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 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.

Two Months with the E3D ToolChanger – Part 1

It has been a long time since my last article on but for good reason. I was lucky (and unlucky – more on this later) to be low in the ToolChanger queue and received mine shortly after they started shipping.

E3D, known mostly for their nozzles, announced a new motion system and ToolChanger design in March of 2018. With each trade show and meetup they attended where they showed off the ToolChanger the interest surged. E3D did not invent tool changing, but they managed to reduce the complexity and cost to a point where hobbiests could actually get their hands on one. This isn’t to say the system is inexpensive – it is not. Compared, however, to commercial/industrial system it is inexpensive.

E3D has stated they do not want to be in the business of creating printers. I think if you read this whole post you’ll get the sense that is still true. They want to great a system other manufacturers can adopt so they can sell more nozzles, and more recently, more extruders.

Who is the E3D ToolChanger for?

E3D initially stated that this was going to be bare bones system that would require additional parts to complete, but due to reasons unknown to me, they ended up offering a kit to build a complete printer. Despite this change I still urge people new to 3D Printing to find a more complete and better supported printer than the E3D ToolChanger.

So who should get a ToolChanger? Considering the hefty price tag of $3200+ US and the plethora of high quality printers out there for a lot less money you should only be considering the E3D ToolChanger if you meet many of the needs below:

  • Multi material printing beyond dual extrusion
  • Multi material printing where the materials you want to print with need different extruder settings (TPU + PLA for example)
  • Interest in tool heads that do not just print plastic (laser engraver, pick and place, camera/scanner, etc.)
  • A robust motion system that allows for speed and precision across multiple tool heads

Some of the downsides to getting the E3D ToolChanger right now include:

  • Assembly guide is still a work in progress
  • Despite profiles being available, a lot of tweaking is needed to get good prints
  • E3D continues to innovate so early adopters are not given the chance to select a newly announced Hermes (link goes to 3D Printing Nerd) direct drive solution for their ToolChanger
  • Firmware for the ToolChanger is still a work in progress
  • Some material and design choices could be improved
  • Minimal user base with experience running the ToolChanger

If you like to tinker, have a fair amount of 3D printing knowledge, and are looking to expand your printing capabilities then the ToolChanger might be something to consider.

Building the ToolChanger

Assuming you get the full kit that E3D offers, building the ToolChanger is fairly easy for anyone who has put together a Prusa MK2 or MK3 kit. The documentation has good pictures decent instruction with a few inconsistencies and some assumptions about your printer knowledge. By the time you get your hands on one I think the documentation will be even better.

I mentioned earlier that I was both lucky and unlucky to get the ToolChanger early. Unlucky because the instructions included guidance to use thread lock on almost all bolts, but as it turns out thread lock weakens certain plastics including plexiglas. E3D has updated their instruction and replaced plexiglas panels that were cracked for customers who followed the instructions.

Shows crack on plexiglas
Crack not from tightening but because the thread lock weakened the plastic

Aside from the above issue the rest of the build is fairly straight forward. The aluminum parts were well machined and cut. With the exception of a missing screw and a few confusing instructions I did not find assembly to be difficult. It is important to read the instructions carefully, but also read instructions for individual components like the Duet electronics and Titan extruders.

With the exception of the touch panel, brush, and filament, the final picture above is what you should expect from your ToolChanger complete kit:

  • 4 bowden V6 tools with brass 0.4 nozzles
  • 2 regular Titan extruders, 2 mirrored Titan extruders
  • Frame with plexiglas sides, screws, and misc parts
  • X, Y, and Z motion system that uses linear rails
  • ToolChanger coupler – the thing that makes all of this possible
  • Power supply, motors, wiring, and electronics

You will need to print all plastic parts except the V6 plastic docking part which is included:

  • Spool holders
  • Brush holder & brush
  • Cover for ToolChanger coupler
  • Motor wiring cover
  • Stress relief and wiring guides for all 4 tools plus ToolChanger coupler
  • Plexiglas hole covers and fan airflow guide
  • The 4 part cooling fan adapters
  • 5 frame mounted stress relief and wiring guides


There seem to be two strong opinions out there about Bowden setups. One is that any Bowden printer can produce quality and consistent results with enough tweaking. The other is Bowden printers are hard to work with and do not produce consistent results.

I know Bowden printers can print well. I’ve seen the results first hand and the reduced weight often means being able to print faster with less motion related artifacts like ghosting. That said the E3D ToolChanger Bowden needs tweaking. The provided profile for Simplify3D (S3D is not required, by the way) is really a starting point. The ToolChanger has long Bowden tubes (790mm) which, from what I’ve read, is close to the max length you want to go. Not only that, but the Bowden tubes are bent more than a typical Bowden setup.

With this Bowden setup I managed to get good simple prints. Others, in the E3D forum, have very good simple and complex prints. People who have had the beta kits the longest have amazing prints with the ToolChanger bowden setup.

I, on the other hand, struggled with complex Bowden prints. I put a lot of time into tweaking and adjusting settings, checking extrusion, and researching other Bowden settings.

I dialed in the standard 10×10 cube which is an easy print, but a good starting point. The first benchy after the cube was mediocre. There is a fair amount of stringing even with high retraction of 4.8 and there are clearly some retraction related issues on the arch and smokestack. The retraction issues largely were a result of the profile setting in Simplify3D set to retract more often than needed.

First benchy print

After more tweaking including reducing how many retraction occurred during the print, I managed to get a decent but not amazing rhino print. Stringing was reduced and small details printed better like the horn and ears. There are clearly still retraction issues however.

Rhino print

I tried a lot of settings to get the prints coming out better including flow rate, adjusting retraction distance, temperature, speed, a brief very unsuccessful attempt at turning on pressure advance, and any other settings I thought could contribute to the print quality. The above Rhino was still about the best I could get.

I decided, begrudgingly, that I am spoiled by my Prusa MK2 and MK3 direct drive printers which produce very good results with minimal tweaking. As my patience was wearing thin and I thought, instead of trying to get the Bowden printer working perfectly, especially knowing that Bowden printers are usually fairly poor at printing flexible filament no matter how well tuned they are, I decided to look into designing a (nearly) direct drive extruder for the ToolChanger.

Check back for part 2 where I design a new extruder and make other modifications to the ToolChanger as well as show some multi-tool prints.

Please see my about page for information about reviews on this site.

Mosaic Palette 2 – a Second Look

I had an early pre-order for the Mosaic Palette 2 and now six months later I think I have a much better idea of what the Palette 2 can do and what it cannot do.

Mosaic’s Canvas Slicer

A quick diversion first. I have been trying out Mosaic’s online Canvas slicer specifically designed to work with the Palette series hardware. They just released an update that allows directly painting models which means you can take single material objects and add color to them. Below you will see what can be achieved with this new feature. It is a Flexi Rex single color that I added multicolor to not only the links but the individual spikes on the Rex’s back in addition to the insides of his eyes, eyebrows, and mouth.

Flexi Rex model single color that has been colorized
Single Color Flexi Rex colorized with Mosaic’s Canvas

The Canvas slicer still has a ways to go in my opinion. With a little manipulation you can quickly get yourself into a situation where the slicing results in errors when it comes to finally printing.

Hardware and experience

Back to the Palette 2 (not pro) hardware. The Palette 2 is an amazing piece of engineering. Clearly a lot of time went into perfecting the mechanical functionality. When it is working well it is quite an interesting thing to watch considering they put the mechanical workings under a clear cover (I really appreciate this). Once you understand how it functions it is fairly easy to spot problems early which helps with troubleshooting.

So how is it working? For multicolor prints it works decently well. That said, even after a large number of prints I still occasionally see issues where color change is missed for a few layers as seen below. I’ve found more success using an external slicer, but this adds quite a few steps to the process.

Flexi Rex showing incorrect layer colors
White and black incorrect layer colors

When the Palette 2 is working well, however, you get some great prints like the sheep below (note the black and white color changes resulted in some slightly off white where the head of the sheep started. To fix this you probably would need to lengthen the transition amount between colors – I chalk this up to the huge contrast different between white and black filaments).

Multicolor sheep

Other modes like gradient and random work as expected. I do not find the graphical interface very intuitive for setting these up, but it does work. Some guess work goes into figuring out when to make changes from one color to the next with these modes. I have not tried using the continuous spool mode where it will switch inputs when one input runs out of filament, but I’ve read it does work once setup correctly. This mode could prove useful for advanced and pro printers who go through a lot of filament and don’t or can’t monitor the filament left on large prints.

Palette 2’s Flaws

First, and most importantly, the Palette 2 cannot make multi-material prints. I am talking about something like PLA mixed with TPU. The Palette 2 is simply not designed to properly handle two different materials that differ drastically in physical properties. This is disappointing because some of the early promotional materials show TPU mixed with PLA or PET. Maybe a team of engineers can get this working, but even advanced hobbyists are not going to have success.

What that means is the Palette 2 is really a single material multicolor machine except for maybe the most expert persons.

Like the Prusa Multi-Material add-on, the Palette 2 also wastes a huge amount of filament. The transitions between one color and the next require a purge block of plastic that is nearly the same size and weight of your original model. You can see with the sheep above that even the standard purge block may not be enough in some cases to clear the color. The only good news here is whether I print 1 sheep or 7 only one purge block is needed. It is possible in the future slicers will be able to purge as infill, but I think this is a ways off.

The third biggest issue I have with the Palette 2 is how sensitive it is to filament. If you have brittle filament or filament that is too soft it will snap or clog and your entire print must be canceled. I found transparent PLA can be quite brittle for the angles that the Palette 2 demands as it pushes filament through. I have had to disassemble a number of parts to get the shattered PLA bits out before it would work again. The good news here is PET bends much easier and is known for coming in transparent colors so this is a good option if the PLA you are using breaks too easily.

Finally the Palette 2 has many ways to fail due to its complexity. If a motor or sensor is slightly off, or the cutting wheel dulls, or the splicer core fails it will not be an easy or cheap fix. Luckily Mosaic sells all the parts you need to get your Palette 2 working again, but with the engineering feat they’ve performed with this device, they have also introduced a lot of complexity to an already complex overall 3D printing experience.

What’s improved

A number of firmware and software updates have eliminated launch glitches. This includes the Octopi plugins which work much better than the first version that shipped. The Slicer has also been improved. As I mentioned above you can now paint single-color models, but also the interface has improved. Some firmware changes to the Palette 2 itself allow for better filament movement detection. I’ve also seen improvements in the communication to the enduser in terms of sync between the Palette and your printer, notification messages, and connectivity. These are all great steps towards improving the product for non-expert users.


The Palette 2 is a really interesting device that costs as much as lower tier decent printers. If you want multi-material this is simply not the device for you. If you must have multicolor prints and you don’t own a Prusa MK2.5 or MK3 this is your only option short of buying a multi-head printer.

I think the Palette 2 is a clever device that comes up a bit short as a valuable add-on for your 3D printer. It is a fun device that niche 3D printing hobbyists will find value in. Everyone else should stick to their single color/material printers because there is a lot of fun and creativity to be had without an expensive add-on like the Palette 2.

Please see my about page for information about reviews on this site.

Beta Slic3r Prusa Edition Customized Supports

The most recent beta (1.42+) versions of Slic3r PE (Prusa Edition) now include more intuitive controls for customized supports. You can download the latest build of Slic3r PE from GitHub.

You are now able to add primitive shapes like cube, sphere, cylinder, etc. You can manipulate the shapes by scaling, rotating, and moving them on X, Y, and Z. This allows more fine tuning of what supports you do and do not want to include.

The horse model below has elements that need supports and elements that most likely do not need supports.

STL without supports

You can see what the default settings produce in terms of supports below. There are supports across almost the entire bottom of the horse as well as some for the mane and ears.

STL with default supports

By adding some primitive shapes as support blockers we tell Slic3r where we do not want supports.

Menu to choose adding a support blocker
Adding a single cube as a blocker

Manipulating that element lets you move and change its size and place it exactly where you want to block supports from being generated.

Manipulating cube for blocker
Manipulating cube for blocker

Once you’ve placed your support blocking element you can add more until you get the supports that suit your needs.

All blockers are in place

The end results, after slicing, are supports exactly where you want them rather than relying on Slic3r’s best guess of where supports are needed. This can save plastic, but more importantly, it reduces the amount of work you need to do after finishing the print. Supports can also leave rough surfaces on models that you print.

With blockers now showing the supports and how they've been reduced

Pathio: A new slicer for 3D Printing

Pathio is a new slicer for 3D Printing that is in beta (free now, will be paid once released). It is supported by, but independent of, E3D. The goal of Pathio appears to be to address shortcomings of other slicers available on the market and make certain advanced features easier to use.

A 3D Slicer is software that takes a 3D model and then separates it into layers so your 3D printer can lay down plastic to build up the full model by the end of the print. Some popular slicers include Cura (open source supported by Ultimaker), Slic3r (open source popularly known as what Prusa printers use), Simplify3D (paid), and KISSlicer (premium features are paid). With some rare exceptions you can use any slicer with any consumer 3D FDM/FFF printer. Prusa recommends Prusa Slic3r edition, but you can use Cura or Simplify3D just as easily.

I believe the more quality slicers we have to choose from the better for everyone. Because of the complexity involved with 3D models being sliced for printing I think there is always room for improvement when it comes to slicers. This makes me excited for Pathio because they aren’t just addressing user interface and ease of settings, but they are looking at how to slice smarter and better.

Their focus right now appears to be on generating gcode (what your printer reads to know how to operate for any given print) that produces prints with more consistent wall thickness, better corner reinforcement, easily applying different layer heights, infill, and other settings to multiple parts in a single print, and advanced scripting, all with close community feedback during development. Add in that they are supported by the leading hotend and nozzle manufacturer and I think this has potential for great advancements in slicing.

Keep in mind this is beta software with alpha features. If you are not yet comfortable with the slicer you’ve been using then I would wait, but if you’re an intermediate to advanced user who understands your current slicer settings this might be a great opportunity to try out and help improve a future product.

Mosaic Palette 2 Frist Look

First successful print with Palette 2

The Palette 2 is an appealing device for multi-material printing if it works like Mosaic says it should which is splicing filament changes and queueing up those splices to match layers and sections of layers that use different materials.

For this first look my setup consists of a Palette 2 (not pro), Canvas Hub, and I used Canvas exclusively for slicing. All of this was connected to a Prusa MK2S.


Setting up the hardware is fairly simple. Nothing to build. You will be picking the right PTFE tube length for your printer and either using the included velcro PTFE tube adapter or you will need to print out an adapter for some printers. If you get the Canvas Hub you will hook up USB connections to the Palette 2 and your printer.

If you are using the Canvas hub or are using Canvas to slice models you will need an account at If you have a Raspberry Pi with Octopi you do not need to buy a Canvas hub because Mosaic just adds their own plugins to the existing Octopi software. If you do not have either the Canvas Hub or a Raspberry Pi with Octopi you can still slice and download files to print with the Palette 2 and your 3D printer. My understanding is Palette 2 works better with Octopi because there is communication between the printer and the Palette 2 handled by Mosaic’s Octopi plugins. At this time I’m not sure exactly what that communication involves.

Canvas Hub


I highly recommend watching the setup videos online for Palette 2 and Canvas Hub. I would also check Mosaic’s website for updated information before relying on the included setup guide. Mosaic also has information on using Canvas (the web based slicing tool) which you should watch as well.

Once you’ve plugged in your Palette 2 and send your first print the Palette 2 should go through first-time printer setup. My Palette 2 did not seem to respond when the first print was sent and after some basic troubleshooting and disconnecting and reconnecting the Canvas Hub connection in software to the Palette 2 it finally started the first-time setup.

This was a fairly easy to follow process that involved:

  • Inserting the correct color filament into the Palette
  • Wait for it to create filament by splicing the filament together within the Palette 2 device
  • Feed clear filament into your printer (or really just a different filament color than what your Palette 2 will be sending)
  • Teaching the Palette 2 how much filament it takes to get the new color out of your nozzle by slowly feeding the Palette 2 output filament through your extruder until it appears out of your nozzle
  • Starting your first print


Once the print starts you will see your 3D printer output filament based on your model and in between each filament splice it will print to a purge block to ensure you are printing fully with the correct color.

Purge block changing from Black to Silver

This, of course, means printing significantly more filament than you would for a single material print. This also means drastically long print times in some cases.

My first print was not the Mosaic keychain test print. I should have started with that, but I wanted something more interesting. The result was starting a 6 hour print that showed some errors either with slicing or calculating the amount of filament needed. 

Squirtle with stripes where there shouldn’t be stripes

I stopped the print and tried another model. The two-color casino chip was far less ambitious and came out quite well.

Two color casino chip and purge block

With a success I then tried again to print a more complicated model (two color Flexi Rex). The print started great with the two colors switching for the first few layers.

Unfortunately the silver and the brown slowly swapped resulting in the incorrect color and I canceled the print.

I reluctantly downloaded the Mosaic logo keychain to print. On the surface it looks like it could be a very long print, but it was clearly designed to print fast which I appreciate. The keychain printed the colors correctly with some slight issues with either under extrusion or slicing.

Mosaic keychain logo

You can see some of the brown in the green and purple but that is because the filaments I used were clear and the way this prints fast is by only changing colors on the top few layers. Despite the under extrusion or slicing issue I rated this a 4 as recommended by the Mosaic forums. The rating system helps the Palette 2 determine good prints from bad and in this case it was good in terms of getting the color down correctly.

Issues and Observations

I have been using 1.0.1 firmware and so I expect some of these issues will be fixed in time. The Palette 2 never missed a splice over the few things I printed. The touch screen interface responds quickly and is easy to use.

While using the Palette 2 with Canvas hub I found that after a failed or successful print I had to disconnect and reconnect the Palette 2 every time within the Octopi plugin or the Palette 2 would never respond to a command to start a new print.

At some point the Canvas Hub with Octopi stopped being able to connect to the Canvas cloud. I could never get it to reconnect so I ended up downloading the files from Canvas and uploading them onto the Canvas Hub which kind of defeats the purpose of the connected ecosystem.

At the time I was testing there were limited printer profiles in Canvas. You can upload your own, but you at least have to have a little knowledge of GCode to check and make sure what Canvas is using for your printer is acceptable. I hope they can work on adding more printers to their official supported list.

In my experience the Palette 2 never missed loading and unloading filament from the four inputs. The Palette 2 also was able to predict how much filament needed to be extruded before the start of second and later prints based on previous prints which is quite clever.

The  Palette 2 hardware looks to be well designed. I love that you can open up the case and see exactly what is happening on the inside. There are a lot of moving parts, and while I did not have any issues with splicing or loading/unloading, I suspect something like this is more susceptible to issues down the road. This isn’t a knock on their design, but more that something like the Palette 2 is more complicated than just a standard extruder.

In terms of noise the Palette 2 fan is louder than a MK3 but quieter than a MK2S. The device makes  a lot small noises as the filament is moved through the hardware, but the loudest noise is when it cuts the filament. That said, it isn’t terribly annoying.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Overall I am excited to see what I can do with the Palette 2. A 50% success rate isn’t a great start, but I am the first to admit I did attempt more complex models to begin with. I think printing a number of easy prints, like the Mosaic keychain, and rating them makes sense before moving on to more complicated models. I encourage new owners to follow this path.

Once the PLA multicolor prints working reliably I intend to try soluble supports and different materials including PET and flexible filaments. Multiple colors is nice, but ultimately that is just the start of what you should be able to do with a multi-material device for your printer.

I am hoping Mosaic continues to refine their firmware and the Canvas system. I imagine all the issues I’ve run into are things that can be addressed in software or slicing.

Please see my about page for information about reviews on this site.

Sometimes things go wrong

If you frequent YouTube 3D makers or forums where people show off amazing prints it can be frustrating sometimes to have a string of failures while others are creating great things. What you should remember, especially if you are new to 3D printing, prints do not work like other consumer products. A great deal of tweaking takes place to get successful prints.

Barring some catastrophic printer problems you should not give up because each failure is an oppertunity to learn more and improve your printing skills. There is almost always a reasonable and fixable solution to any problem you encounter printing.

As an example, I recent designed a model for a power supply that not only took several iterations to perfect, but when it came to printing the final design I had repeated print failures. These were 5hr plus prints so often it was 3-5 hours of wasted print time and materials.

My first test print was in PLA to check dimensions. PLA is easy to print and the test came out decent. I printed this fast just to line up the print to the real power supply.

PLA print test version
PLA test print

For a power supply cover, however, I wanted to use PETG/PET so I made changes to my model and printed the next one in PET. This resulted in bed warping and a significant crack in an important part of the model. During this print the filament runout sensor triggered despite having filament pausing the print which may have lead to the layer separation. That is three major issues on one print.

PETG print with crack
Cracked PETG print

Third print. This one warped badly on both sides so I stopped the print early because it was well on its way to failure.

Badly warped edges forced me to cancel the print

Fourth print. Everything went great until 3/4ths up a nozzle jam resulted in significant under extrusion.

Clogged nozzle results
This is what a clogged nozzle print  looks like

Quick aside: The nozzle not only jammed but cold pulling filament did not fix the issue. The jam was at the tip of the nozzle and no amount of cold pulls were getting the filament to flow better until I used a acupuncture pin to push up into the headed nozzle. Subsequent cold pulls pulled out the debris and the jam was cleared.

The final print, while not perfect (as you can see from two of the layers), did not warp, did not crack, and there were no significant nozzle issues.

Final print
Final usable print

Some of the things learned from these prints:

  • It takes time to find the right settings for new print material. I have printed with PET/G before, but this was a new brand and it turns out it needed more heat from the heated bed than the manufacturer recommended and more fine tuning of the first layer.
  • If something goes wrong try and figure out what the issue is before attempting a new print. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes prints fail for no good reason, but it is rare. Usually there is a reason and you’ll save frustration, time, and materials if you can narrow down the cause from one print to the next.
  • PLA is easy to print with, but other materials can be harder and take more tweaking. Before you print with materials other than PLA, make sure you have your printer making great PLA prints first.

Commissioning 3D prints from hobby printers

You might not own a 3D printer, but you may want or need something printed. There are a number of commercial printing services that allow you to upload a model and have them print it in a number of different materials. Despite either having or sourcing massive printer farms these services are often the most expensive option for your one-off print.

Print farms are designed to print a large number of models usually at a single quality. Anything custom is going to cost more like changing layer height, infill, material, or print speed.

You might want to consider finding a hobby or semi-professional printer instead of a print farm. Before you do that you should know the limitations of FDM/FFF printers. These are printers that lay each plastic layer one at a time building up from the bed of the printer.

Some models are simply not printable

This is especially true for 3D models that were not designed for 3D printing to begin with. Some models can visually look fine but have thousands of errors for a 3D printer. The best models are solid or water tight (but does not have to hold water). This means there are no gaps between inner and outer walls of the model. It also means there are no 3D elements of the model that either are separated by an air gap, or improperly merged so the model contains crossed over geometry.

Extremely small models could lose detail or simply fail to print. Very large models may not fit on the printer without cutting it into multiple pieces.

Very complex models may result in repeatedly failed prints or just be too complex for software to figure out how to print it in layers.

You cannot print clear on FDM/FFF

There are clear or semi translucent filaments available, but a printer will never be able to print glass clear. The nature of melting plastic layers together reduces transparency. There are some post print techniques that can get more transparency but it will never be clear.

Some materials cannot be used outside

PLA will eventually breakdown or crack in direct sunlight. This is the most common, easiest to print, and one of the cheapest print materials so a lot of people use it as their go-to material. Other plastics may hold up better but almost all of them will fade, change color, or completely lose their color.

Printed parts should never be used when safety is needed

This means you should never use a 3D printed plastic part where someone’s health and safety is reliant on that part not failing. Some obvious examples would be rock climbing gear or functional car parts.

This extends to food safety as well. Because printers put each layer down prints have many microscopic holes that bacteria could get into. It is almost impossible to clean these parts fully. You might, however, be able to apply a post print coating that could make printed parts food safe.

Some materials and colors show layer lines more than others

Typically white or shiny colors will show printed layer lines giving you the impression that the print is worse than the same model printed in another color. Semi translucent materials hide pint layers well, and some colors just naturally hide these lines better. Some of this can be mitigated with smaller print layers (significantly adding more time to the print), but the reality is, even on the absolute best print, you will see print lines if you look close enough. Post sanding and finish work can all but eliminate these layer lines.

Most hobby printers do not have multi-color capability

And even if they do expect these prints to cost significantly more due to increased print time, more prone to failure, and increased material for color changes. Most 3D models you find online will not be multi-color ready.


  • Find a local printer. This means faster turn around and minimal or no shipping costs. It also allows you to establish a relationship with someone local if you find yourself needing another print in the future.
  • Ask for well lit high resolution pictures of the printer’s other prints. If possible, be specific and ask for images of the same material, color, and print settings. This gives you a better idea of what to expect.
  • Some prints (like figurines) will require a huge amount of support material. Detailed models will need significant clean up time which can add to the cost.
  • You should expect your hobby printer to give you an accurate quote. All print software can estimate time and material use.
  • Be understanding of delays. 3D printing is not at the paper printer point. They are more likely to run into problems than most other appliances. Failed prints can be the printer owner’s fault, but a lot of the time it can also be poorly manufactured materials, errors from the software creating the print, and other issues outside of a printer’s control.
  • Do not accept clearly awful prints. Use the example pictures, suggested above, as a benchmark.
  • If you want a model modified expect to pay a lot more. 3D modeling is not easy and takes a lot of time to learn. Not all hobby printers can make changes, but those that can will charge a high rate by the hour (expect between $40 and $150 an hour).
  • If you want a model designed from the ground up to your specifications expect not only to pay for that modeling time noted above, but also expect to go through at least 3 iterations before you get a final model. Even more iterations may be needed for a functional part. You should expect to pay for every iteration. No one will be able to design and print the prefect model the first time.
  • Consider offering a barter for 3D prints. Some people are good at modeling and printing but might lack the painting and finishing skills. This is a great opportunity to help a fellow maker and limit both your costs.

Rusting Iron Filament

Proto-Pasta makes some really interesting filament hybrids including copper, brass, steel, and iron. PLA is mixed with metallic dust to create something around 70%-85% plastic and the rest metal dust.

For the iron Proto-Pasta it means you get two added properties over normal PLA.

  • Magnets are able to stick to iron filament prints
  • Iron is prone to rusting and you can achieve a rustic or aged effect by purposefully rusting your prints


Prints that allow magnets to stick to them are as easy as simply printing a model with at least 15% infill. The magnet needs to be fairly strong, but does not need to be rare earth type magnet.


To achieve a rusted look for iron prints you need water, salt, and time. You can create a wide variety of rusted looks depending on how long and what parts of the print you expose to the water-salt mixture.

I printed the, now famous in the 3D printing world, Aria the Dragon by Loubie, in the Proto-Pasta iron fill PLA.

Iron filled PLA before rusting

Before starting the process of rusting the print I used some steel wool and light sanding to expose more of the iron dust elements in the print. Next I combined warm water and salt in a bowl with the dragon print. I used a paper towel to keep the tops of the print moist and put some lightly wrapped plastic wrap over the whole thing to try and keep it from drying out too quickly.

Salt and water bath to rust the print
Salt and water bath to rust the print

After about 13-15 hours and some air drying I achieved the light rusting effect I was going for.

Dragon with light rust

Dragon with light rust

The longer you leave the print in the salt water solution the more it will rust. Some people have been able to accelerate the process and even make entirely rusted models with other solutions. Just make sure you take proper precautions when mixing chemicals other than just salt and water.

If you plan to try printing with iron filled PLA be sure to use a hardened nozzle or the Olsson Ruby tipped nozzle. The normal brass nozzle tips will get worn down with metal filled filament.

Multicolor, Multi-Material, and more!

There are a lot of exciting innovations coming to the consumer/prosumer 3D printing world surrounding multicolor and multi-material prints. Lets look at some of the upcoming options.

E3D Tool-Changer

Image copyright E3D

We previously covered the announcement of the E3D’s Tool-Changer which looks to have a great motion system and integrated tool-changer. E3D has an updated blog post with some additional details including some information on assembly, updates on build changes, and other minor technical details.

One of the most significant changes is with the frame to allow bigger tool heads. They’ve started manufacturing 30 to send to beta testers. Finally, there is some suggested pricing information depending on how manufacturing goes. Expect to pay at least $1800 for a full system (some of which will not come from E3D, like electronics).

Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit

Image copyright Prusa3D

Prusa announced Multi-Material 2.0 kit a while ago and has been working on improving the design getting ready for shipment in what appears to be November now.

This kit allows up to 5 different materials to be printed in a single print. This means either multicolor prints or different materials like flexible mixed with PLA or dissolvable material mixed with non-dissolvable.

The Multi-Material 2.0 kit takes five filament feeds and, along with Prusa software, determines when filament needs to be changed. So a red, green, blue print would physically move the feeder to the current needed color. When the next color is required the Multi-Material 2.0 will cut the current color and move to the next needed color, feed it, and start printing.

The Prusa team is taking their time with this new product which I think is great. The previous multi-material kit had some frustrations for end users that look to be addressed with this update.

Pricing is $299.

Mosaic Palette 2 and Palette 2 Pro

Image copyright Mosaic Manufacturing

Mosaic’s take on multicolor and multi-material involves figuring out how much of each filament type is needed throughout the entire print and then fusing different kinds of filament together to deliver a single line of filament to your printer.

Basic example: Say you have a model with red bottom and blue top. The Mosaic figures out how much red it needs then when the time comes for blue it fuses blue filament to the red all while continuously feeding your printer.

For more advanced model coloring or multi-material the Mosaic Palette does the same thing except multiple times depending on what color is needed in each part of the model. This could mean slicing red, green, blue, and yellow hundreds of times over the course of a multicolor print.

Mosaic has announced the Palette 2 series along with two other products to improve the user experience.

The Palette 2 is cheaper than the previous Palette+, and appears it is easier to access internals. With the newly added filament queue the Palette 2 can deliver filament faster than the previous Palette models.

Also announced from Mosaic was the Palette 2 Pro, designed for more demanding professional print situations. The CANVAS Hub which allows communication between the Palette 2 and your printer with the help of a Raspberry Pi. Finally they have created an online slicer called Canvas which currently makes coloring multi-part 3D models easy and provides slicing that is designed to work with the Palette series of accessories. In the future Mosaic has promised the ability to color 3D models that are not already split into parts.

Pricing starts at $499

Which one makes the most sense?

For multicolor prints, all three will get the job done (note the Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit needs a Prusa MK2.5 or MK3 printer). I have not tried any of these (none are actually shipping yet) but on paper it looks like the Mosaic Palette 2 would provide the fastest multicolor solution because filament being supplied to the printer is continuous.

For multi-material prints, on paper, the E3D Tool-Changer would be the best option. You could have wildly different materials like Nylon and PVA because each material gets its own dedicated tool head. This means the Nylon head can maintain the desired temperature without adversely affecting the PVA.

The next best option, on paper, is probably the Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 kit if you have a Prusa printer. The direct feeding of five different materials allows for the tool head to change temperature as needed although with a delay compared to the E3D Tool-Changer.

Finally the Mosaic Palette 2 will be able to print multi-material as long as the two materials are within 10 to 15 degrees Celsius of each other’s preferred printing temperature. This rules out some combinations of materials people might like to use.

For Prusa MK2.5 and MK3 owners, on paper, the Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 kit gives you multicolor and multi-material printing for the lowest price. If the kit turns out to be well designed and it performs as expected, it will be the go-to choice for owners of Prusa printers. As a runner up, the Mosaic Palette 2, would also work on a Prusa printer.

For the future and crazy ideas, on paper, the E3D Tool-Changer is the only option. Keep in mind this involves building a whole new printer that, in total, will cost at least 3 times a Prusa MK3. That said, if you want to have a fine print .25 nozzle combined with a volcano that does .8mm infill, or a pick-in-place tool head, laser engraving integrated into your work flow, or some other crazy idea for a tool-head, your only option is the E3D Tool-Changer.

When can I get it?

The Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit is shipping very soon. Probably in September. The Mosaic Palette 2.0 is expected to start shipping in October. The E3D Tool-Changer will ship when it’s done, which I suspect will be November-December or later.

What do I need to know?

  • The Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit and the Mosaic Palette 2 will require purge towers. This allows the printer to get the next color or material ready when there are changes during a print. On paper the Mosaic Palette 2 might have a smaller purge block, but we will know more once it comes out.
  • The E3D Tool-Changer will not have purge towers but it will have to purge and wipe the nozzle before and after printing each color or material type. This is done at the sides where filament is pushed out then the nozzle is wiped across a brush. This will slow down prints and waste filament just like the two products above.
  • The Mosaic Palette 2 will only work with 1.75 filament.
  • The Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit is the cheapest option by at least $200.
  • The E3D Tool-Changer will require some advanced knowledge and experience with 3D printers, firmware, and tweaking to get running. Your costs will be at least $1800 since it does not include required electronics.