The first step for 3D printing with dual extruders is to have a dual extruder 3D printer. 3D printers either feature a single extruder or two extruders (dual extruders). A 3D printer with dual extruders is called a dual extruder 3D printer. The extruders of a dual extruder 3D printer are either independent or dependent. Independent dual extruders, also known as IDEX, will be able to separate from one another and work independently during a print job. IDEX also makes it possible for one extruder to remain motionless, and off to the side while the second extruder creates a 3D printed part. An IDEX 3D printer is capable of more specialized functions such as printing in duplication mode and mirror mode.
The E2 from Raise3D is an example of an IDEX 3D printer. E2’s two independent dual extruders can work independently or move at the same time during the printing process, so the printing efficiency will be doubled. E2’s mirror mode allows one extruder to print a 3D model while the other extruder prints a mirrored model at the same time, thereby increasing productivity and reducing printing time. In duplication mode, the two extruders will work simultaneously, which will double the printing capacity.
However, if the extruders of the 3D printer are dependent, this means the extruders will be attached and work in unison during the printing process. Since the extruders are not able to separate, the dual extruder 3D printer must have an electronic lifting technology to lift a nozzle up to minimize the risk of the nozzle interfering with the print job.
The Pro2 and Pro2 Plus from Raise3D are good examples of dependent dual extruder 3D printers with a 1.5 mm lifting nozzle technology. A lifting nozzle technology leads to a higher quality print job from a dual extruder 3D printer. The Pro2 and Pro2 Plus printers are equipped with an electronic driven dual extrusion with retracting hot ends. When one nozzle is extruding the filament, the other nozzle will automatically lift up to prevent residual filaments from dripping on the model or prevent the nozzle from scratching the model. The nozzles of the Pro2 series printers have lightning-like lifting speed (<1 second switching time), and have a lifting distance of 1.5 mm, which is compatible with flexible filaments. After more than 100,000 experiments, the Pro2 series printers have been verified to have high repeatability and high reliability.
The next step to 3D printing with dual extruders is using the right 3D printing slicing software. Since dual extrusion printing involves 3D printing from two extruders, the software settings must be adjusted for different materials, parts, and structures. A more powerful 3D slicer, like ideaMaker, will be able to adjust the temperature and printing speed on both extruders independently.
The dual extruders will be oozing some of the 3D printing material, also known as a filament, when performing dual extrusion printing. This is because gravity will pull some of the 3D printing material out of the nozzle in the extruder. The right 3D printing software will have a function or feature to control that. Examples of helpful functions and features include wiping the wall or tower to overcome the oozing.
Dual extrusion printing involves printing with two extruders regardless of whether the extruders are dependent or IDEX (independent). Therefore, there will be an offset between the two models. An offset is when the layers are not printed inline with one another, and are instead shifted to the side. It is important to run the offset calibration before printing for proper offset adjustment. If the nozzle offset is not aligned, the print job will not be producing the model at the location you want it in, meaning there will be an offset.
A dual extruder 3D printer does not have a single extruder. Therefore, the print volume may be affected when printing with dual extrusion. Most printing companies refer to a single extruder in their build volume and the build volume for a dual 3D printer is listed separately. Make sure the model is printing within the dual build volume. ideaMaker offers a function to help check that the design’s build volume is within the proper dual extruder build volume of the dual extruder 3D printer.
The final step is making sure the model is ready for dual extruder 3D printing. To print with dual extruders means that two parts will be printed. Since two parts will be printing, an STL file will need to be created for each part. This results in two STL files, one file per extruder.
Within the 3D slicer, both files need to be aligned properly, or the part will not be printed to the required specifications. ideaMaker can export two STL files with the correct quality and has a function to align the files together. Having properly aligned STL files will lead to a good final 3D printing result.