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3D Printer Extruder Types

  • 6 min read

Everything You Need to Know About 3D Printer Extruder Types

Want to explore the fascinating world of 3D printing and unlock its limitless potential with a wide variety of extruders? Whether you're a beginner or an experienced enthusiast, understanding the different 3D printer extruder types is essential for maximizing their capabilities. From versatile single extruders to high-performance dual extruders, and from direct drive to Bowden systems, this comprehensive guide illuminates the unique features and uses of each extruder model, helping you make the right choice for your next printing project.

What is a 3D Printer Extruder?

A 3D printer extruder is a fundamental component responsible for melting and depositing the filament material to create a 3D printed object layer by layer. It comprises various parts, including a motor-driven gear or hobbed bolt to push the filament, a heated nozzle for melting the filament, and a cooling system to solidify the melted material. This essential component determines the printing quality, speed, and versatility of a 3D printer.

What are the Different Types of 3D Printer Extruders?

Understanding the types of extruders is crucial for achieving precise and efficient 3D printing results. Here is a breakdown of the different types of 3D printer extruders:

Direct Extruder

A direct extruder in a 3D printer is a type of extruder where the filament is driven directly into the hotend or nozzle by a motor that's typically mounted on the print head. It's positioned closer to the hotend and is directly responsible for pushing the filament through the hotend to melt and deposit it onto the print bed.
The functionality of a direct extruder, such as the AnkerMake M5C extruder, involves its ability to control the movement of the filament precisely. It directly feeds the filament from the spool into the hotend, allowing for more control over the filament's movement, pressure, and retraction. This setup is known for providing greater precision and control over the extrusion process, especially when dealing with flexible or soft filaments. However, due to the weight of the extruder being mounted on the print head, it might limit the maximum print speed and acceleration of the printer.
For those seeking direct extruders that balance fast printing speed with exceptional print quality, explore the following recommended options:
  • AnkerMake M5 3D Printer
AnkerMake M5 3D Printer incorporates the latest advancements in 3D printing, achieving a groundbreaking speed of 500 mm/s for rapid and effective printing. Thanks to the direct extruder, it achieves an extraordinary precision of 0.1 mm even at 5X speed, while achieving excellent accuracy. Featuring a built-in AI camera monitoring system, this innovative printer effortlessly records the creative process and generates automatic timelapses. Its app connectivity facilitates smooth integration with various devices, streamlining operations. The 7×7 auto-leveling mechanism ensures consistent precision, while its straightforward assembly simplifies setup. Crafted with a robust aluminum alloy structure, it offers a spacious print volume of 235×235×250 mm³, providing ample room for diverse creative projects.
  • AnkerMake M5C 3D Printer
AnkerMake M5C 3D Printer is crafted to revolutionize your printing encounters. The AnkerMake M5C extruder reaches a maximum speed of 500 mm/s in Fast Mode. This printer offers an outstanding extrusion flow of 35 mm³/s, ensuring swift and efficient printing operations. It excels in precision with a remarkable 0.1 mm printing capability. The 7×7 Auto-Leveling system assures accuracy, while its sturdy Full Aluminum Alloy Structure ensures stability and durability for consistent printing performance. The Easy Multi-Device Control through its app function and a customizable One-Click Button make your 3D printing tasks effortless. Furthermore, the All-Metal Hotend guarantees efficient heating and extrusion, ensuring impeccable prints for each use.

Bowden Extruder

A Bowden extruder is a type of extruder used in 3D printers where the filament is fed from a distance away, usually from a spool mounted elsewhere on the printer, into the hotend through a tube called a Bowden tube. The motor that drives the filament is placed remotely from the hotend, often near the printer's frame. Compared with a direct extruder, a Bowden extruder is notably lighter and faster since its only movable component is the hotend.
A Bowden extruder operates by employing an elongated tube to direct the filament from the extruder's motor to the hotend. This setup separates the motor from the hotend, which reduces the weight on the print head, allowing for faster movement and printing speeds. The Bowden system is advantageous for speed and reducing the inertia on the print head, resulting in less ringing or artifacts on the printed objects. However, it might introduce issues related to flexible filaments due to increased resistance within the Bowden tube, impacting print accuracy, especially in retraction and filament control.

Dual Extruders

Dual extruders in 3D printing refer to a setup that integrates two separate extruders onto a single printer. These extruders work simultaneously, allowing the printer to use two different filaments or colors during the printing process. This configuration enables the creation of multi-material or multi-color prints without the need for manual filament changes.
Functionally, dual extruders facilitate the printing of intricate and complex models with varying colors or materials. They offer versatility by allowing users to print support structures using dissolvable filaments or different colors within a single print job. Additionally, these extruders are advantageous for producing prototypes, intricate designs, and models with intricate details or multiple colors.

Tips for Maintaining the Extruder

Maintaining the extruder is crucial for optimal 3D printing performance. Here are some essential tips for keeping your extruder in good condition:


Regular Cleaning

Clean the extruder regularly to prevent the buildup of filament residue or debris, which can hinder smooth filament feeding and affect print quality.


Lubrication (if applicable)

Some extruders may require lubrication for smoother movement of moving parts. Follow manufacturer guidelines and apply lubricants where necessary to maintain optimal functionality.

Inspect and Replace Worn Parts

Periodically inspect the extruder components for wear and tear. Replace any worn or damaged parts, such as gears, springs, or nozzles, to prevent issues during printing and maintain print quality.


In conclusion, the world of 3D printer extruders presents a dynamic array of options, each with its own strengths and applications. Choosing the right 3D printer extruder types greatly influences the precision, speed, and material compatibility of your 3D prints. Whether it's the versatility of a dual extruder or the precision of a direct drive, understanding these variations empowers users to optimize their printing experience. By weighing the advantages and considerations of different extruder types, hope you can select the most suitable option to fulfill your 3D printing needs and achieve exceptional results.


What is the Difference Between Hotend and Extruder?

The difference between a hotend and an extruder in a 3D printer lies in their distinct roles. The hotend is responsible for melting the filament and depositing it onto the print bed or previously printed layers to form the desired object, utilizing components like a heater block and nozzle. On the other hand, the extruder's function involves feeding the filament into the hotend using components such as a motor and gears. It ensures a steady filament flow into the hotend, enabling the printing process to create intricate 3D models layer by layer.

Which is Better Direct Drive or Bowden?

The choice between Direct Drive and Bowden largely depends on specific preferences and printing requirements. Direct Drive systems, where the extruder is directly above the hotend, offer better control and support a wider range of materials due to reduced filament path. Bowden setups, with the extruder separated from the hotend, provide faster print speeds and less inertia on the moving parts, enhancing precise movements. Each system has its advantages, with Direct Drive favoring accuracy and material compatibility, while Bowden excels in speed and reduced moving mass.
The debate between Direct Drive and Bowden systems in 3D printing has evolved with recent technological advancements. Historically, the choice between these two depended on specific needs and preferences. Direct Drive systems, where the extruder is positioned directly above the hotend, are renowned for their superior control and a broader compatibility with various materials, thanks to the shorter filament path. This design traditionally faced challenges with the added weight affecting print speed and precision.
On the other hand, Bowden setups, featuring the extruder separated from the hotend, historically allowed for faster print speeds and reduced inertia on the print head, leading to more precise movements. This setup, however, could sometimes compromise on control and material versatility.
However, with the advent of advanced motion systems like CoreXY, the landscape has shifted. These innovative systems effectively counterbalance the weight issues associated with Direct Drive extruders. As a result, Direct Drive configurations can now achieve higher speeds and maintain their advantages in terms of accuracy and material flexibility. Most contemporary comparisons find that Direct Drive systems, when coupled with these advanced motion systems, tend to outperform Bowden setups in a broader range of applications. Therefore, while the choice still depends on specific use-cases and preferences, Direct Drive systems are increasingly considered the more versatile and effective option in a wide array of printing scenarios.

What Type of Extruder is Used on FDM Printers?

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers commonly use either a Direct Drive or Bowden extruder. Direct Drive systems feature the extruder placed directly above the hotend, offering precise control over filament feeding. In contrast, Bowden extruders have the extruder motor positioned away from the hotend, connected by a tube, allowing for faster movement but potentially sacrificing some precision. The selection often depends on the printer's design, its intended use, and the balance between printing speed and precision required for the application.