When it comes to fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printing, what are the factors that contribute to high-quality printing? On paper, most FFF 3D printers have pretty similar specifications. Almost all of them use functionally identical stepper motors, have controllers with comparable capabilities, and can take advantage of the same slicing software and filament. In today’s 3D printing landscape, two of the most important factors contributing towards great prints are moving weight and structural rigidity. There probably isn’t a lot you can do to reinforce the frame of an existing 3D printer, but you can back the new Pico Hybrid hotend to reduce moving weight.
The Pico Hybrid hotend, from Metaform, LLC, recently launched through Kickstarter and just surpassed its funding goal. It is designed to be as small and light as possible, while also retaining great thermal performance and integrating some interesting features to reduce headaches. The weight of your 3D printer’s moving parts is incredibly important, because of simple physics. Anything that is moving is subject to inertia, and the more weight that is moving the more inertia your printer has to overcome when accelerating or changing direction. When your printer is lacking in rigidity or is trying to move too much weight, that inertia will result in shadowing on the surface of parts and dimensional inaccuracy. Using a tiny hotend like the Pico Hybrid is one way to reduce the moving weight and avoid that.
Thermal performance is also very important for ensuring smooth extrusion and avoiding clogs. Ideally, you want the top of the hotend, where the filament enters, to be cool and then to immediately become hot after the heat break. If too much heat travels up past the heat break, the filament will melt before it should and cause clogging. The Pico Hybrid went through extensive testing to yield a design that maintains that temperature differential reliably. Other features, like a swiveling heater and strain relief for the cables, keep you from having to deal with headaches like broken or, heaven forbid, shorting cables. The Pico Hybrid is available in all-metal or PTFE-lined versions, and you can easily swap between 3mm or 1.75mm filament by changing the nozzle. It has a standardized mount that is compatible with a wide range of extruders, including those found on Prusa, Creality, Lulzbot, and Ultimaker 3D printers.
If you want to get your hands on a Pico Hybrid hotend, you can back the Kickstarter campaign until November 5th. Early Birds can get a single hotend, with heater and fan, for $119. Rewards are expected to ship in February of 20121.