the hardest material known to man and are used in many applications requiring durability and wear resistance. For instance you IPhone 6 camera lens is made from sapphire,’ he says. ‘I can now make large carbon fiber reinforced parts and metal filled statues without the added cost of failed prints and frustration constant calibration.’ Being designed to last a lifetime and compatible with a wide range of 3D printers, the Dura-Gem seems to be a fantastic solution.

But of course such claims need to be backed up. Fortunately, Jonny has been keeping a close eye on his prototypes. ‘After running approximately 5 kg of various abrasive filament materials (PLA filed with carbon fiber, steel, stainless steel and others) we removed the nozzle and cleaned it to measure,’ he says. ‘ The test nozzle's diameter is 0.45 mm so we decided to use a microscope measurement system.  With this system you can accurately measure the width of a spiders web--approximately 0.003 mm.’ Taking ten points around the inside over six different attempts, he came up with average that looks promising. A new nozzle has a diameter of 0.4522 mm, and five kilograms of abrasive filaments later, it was worn down to 0.4501 mm. While that might not theoretically last a lifetime, it will last very long indeed.

If that was enough to convince you, here’s some good news. Dura-Gem is coming to Kickstarter soon, before the end of 2015. The price tag is suspected to be anywhere from $75 to $90, but we’ll hear more about in the near future. The nozzles themselves will be manufactured in the US by an experienced producer of small components and jewel base products. We’ll let you know more about this exciting opportunity as soon as possible.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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MOHANAKUMAR.S wrote at 2/29/2016 6:57:28 PM:

I like to work with you , and I am interested in this field

Casper wrote at 11/4/2015 3:29:33 PM:

Haha, Dave. That is a great observation, it states the same thing on the websites blog. Likely a mix up of the values. I hope they offer plenty of "converters" so I can get one for my printer and just put one in.

Dave Hylands wrote at 11/4/2015 9:29:42 AM:

Worn down to a smaller diameter? If the nozzle was worn then the hole should have gotten larger...

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