Dec 30, 2014 | By Alec

If time was truly money, everyone working with 3D printers would be bankrupt. The hard truth about 3D printing is that, for all its manufacturing potential, FDM printing is a hellishly slow production technique. It might be captivating to watch in action the first time you switch on your machine, but printing even small objects quickly takes hours. It's one of the many reasons why 3D printing hasn't yet conquered the mainstream of manufacturing.

But it's also why we're so intrigued by the Volcano printhead, a very interesting add on developed by the British HotEnd pioneers E3D. They have already released a series of HotEnd products in the past, but their newest add-on comes with a larger nozzle and melt zone, allowing you to extrude thicker layers at a higher speed. 'We extended the melt zone to almost double that of its previous length in a standard E3D-v6. This increases the residency time of plastic in the hotend, allowing it more time to take on more heat during its passage through the heated zone. This increases the heat flux from the cartridge through the block and into the nozzle and thus further increasing the melt-rate.'The result? Vastly decreased printing times.

NopHeads calibration STL, scaled up by 200%. Printed with 0.60mm Layers, on a 0.80mm Nozzle, with slic3r. Dimensions are all within 0.1mm or better.

Let's get some statistics out here as well. As they explained in their press release, this Volcano add-on can be easily installed by users at home, and is compatible with the E3D-v6 as well as Chimera, Kraken, and v5/4 set-ups. Practically speaking, the Volcano comes in the following sizes: 0.60mm, 0.80mm, 1.00mm, 1.20mm diameters, so you can build the exact set-up you're looking for. The possibility of creating thicker and therefore fewer layers (so thick you can hardly miss them), means that your print speed can be decreased by up to 250%.

Now this very intriguing set-up comes with some additional advantages, but also some disadvantages you need to be aware of. Firstly, it makes 3D printing far more reliable for printing solid and sturdy objects. The thicker layers retain their heat for much longer than the miniscule ones we're used to. 'This additional energy gives a large boost in inter-layer adhesion and means that prints are considerably stronger in the Z axis direction. Furthermore the large flat contact area of wide traces provides considerable area for adhesion to take place, increasing strength even more.'

As can be seen in the video below, prints made with these thicker layers are far less easily broken apart.

But of course, the downside of this set-up means that your printing resolution will be drastically decreased. Were all those layers already visible on your slow print-outs? Just wait and see when they've doubled in size. While the team from E3D tries to spin this as an advantage – 'these big chunky layers with their glossy rounded appearance actually have a really nice aesthetic to them' – that all depends on what you're trying to achieve.

Those are some thick layers.

If you're simply prototyping some parts or messing about, these thicker layers obviously won't matter at all, but if you're trying to produce sellable products you'd have to wonder if it's all in great taste. Simply put, it's a trade-off between speed and resolution, and while my money would definitely be on speed, it's your own decision.

But regardless of your preference, the Volcano extrusion head is quite cheap, so ordering one just for fun won't decimate your bank account. Both the 1.75 mm and 3 mm layering set-ups are available for around £ 20. Of the two, the 1.75 mm is the most efficient of the two, so that might well be worth a try. All are sold in starter-packs containing everything you need, so if you're interested head over to their web shop here to take a look.

For more, also check out this introductory clip on the Volcano set-up:

Posted in 3D Printer Accessories


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Opertum wrote at 1/6/2015 3:52:02 PM:

So with PLA, you want it cool. Putting down large volumes with this thing means your going to need cool a lot more then normal. So either have a large object ( like the one in the pictures looks like its 180ish x 180ish) or smaller objects with lots of cooling. Large object = lots of time for it to cool before the next layer starts. Also its a little longer so any cooling fans for the v6 are going to be aimed right at the heater block. Or slow down your prints... but that kinda defeats the purpose of this item.

Laird Popkin wrote at 12/30/2014 10:26:54 PM:

This is awesome. I'd love to see a dual extrusion setup with this and a standard extruder, so you can blast out the structural material as thick, fast layers, and lay down the exterior with traditional, thinner layers that look better. Some slicers can do this...

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