Named after the gods of Greek Mythology, the new E3D Titan extruder is proof that that big things can come in small packages.
Note: This review originally appeared on Thomas Sanladerer’s YouTube Channel and is subject to copyright. Text and images have been reproduced with the author’s permission.
According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the Titans were giant deities of incredible strength, who ruled during the legendary Golden Age. Well, if this isn’t the cutest little extruder you ever did see!
So the E3D Titan – everyone’s pretty excited about it, so let’s check out what this little guy is all about! And at first glance, you might go “well, what’s the deal anyways”, and so did I.
You could entirely describe the Titan as “a small geared extruder”, which is true, that’s what it is. But as with all things E3D, that’s not the end of the story.
The Titan tries to get the best of both worlds of geared and direct-drive extruders into one package, so it’s as small as one of the super simple direct-drive extruders and still retains that lever-based, spring-loaded core mechanic that allows you to easily release the filament, but it’s also got a 3 to 1 reduction gearing in there that allows it to drive 3mm filament.
And actually, this is a universal extruder for both 3mm and 1.75mm filament, the way that works is this — the filament first runs through the idler lever, which has a 4mm bore that’s either going to line up 3mm filament directly, but it also allows you to insert the same PTFE or Teflon tube that is used for 1.75mm bowden setups, so you’ve directly got a spot where you can attach that feeder tube if you want to use one, which I’d recommend since it keeps the filament from pulling up on the extruder if you fix the other end in place.
This piece of tube isn’t held in place particularly well, so it does like to pop out if you reverse a length of particularly stiff filament like ProtoPasta Carbon-Fiber reinforced high temperature PLA through a long feed tube. But for normal filaments, it’s absolutely appropriate. Plus, with it reaching that far into the extruder, it allows you to insert filament without popping it out, which was kind of a bummer on the BigBox. And on my now retired Wade’s extruder.
Moving on, the filament drive gear is a fairly flat profile that is a bit less coarse and aggressive than E3D’s stand-alone Hobb-Goblin, so it will grab 3mm and 1.75mm just fine, but it needs that guidance to keep the filament from slipping off to the side. And that’s where that last bit of universalism comes in, these little inserts – you get one sized for 3mm and 1.75mm.
This is one of the most elegant implementations I’ve seen of a filament guide yet. These are injection molded parts made from a very slippery plastic, and they save you from the hassle of having to trim a piece of teflon tube to exactly match the profile of the hobbed section and the idler bearing, you know, they just fit. Plus, they are super easy to remove and clean or replace.
The 1.75mm one takes the teflon tube as an insert and that will get you one continuous length of teflon right down into your E3D v6 hotend or, if you choose to use one, the bowden adapter and from there on into the hotend. 3mm just gives you a straight bore. Either of these guides is being held in place by the hotend, and, obviously the mount for that is made for the E3D v6, and that fits in there super snugly, as it should, but, in my case with the Mendel90, kinda leaves me struggling for mounting options, but my modifications of that printer left it with somewhat of a special mount anyways, which I’m probably going to reengineer pretty soon.
So while the Titan is intended to be mounted with a bracket fitting between the stepper motor and the extruder, which is a great option for (Prusa) i3-style printers, I simply used the hotend mount and printed an adapter that fits in there. You do need to leave that distance between the motor and extruder body unchanged, though, as the extruder relies on that exact spacing to keep the idler lever in place.
And while we’re at it, you might have noticed that the idler is actually hinged on the rotating motor shaft, which — wow — is a super bold move by E3D. I would have done that differently, because I’d be afraid that the flat side of the shaft would slowly grind away the idler’s eye. E3D did reassure me that this isn’t a real issue because they used a special self-lubricating Delrin blend and haven’t had any wear issues even in the machines they’ve been running 24/7, and that sounds super plausible with a nice motor shaft, but I’d still recommend just taking a bit of very fine, like 1200 grit sandpaper and giving the edges of the motor shaft a quick pass so that you don’t have an actual cutting edge grinding against the plastic part.
Oh, and motors, yes. This is actually the big kicker for me with the Titan. It uses a tiny pancake Nema 17 stepper. Typically, you’d still use a pretty chunky 40 or 48N-cm motor for a direct-drive 1.75mm extruder, but since the Titan has that gearing in there, you only need one third of the torque, so this tiny 13N-cm stepper should perform exactly the same.
And it does! It worked absolutely flawlessly, even with the Volcano on there. Sure, stepper motors, roughly speaking, lose torque the faster they go, but an extruder is still nowhere near that speed where the torque starts to drop significantly.
And here’s the amazing part; this is the Wade’s extruder I used to have in there, and while it may have been overkill ever since I modified it to use 1.75mm instead of 3mm, it still weighs in at about three times as much total as the Titan with the tiny pancake stepper. And typical 1.75mm direct-drive extruders don’t fare any better, they’ve also got the huge 48N-cm steppers on there, so they weigh in at pretty much exactly the same spot.
Now, this basically has a few side effects. One, if you have a moving extruder, you’re going to put a lot less force on the motion system of that axis, so the belt and the motor, which means those two can now lug around the extruder much quicker without increasing things like corner ringing where the entire axis basically oscillates for a while after making a sharp move. Or you could use that to go for a dual- or even triple-extruder setup with almost the same weight budget as one regular extruder and hotend. And since the smaller motors have less inertia with their smaller rotor, you can also use faster acceleration for the extruder, which should make retracts super quick and consequentially, you prints faster and less blobby.
Sure, you can use the Titan with full-size motors as well, they don’t even cost any more than the pancakes, and while you should be running one of those for 3mm, I think you’re giving away the Titan’s largest advantage if you use it for a moving 1.75mm extruder.
Now, I don’t want or even can talk too much about printing performance, because, frankly, it just works. The tooth profile is great and it grips anything from the aforementioned carbon fiber filament down to flexibles, and while I did get good, but not mind-blowingly fast prints with NinjaFlex, I will give the Titan the benefit of the doubt and say that was probably due to the longer filament path my custom mount introduced. And obviously, once those two specialty filaments work, you can be sure ABS, PLA and PET are going to work just as flawless as a well.
So, surprisingly, the Titan is not one of the fancy new dual-gear extruders, which I find a bit disappointing, as those can really help with printing particularly hard or slippery plastics at faster speeds, though the nice tooth profile on the Titan still manages to deliver a very impressive performance nonetheless. And as I’ve mentioned in my last video, I think we’re now at a point where you can choose an extruder by comfort features and don’t really need to look into how many Newtons of force it can put on the filament – which hasn’t changed or improved all that much since the early days anyways, but features have.
So other than what I’ve mentioned already, the Titan comes with a few more nifty details – it’s surprising how much you can stuff into such a tiny package. For example, the tension adjustment nut has a scale embedded in the polycarbonate part next to it that you can use to repeatably set the idler tension, and the adjustment range on that goes from completely loose, which is probably a setting for 3mm, to completely tight, with the spring’s turns totally pressed against each other. Nice.
Also, the drive gear is super exposed on the corner of the extruder, so should you ever manage to strip the filament, that’s going to be incredibly easy to clean out.
So, in conclusion, where do I think the Titan fits in? Well, to be honest, I did expect a bit more of an extreme product from E3D, with all the dual gear extruders and super over the top designs everywhere these days, but let’s just take a step back.
At its core, the Titan is a really solid extruder, it’s got a nice filament drive gear, its overall mechanical design is robust with some pretty smart details, and again, I think this is its biggest feature, you can build an incredibly light setup for 1.75mm filament, up to a point where you can get away without a full blown bowden setup in a lot more machines.
In my opinion, the Titan works best as a precision extruder, and while I won’t tell you to run out and replace every extruder you might already have with a Titan, because a “normal” extruder sure works, too, it’s opening up a few interesting weight saving options without compromising on performance, and that can really come in handy in the right printer setups.