How to Print in Multiple Materials with a Single Extruder

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How to Print in Multiple Materials with a Single Extruder
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How to Print in Multiple Materials with a Single Extruder

The one disadvantage of a single nozzle machine is that you can only print in a single colour or material, or can you? Well there is a more manual way in where you can print in 2 colours or even materials with a single nozzle 3D-Printer. We can do this by setting our G-Code to pause the print and let us change the filament at certain intervals and even change the print settings. This is not as complicated as it seems either, I will do a step by guide how to print in multiple materials or colours . I will be using Cura for this as it is free but Simplfy3D can also be used.

So step one is importing your model and then set all your normal settings for your first material:

3D Printing multiple materials with a Single Extruder
Main Settings

Next you want to go to the layer view and then find the layer(s) you want the material to change. Write this/these down we will need them

3D Printing multiple materials with a Single Extruder
Finding a layer to switch filament

With this/these number(s) you want to put them through this simple equation to find the mm height at which you want the change the material.

Selected layer * layer height = mm height

So now you have you mm height(s) you want to put your plugins in Cura: Go to the plugins tab and there should be two plugins already there. Now if you want to just change the colour and use the same type of filament (eg Blue PLA to Green PLA) then import as many pause at heights as you need. If you are wanting to change the material you are printing (eg PLA to flexable PLA) then you will also need tweak at Z. This allows you to change the settings of your print. You need to select the plugin on the top then use the arrow to add them.

3D Printing multiple materials with a Single Extruder
Adding plugins

So now we will configure the plugins:

Pause at height-So now you will want to enter your mm height value into the “pause height (mm)”. Then set you X & Y parks-this is where the extruder will go to move out the way of the model; I usually set mine to 20mm on both. You can add Z move but I don’t, and I leave the retraction amount at the default but you can change this if you want.

3D Printing multiple materials with a Single Extruder
Pause at Z Height

Tweak at Z-So you want to set the MM height, but I recommend subtracting your layer height  from this value (eg MM height – 0.2) this will enforce your new settings before the printer pauses for you to change the filament. So if your going from PLA to ABS you want to extruder to heat up before you need to change the filament otherwise you wouldn’t be able to put the high temperature filament. You also want to select the “Tweak value and keep it for the rest”.

3D Printing multiple materials with a Single Extruder
Tweak At Z

So with you can repeat all these plugins as much as you want to change the filament as many times as you want.

Next export your G-code and then start your print. So when it come to the layer you set, your printer will stop printing and move the nozzle and let you change the filament. After you changed the filament press the dial on your printer and it will start printing again.

3D Printing multiple materials with a Single Extruder
The Printer will Pause Here

With this simple technique I was able to print Baymax with a blue PLA base and red flexible PLA for the character. This worked very well except that my flexible filament settings were a bit too quick, however the model came out great. The PLA and flexible PLA joined very well, the flexible PLA was, well flexible and the PLA base was just like normal PLA.

3D Printing multiple materials with a Single Extruder
Multi Material Print with a Single Extruder

So I hoped you enjoyed the article and/or found it interesting. If you have any questions or suggestions leave them in the comments and I will answer them. If you enjoyed this article consider commenting to support us or take a look at my other articles by clicking on my name.

  1. Daniel Faegnell says

    Could we perhaps see a future follow up on 3d printing tutorials from you? 🙂

  2. [email protected] says

    That is really great to be able to do that. Thanks for showing us how.

  3. miniquandt says

    Hopefully one day we can 3D print like we Color print at home. Fast and in many colors.

  4. [email protected] says

    I just want to read this post again. You can do so many neat things with these printers.

  5. Richard Bynum says

    Thanks, one day I’m going to try this! Printing something big in a single color doesn’t seem right to me. I would love to make funny action figures with flex filament arms and legs and regular pla for the chests and heads. Interchangeable hands and heads/faces. Being able to print a head with a dynamic hairline is going to be a challenge and time consuming with lots of pauses (changing the filament back and forth many times) but I think I can give it a try now! The uniform of the figure is going to be a challenge too (printing a crest in the front of the shirt). I know I’m in for a lot of “do-overs” but at-least I know the ends and outs of the process now! I’m saving this page to keep it handy!

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