Since smashing into the world of extruders with Titan back in March 2016 the next logical step for E3D was to integrate a Hot End into it, compress it as much as possible and make an ultra-compact all-in-one extruder and hotend. As with the original Titan, we came up with some design objectives before cracking on with prototyping. This helped us to work out exactly what we wanted to achieve with our new hot-end-extruder-thing:
- Make it as small as possible, particularly in the Z direction in order to squeeze out as much extra build height as possible.
- Be compatible with the current Titan design, so that those with a Titan can simply upgrade their Hot End. We really didn’t want to force customers to buy a whole new product when the original is a perfectly good piece of kit! We don't want to be one of those companies that launches a product and then makes you buy an upgrade which shares a large amount of components 6 months later.
- Be compatible with the V6 and Volcano ecosystem of nozzles, sensors and heaters, maintaining all the customisation options that are available.
- Be all metal in design, with comparable performance to a V6 HotEnd. Anything less than accurate, reliable extrusion of any thermoplastic would have been a compromise we weren’t willing to make.
- Keep the filament path as short and constained as possible. This leads to a more responsive extruder with cleaner starts and stops and, by extension, better print quality. Reducing the driven length of filament in the system reduces lag induced by the flexing and compressing of the filament. This is especially beneficial for flexible filaments due to their compressibility.
This is the Titan Aero. An aluminium heatsink that replaces the lid of the Titan, giving you all the performance of a V6 (and then some!). It also takes a standard V6 threaded heatbreak, so retains full membership to the V6 ecosystem.
The first thing to note is how compact Aero is. At 25mm shorter than a Titan and V6, it allows you to squeeze out every last bit of build volume from your printer. It also has a very short length of filament between the hobb and the nozzle tip. ‘But why is this important?’ you may ask. The short answer is that it makes the extruder more responsive and better at extruding all materials but especially flexibles. The long answer takes a little more explanation:
Imagine the filament in the extruder as a spring. As you start to extrude it compresses a little, storing pressure. While this is happening not all the force from the extruder is felt at the nozzle tip. Visibly what this means is that extrusion commences gradually, rather than immediately starting. Conversely, when you finish extruding this stored pressure is released and the nozzle continues to extrude. Ie: it oozes. As you are starting and stopping multiple times per layer these effects become visible, often as a seam up the side of the print. However, if as with the Titan Aero you reduce the length of filament, there is less material to compress and hence the extruder starts and stops more quickly. This results in better print quality with all filaments, with the results amplified the more flexible a filament is.
However it’s not only good for flexibles, it is a full metal HotEnd like a V6 and can also dissipate a similar amount of heat, so can print any thermoplastic you choose. We’ve put a bunch of different filaments through the Aero and found that it could handle anything we threw at it, including high temperature engineering plastics. Not only did it print everything we tried but we got nice clean and precise prints whilst doing so, thanks to the responsiveness of the extruder.
Titan Aero is incredibly rigid as the HotEnd is compact and firmly screwed to the extruder body. This means your extruder can accurately follow your motion systems movements, regardless of how fast it accelerates. A more rigid setup is also more resistant to potential collisions with a print (for example in the case of an errant curled-up overhang), making the system more reliable as well.
Titan Aero makes use of the 3:1 gearing of the orginal Titan, enabling you to use less powerful motors, down to 21Ncm of torque without compromising reliability. Compared to a typical 40Ncm motor for an ungeared extruder this saves you 135g of weight, meaning you can turn up your printer’s acceleration and print faster without the machine shaking itself to death. Aero also retains Titan’s smart usability features, meaning it is simple to mount, load and unload filament, manually extrude, adjust idler tension, and clean out debris from the hobb.
The most challenging part of this project was to achieve performance equivalent to a V6. A lot of work has gone into optimising the V6, making its heatsink really effective at dissipating heat. We managed this by running simulations from the very early stages of design, allowing us to tweak the fin geometry and find a sweet spot where we get maximum cooling.
However even the best simulation is meaningless without real-world testing to back it up. Luckily Santa was really generous last Christmas and gave us some new toys to let us do more complex prototyping in-house, allowing us to iteratively improve our design. We started with a foam model just to see how it all went together before going to functional aluminium prototypes.
We tested the prototypes extensively to see how far we could push their capabilities.The Aero managed to print any plastic we put through it. We also tested reliability. We weren’t really expecting this to be an issue as the Aero is based on Titan, an extruder itself designed for reliability that has been proven with over 15,000 hours’ use in our print farm. In turn we’ve already run the Aero for around 1500 hours without issue.
Content with reliability in normal operating conditions we decided to try and find the limits of its thermal performance, as the behaviour of the heatsink was what was most likely to be different to V6. Our test was to stick the Aero in an enclosed print volume where the ambient temperature got up to 35 degrees celsius (about 95°F for our American friends) and get it to print with PLA. PLA has a very low softening temperature (65°C), so to printing it in a warm chamber requires a very efficient heat sink or it will jam. Even in this strenuous environment, the Titan Aero performed perfectly. We then took things a step further and tried printing with the heatsink heavily enclosed by the carriage it was mounted on compromising airflow and heat dissapation. In this case that it was a indeed little more prone to jamming due to overheating, however if you are aware of this it can be easily avoided by making sure you mount the Aero on a carriage that allows for good airflow into the fan and out of the heatsink.
Being a forward-looking company we looked into all kinds of colourful 'branding' and 'design' nonsense during the manufacturing process. At one point we even looked into anodizing the heat sink to a bright green, but in the end we went for something more clean and classical-looking. The final design of Titan Aero looks nice. Really nice. Its pleasing compact design has a raw aluminium finish for that professional CNC-machined look. It's also very shiny.
We looked extensively into getting the most fancy-pants fans possible. Blue fans would match the logo, but LED-lit fans added a pretty spectacular level of bling. In the end we decided that might be a little... overstated and went with translucent fans that allow you to see the machinery within.
Looking back at our design objectives and how they were realised we can say that Titan Aero is:
- A combination of some of the best parts of Titan and V6. It is reliable, robust, easy to use, and can print any thermoplastic.
- Fully compatible with the E3D ecosystem. This means that if you want to upgrade any part of it (nozzles, blocks, sensors, etc) then you can!
- Compact, especially in the Z direction, allowing you to get the most out of your printer’s build volume.
- The extruder with one of the shortest filament paths available, giving you a responsive extruder and cleaner prints.
- Perfectly suited to printing flexible filaments, while not being limited to only flexibles!
We have Titan Aero on the shelves, ready to go both as an upgrade for those who already have a Titan and V6, and also as a 12V or 24V full kit with everything you need to get printing. Also available in a mirrored version. Mount a standard and mirrored Titan Aero side by side to maximise print volume.
ALSO INTRODUCING the Mirrored Titan Extruder. Get the most out of dual extruding with Titan and V6 with the Mirrored Titan.