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Two Nozzle or Not Two Nozzle?

Ender 3 Dual Extruder: Is It Possible to Upgrade?

Picture of Jonathan Witte
by Jonathan Witte
Oct 22, 2019
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Though an extremely popular 3D printer, the Ender 3 can only do so much. Find out how to turn your Ender 3 single extruder into an Ender 3 dual extruder!

Ender 3 Dual Extruder Introduction

Using soluble support allows much more complex geometries
Using soluble support allows much more complex geometries (Source: Ultimaker)

One of the most popular upgrade questions surrounding the Ender 3 is, “Can I make it a dual extruder printer?”

For those of you who don’t know exactly what it is or what it’s used for, dual extrusion allows for the use of multiple filaments within a single print. One of the main benefits of using dual extrusion is the ability to print with multiple materials. For instance, using a soluble support material makes model cleanup faster and easier.

So, is it possible to add this benefit to the Ender 3’s existing list? The answer is yes, but only if you’re willing to do a bit of work. For example, it’s important to note that any dual extrusion upgrade to the Ender 3 will require a new control board, as the stock model doesn’t have dual extrusion capabilities.

Along those same lines, the limitation of hardware is a key factor to consider when presenting options. Many of the following options are either still in the R&D phase, or are open-source and created by hobbyists.

With that said, let’s dive a little deeper into what dual extrusion means and then take a look at what options exist for the Ender 3!

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Ender 3 Dual Extruder "True" Dual Extrusion

A more professional dual extrusion system
A more professional dual extrusion system (Source: Kickstarter)

As it stands, there are no official kits for or versions of the Ender 3 that will allow it to print with two or more nozzles (i.e. “true” dual extrusion). But that’s not to say that people haven’t come up with their own solutions.

Being an Ender 3 owner means that you’re a part of a huge innovative community that’s constantly pushing to make new modifications that help everyone. That’s just part of what makes this printer so amazing.

As time continues and technology develops, dual extrusion kits for the Ender 3 may become a reality, but as of right now, you’ll have to leave it to the un-professionals.

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Ender 3 Dual Extruder Dual Extrusion Option: DIY Chimera Project

This DIY dual extruder has two independant nozzles for printing
This DIY dual extruder has two independant nozzles for printing (Source: krestoverson / Thingiverse)

One of the few designs that will allow for true dual extrusion on the Ender 3 is the DIY solution by Jonathan Holman (krestoverson).

This idea combines 3D printed parts and the commercially available E3D Chimera hot end to make a functional dual extrusion system. You can find the parts list and instructions on the Thingiverse page.

While it was designed for an Ender 4, it should function on your Ender 3 since the X-gantry is essentially the same.

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Ender 3 Dual Extruder Multicolor Printing with a Single Nozzle

A Prusa with a MMU is a multicolor printing setup
A Prusa with a MMU is a multicolor printing setup, but it requires printing a prime tower

This is where things get interesting. Multicolor printing is different from dual extrusion because it only uses one nozzle and simply switches filaments during a print. This means you might even be able to use the hot end already installed on the Ender 3!

The downside to multicolor printing is that there’s more plastic waste, as you have to clear out (or “purge”) the nozzle after each material change. Also, you can only use very similar materials during one print, due to differences in temperature and cooling requirements.

In the following sections, you’ll see a few different methods for making multicolor printing a reality on the Ender 3. Some of the methods below are professional “ready-to-run” systems that have been tested. Others are made by hobbyists, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t work! In fact, they might even be a better fit for you!

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Ender 3 Dual Extruder Multicolor Option 1: DIY Multi-Material Solution

A simple DIY multi-material solution
A simple DIY multi-material solution (Source: Zemistr / YouTube)

If you’re into making your own solutions, this is definitely for you. YouTuber Zemistr has designed a system to make the Ender 3 a functioning multi-material printer.

Combining 3D printed parts and a few commercially-available items, Zemistr walks you through how to set up this system. The idea is to combine two Bowden tubes into one, and simply retract the filament that’s not in use. Of course, it’s open to modification and will most likely work even if you have slightly different parts. The only thing left to do is plan a weekend for it!

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Ender 3 Dual Extruder Multicolor Option 2: Cyclops Hot End

Using a Cyclops hot end on the Ender 3
Using a Cyclops hot end on the Ender 3 (Source: zrxmopar / Thingiverse)

Ender 3 user Shaun Forgacs (zrxmopar) has created an upgrade that allows multicolor printing on an Ender 3 with a few commercially-available and 3D printed parts.

This system uses an E3D Cyclops hot end, which can mix two filaments, in addition to basic multi-material printing. It should also be interchangeable with a Chimera dual nozzle hot end (which has the same form factor as the Cyclops) for true dual extrusion, but this hasn’t yet been tested.

If you’re up for a challenge, dive into this well-documented upgrade and see what the boundaries are! The files and parts list are available on Thingiverse.

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Ender 3 Dual Extruder Multicolor Option 3: 3-into-1 Hot End

The 3 color extruder modification
The 3 color extruder modification (Source: shotsy / Thingiverse)

Though it’s based on the same principles as the other modifications, this project is slightly different.

Deriving some parts from other makers in the open-source community, Kenneth Shotswell (shotsy) put together a functional system that produces multicolor parts. Using a 3-into-1 hot end and a custom mount and cooling system, it allows the Ender 3 to print (or mix) three separate colors in a single print!

While this version may be slightly more involved, it isn’t any less fun. The parts list and files are available on Thingiverse.

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Ender 3 Dual Extruder Multicolor Option 4: Zero Physical Modifications

Simple multi-color printing
Simple multi-color printing (Source: CHEP / YouTube)

If you’ve only got about 10 minutes to spare, then you might want to give this solution a shot.

The simplest of all, this style of multicolor printing on the Ender 3 is a breeze. Explained by YouTuber CHEP, changing a few settings in the Cura Engine and a little bit of patience can lead to amazing results.

Through this tutorial, you’re shown how to pause the Ender 3 at a specific height, switch the filament, and then continue printing right on top of your prior print.

There are so many ways for you to take this and expand on it that you’ll have fun seeing how far you can push the limit.

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Ender 3 Dual Extruder Multicolor Option 5: Mosaic Palette 2

The Palette 2, hard at work
The Palette 2, hard at work (Source: Just Vlad / YouTube

The Mosaic Palette 2 is a commercially-available option for both makers and professionals looking to print multicolor consistently.

Included with the Palette, you can splice and combine up to four different colors of a single material. The machine works by cutting pre-measured sections of filament and fusing them into one strand, so multi-material only works if you have filaments that will fuse together. Numerous YouTube videos exist detailing this process.

(Lead image source: Martin Zeman / YouTube)

License: The text of "Ender 3 Dual Extruder: Is It Possible to Upgrade?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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