Two (well many now) Months with the E3D ToolChanger – Part 2

Tinkering with the ToolChanger has become a never ending project. This isn’t to say I am not enjoying it – tweaking is fun for me. Before 3D printing became as popular as it is now, the joke with enthusiasts was all we would print is upgrades for our printer. It is a bit embarrassing how true that was for me and the Thing-o-Matic.

This same enthusiasm for tweaking has resurfaced with the ToolChanger from E3D. It is a base printer platform with a solid motion system tool changer that is begging to be improved, enhanced, and pushed to the limits.

If you read Part 1 (from a long long time ago) you saw that I was eluding to developing a direct drive solution for the ToolChanger. I was not the first and I highly doubt the best at creating a direct drive solution, but my goal was to reuse as many parts from the original Bowden setup as possible and keep the weight under the recommended maximum.

Behold: The Almost Direct Drive Extruder

With the help of a pancake stepper motor and the rest of the V6 Bowden design I developed the above direct drive setup that came in under weight. This design went through many revisions to get to what you see above and it continues to be revised as I try to develop a plug style connector for easy tool changing in the future.

With four new direct drive extruders I was able to quickly get decent prints.

Friendly Octo Print

With improved prints I was able to start testing multicolor prints and multi-material prints. I will spare you the endless cubes and traffic cones I used to tweak the positioning in the firmware for each tool head and just show you some final prints.

First high quality multicolor print!

The above gecko printed well. I still needed to use a color purge block at this point because I had not quite nailed down retraction and restarts for each tool. It turns out this is trickier than expected.

Feeling bold I moved onto a multi-material print using PLA and TPU. You will see a lot of stringing from the TPU because I turned off retractions which was likely not needed since it was printing, essentially, with a direct drive extruder.

Multi-material plier print.

Yes, I know it says Mosaic, but this did come from the E3D ToolChanger. You can see there are still some height tweaks to be made for each extruder in firmware, but overall it was a successful multi-material print with some TPU stringing.

Other Changes

  • With the change to direct drive extruders I ditched the spool holders inside the printer. They just didn’t make sense for that setup and I never found the spool holder solution to be ideal.
  • I also added limit switches for X and Y and I think you should too. The shipped ToolChanger relied on stepper stalls to determine X and Y limits, but I and others on the forum found it wasn’t reliable enough. The limit switches are cheap and fairly easy to install. It took my printer from 65% reliable on X and Y limits to 100%.
  • I added a magnetic PEI flex plate to the glass bed to make removing prints easy. I have a backup glass plate as well for any print materials that do not work well with PEI.
  • With the addition of an aluminum extrusion I was able to stiffen the frame quite a bit so I wasn’t relying as much on the plexiglas sides for added stability.

What else?

  • I changed one drive from a direct drive Titan to a direct drive E3D Hemera.
  • Two tools have been changed to have quick-release connectors that allow me to change tools. The Hemera and the 3rd Titan tool have this design. You can see more about the quick release connectors on Thingiverse.com. You can also find the Hemera version there was well.
  • I have a spare tool that has a 0.8 mm nozzle that I now can swap with a tool with a 0.4 nozzle using the above system.
  • The build plate has been updated to have proper embedded magnets that work much like the Prusa MK3 design. I purchased mine from Mandala Rose Works.
  • I updated the firmware from Reprap Firmware 2 to 3 which allows for if/else statements in gcode, part cancelation during print (so a single part on the build plate can be canceled instead of the whole job), and many other features.
  • Many other minor tweaks to wiring, tools, and slicers.

Final Thoughts

The E3D ToolChanger has become my primary printer. The tool flexibility, motion system, and structural rigidity are all huge advantages over my other printer options. That said I still go to the Prusa MK3 for PET/G printing usually because I’ve tuned it to print that filament so well, but that’s not to say I haven’t done PET/G printing with the ToolChanger.

Quite a few people still to ask if the ToolChanger is right for them. It should not be your first printer – there is too much complexity over a standard one tool printer. You should get comfortable with a more simple printer first, go through some repairs, rewiring, many hours of printing, and have some experience either with Duet3D boards or at least dabbling with firmware before considering the ToolChanger.

The good news is that if you are still interested in the ToolChanger, E3D has switched from Titan v6 tools to Hemera tools for the kit they sell. The Hemera has a dual gear setup similar to Bondtech and provides more grip. In addition one of the kit options E3D has is the Hemera tools are direct drive rather than Bowden which allows for, in my opinion, a better printing experience.

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