Is a direct drive extruder better than a Bowden?

3D Printing Extruders Unveiled: Navigating between Bowden & Direct Drive


Hey there tech enthusiasts! It’s Carolina, your go-to guide in the maze of technology. Ever been bamboozled by the technical jargon around 3D printers? Today, let’s delve deep into the world of extruders, primarily the Bowden and Direct Drive types. I’ve been down the rabbit hole and back to present the essentials. So, let’s jump in!

Breaking Down the Direct Drive Extruder:
A Direct Drive Extruder beautifully melds the stepper motor with the hotend, making it a singular unit. This union ensures that the filament undergoes a shorter journey, moving directly through the extruder to the hotend and nozzle. This truncated path offers advantages, notably the reduction in retraction. It’s no wonder many 3D printers are leaning towards this setup.

Diving into the Bowden Extruder:
Contrastingly, a Bowden Extruder keeps a gap. The extruder and stepper motor are distinct entities, bridged by a Bowden PTFE tube. Through this tube, the filament voyages to reach its destination – the hotend and nozzle.

Direct Drive Extruder: The Highs and Lows
1. Efficient Extrusion & Retraction: A short filament path ensures fewer retraction settings, mitigating issues like stringing.
2. Minimal Power Demand: The proximity of the extruder to the hotend diminishes the need for torque, conserving energy.
3. Filament Versatility: Direct Drives can handle diverse filament types, especially the super flexible ones, with élan.

1. Extra Weight: A fun fact: a standard NEMA stepper motor weighs as much as a filled salt shaker! In the rapid motion realm of 3D printing, this weight can be a challenge, inducing vibrations.
2. Speed Constraints: A Direct Drive’s positioning impacts its speed, making it a tad slower and potentially compromising print quality.

Bowden Extruder: The Good and the Not-So-Good
1. Speed: Reduced weight translates to swifter operations.
2. Enhanced Build Space: Owing to a compact print head, Bowden users enjoy a larger playground.
3. Sturdy Construction: Bowden extruders are known for their robust build, taking up minimal space.

1. Motor Needs: A robust motor is essential to counteract the friction within the Bowden tube.
2. Delayed Action: The filament faces resistance, slowing down the extrusion and causing issues like stringing.
3. Filament Limitations: Bowden systems can’t handle every filament. For instance, while it manages PLA and ABS, flexible filaments often pose challenges.

Bowden or Direct Drive: The Million Dollar Question
To each their own! If swift prints and primary materials like PLA and ABS suffice your needs, Bowden might be your BFF. However, if your heart beats for diverse filaments and you’re patient with speed, Direct Drive could be your dream machine.

Top Picks for Direct Drive Extruders:
1. Zesty Nimble Remote Direct Drive Extruder: A unique hybrid, it amalgamates Bowden’s attributes while delivering Direct Drive performance.
2. E3D Titan Aero: At around $150, this combo of a hotend and extruder is a sure winner in the world of 3D printing.

Bowden Extruders That Shine:
1. E3D V6 All-Metal Hotend: The lauded V6 from E3D is a testament to its quality.
2. DisTech Automation Prometheus V2: Compact, efficient, and lightweight, this all-metal hotend from the German giants is a game-changer.