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Resources3D Printing DesignFive Upgrades To Convert a Single Extruder Printer Into a Dual Extruder
Dual extruder 3D printer. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Reflexpixel

Five Upgrades To Convert a Single Extruder Printer Into a Dual Extruder

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
June 7, 2024
 8 min read
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Upgrading a single extruder 3D printer into a dual extruder printer enhances printing efficiency. Unlike the dual extruder that has two heads, single extruders have a single head from which a melted filament gets onto a build filament.  

A dual extruder 3D printer allows simultaneous printing of several materials in different colors. To improve the 3D printing process, five popular dual extruder upgrades used are: Prusa MMU3, Mosaic Palette 3 Pro, Chimera+, Cyclops+, and the Dual Switching Hot end. Using dual extruder upgrades reduces print time, saves on painting and drying time, allows the use of different nozzle sizes, and has intuitive interfaces. 

This article will analyze the various types of dual extruder upgrades that can be applied to single extruder 3D printers, and examine their key features, advantages, price ranges, and the installation process. Below is a list of the most common dual extruder upgrades:

1. Prusa MMU3

The Prusa MMU3 is an advanced version of the Original Prusa i3 MK3S+/MK3.5 and MK4. When added to a single extruder printer, it helps print up to five colors at a time. The Prusa MMU3 allows automatic switching between loaded materials and has five filament insertion points.

The upgrade works through an automated filament selection (with the selector). It then loads it into the extruder and the 3D printer prints. It can also switch colors automatically. The Prusa MMU3 is compatible with the Original Prusa MK3S+, Original Prusa MK3.5, and Original Prusa MK3.9 / MK4. It is sold for under $150 to $900 and above.

To upgrade to MMU3, you must uninstall the MMU first and upgrade the printer to work as a single-material device. Upgrade the MMU unit separately and install the new MMU on the upgraded printer. 

 2. Mosaic Palette 3 Pro

The Mosaic Palette 3 Pro upgrade can be added to a 3D printer in a few steps. These include: calibrating your 3D printer, connecting the palette to Canvas, updating firmware, setting up the palette and 3D printer, splice tuning, and starting a calibration print.

This upgrade can print up to eight filaments, has about 10% printing and cooling speed, and automatically splices. It can print rigid and flexible materials or use breakaway or soluble support for difficult printing. Also, it is compatible with a 1.75 mm filament and a Lulzbot® 3D printer. Mosaic Palette 3 sells for $799.

3. Chimera+

This dual extruder upgrade has a cool and melt-zone. The melt zone generates a lot of heat as it melts filaments for printing for an extended period. The cool zone maintains the balance it needs by cooling down the hot end. The cool zone does this by circulating cool water through the hot end heatsink. 

The E3D Chimera+ can print with different nozzle sizes. You can simultaneously make dual-colored prints using PLA filaments with different colors. Also, you can print different colors of PLA and PVA at the same time. The price range is from $15 to over $100. One problem frequently reported with the Chimera+ is that the collet and collet clips often slip, causing jamming. 

4. Cyclops+

The E3D Cyclops+ has the water-cooled and air-cooled versions. One version can be switched or even upgraded to the other. The upgrade works well for color switching but does not support material switching. For example, you can only print two PETs or PLAs. It also provides dual extruder-like functionality from a single nozzle. The price ranges from $35 to over $250.

5. Dual Switching Hot End

The dual switching hot end is a dual extruder upgrade for Ender 3. To upgrade the Ender 3 successfully, you need a mainboard upgrade with five stepper motors. The upgrade allows printing with different filaments at once. It also protects against ooze issues and reduces waste. The price ranges from under $50 and above.

What Is a Dual Extruder?

A dual extruder is a 3D printer with two extruders and nozzles each. It represents an advance over the capabilities of the single extruder. Dual-extruder printers offer more options for working with combinations of materials and colors in printed parts and aid speedy printing. On the contrary, a single extruder has only one nozzle from which melted filament goes through.

What Are the Reasons Why Single Extruder Printers Should Be Upgraded?

 Single extruder printers should be upgraded to dual extruder capability because they can:

  1. Create more detailed and exquisite designs. 
  2. Allow the use of filaments of different materials and/or colors.  
  3. Remove supports easily without ruining a finished design. This is because you can print a soluble material for supports like TPU and PLA.
  4. Allow printing with different nozzle sizes for detailed printing. 
  5. Give room for setting different temperature levels for different printing materials.

What Are the Advantages of Upgrading a Single Extruder?

The advantages of upgrading single extruders to dual extruders are:

  1. The luxury of using multiple materials and colors in a single project.
  2. Switching between nozzle sizes (small and large). Small nozzle sizes can handle sophisticated prints while large nozzles can be used for emergency prints. 
  3. It is more flexible than single extruders as it allows using materials with varying temperatures. 

What Are the Key Features of Dual Extruder Upgrades for Single Extruder 3D Printers?

The features of dual extruder upgrades for single extruder printers are:

  1. Double Nozzles: Dual extruder upgrades allow for the use of double nozzles. Through these nozzles, you can print different colors and materials at once.
  2. Filament Detection: A dual extruder can automatically discover when a printer has run out of filaments. Upon discovery, it stops printing to avoid waste.
  3. User Interface: Many upgrades for 3D printers allow using intuitive interfaces. Through these interfaces, users can adjust printing instructions and monitor progress.
  4. High Volume: Dual extruder upgrades can print a larger volume of work than single extruders. They can print objects up to two feet tall.
  5. Removable Hot End: The hot ends of dual extruders are easily detachable for repair, maintenance, or replacement.
  6. Strength: The build plate often uses aerospace-grade aluminum for proper heat distribution. 
  7. Filament Variety: Dual extruder upgrades use different kinds of filaments like: TPU, PLA, PET, and PVA.
  8. Flexibility: The build plate is flexible, allowing easy print removal without damage.
  9. Airflow Management: Dual extruders use the HEPA filter to improve air circulation and heat dissipation.  

Which 3D Printer Models Are Compatible With Dual Extruder Upgrades?

There are several 3D printer models compatible with dual extruder upgrades. The models are: 

  1. Bondtech Single Extruder (N Series Only)
  2. AXIOM Single Extruder 3D Printer with Direct Drive
  3. M3D Micro+ Desktop Single Extruder 3D Printer

What Is the Installation Process for a Dual Extruder Upgrade?

The necessary components for the hardware modification are a spool holder, stepper motor, stepper motor driver, extruder, hot end, and control board.

For single to dual extruder upgrades, modifications to the hardware, electronics, firmware, and slicer program will be required. The hardware that must be modified includes the spool holder, extruder, stepper motor, and hot end. In terms of the printer electronics, modification of the control board is required, while an upgrade to the Marlin firmware will also be required. The slicer software should be upgraded as well. 

The exact process used for the single-to-dual extruder upgrade process may be different depending on the printer type. Hence, you might need to contact your printer’s manufacturer to be certain of what steps to take.

Are Dual Extruder Upgrades Expensive?

No, dual extruder upgrades are not outrightly expensive, as some are available for under $50 like the dual switching hot end. Also, some stores sell certain brands of the Chimera+ for about $15. Meanwhile, the Mosaic Palette 3 Pro is expensive as it sells for almost $800. Some Prusa MMU3 also sell for $900 and above depending on the seller and brand.

Summary

This article presented single to dual extruders, explained them, and discussed the conversion process for each one. To learn more about single to dual extruders, contact a Xometry representative.

Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities, including 3D printing and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.

  1. Lulzbot® is a registered trademark of Fargo Additive Manufacturing Equipment 3D, LLC

Disclaimer

The content appearing on this webpage is for informational purposes only. Xometry makes no representation or warranty of any kind, be it expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness, or validity of the information. Any performance parameters, geometric tolerances, specific design features, quality and types of materials, or processes should not be inferred to represent what will be delivered by third-party suppliers or manufacturers through Xometry’s network. Buyers seeking quotes for parts are responsible for defining the specific requirements for those parts. Please refer to our terms and conditions for more information.

Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.

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