Most industrial 3D printers feature dual extruders because dual extruders expand the printer’s printing capabilities. First, it is important to understand that depending on there are two types of dual extruders available. Industrial 3D printers can feature dual extruders which work in unison or independently of one another. Extruders that work independently of one another are known as Independent Dual Extruder System, IDEX. Depending on which kind of dual extruders are featured on the industrial 3D printer, leads to even more specialized functions.
In general, dual extruders enable the printer to process a wider range of 3D printing materials, also known as filaments. The ability to process a wider range of filaments allows the industrial printer to create more kinds of 3D printed parts. This includes 3D printed parts made up of two colors, parts made of two different filaments, and parts that require a support structure during printing.
Support structures are only created using a filament that can act as a print support material. Two examples of support material include HIPS which is commonly paired with ABS, and PVA which is commonly paired with PLA. PVA is a specialized filament that is a water-soluble 3D printing material. It is often used in support structures and for water-soluble 3D printed parts. However, PVA can only be processed if the 3D printer has dual-extruders. Industrial 3D printers, like those from Raise3D, are designed with dual extruders and can accommodate filaments with processing requirements, like PVA.
Simply because the industrial 3D printer has dual extruders does not mean that both extruders must be used for each print job. There are times when print jobs only require one nozzle to produce the 3D printed part. However, a 3D printer operating with one extruder runs the risk of accidentally hitting the part with the extruder/nozzle that is not in use, causing issues or print failures. Industrial 3D printer manufacturers implement two common methods to prevent this problem.
The first method is to lift the non-printing nozzle higher to the model layer that is being printed. Nozzles stick out of extruders and can hit the part being printed when they are not in use. Under the design of the first method, an industrial 3D printer will enable nozzles not in use to lift into the extruder to not hit the printed part. For example, Raise3D’s Pro2 dual extruder 3D printer and the Pro2 Plus large format 3D printer lift nozzles to produce high-quality dual extruder prints. Both of these Raise3D printers have a 1.5 mm nozzle lifting distance, meaning the nozzles will lift 1.5 mm away from the printed part.
The second method requires an industrial 3D printer featuring an independent dual extruder system, IDEX. The IDEX printer will prevent print issues from the unused extruder by moving the unneeded extruder/nozzle away from the part being printed. For example, the E2 desktop 3D printer from Raise3D is an industrial 3D printer with IDEX. If the E2 was printing with only one extruder, the E2 will use its IDEX capability to separate the two extruders. Then it would push the unneeded extruder off to the side, away from the print job. By separating the two extruders, the E2 can continue printing without running the risk of damaging the print with the unneeded extruder.
Both methods are proficient at printing 3D printed parts designed for an industrial 3D printer with dual extruders. Regardless of the kind of dual extruders an industrial 3D printer features, it will produce a high-quality 3D printed part. However, depending on the production and manufacturing needs of a business, IDEX can offer additional features such as the E2’s Duplicate or Mirror Mode. Duplicate mode is when the E2 prints a part and a copy of the part at the same time. Mirror mode is when the E2 prints the part and the part’s inverse at the same time. Both Mirror Mode and Duplicate Mode use IDEX to print one part on each extruder. Both processes lead to faster and more efficient production. If faster production and manufacturing is important, IDEX may be a function to keep in mind when searching for an industrial 3D printer.