Bowden Extruder Vs Direct Drive Extruder: What Are The Differences?

Introduction

If you are working in 3D printing space, you might have encountered these terms “Bowden extruder” and “direct drive extruder”. In both the systems filament will pass to the Nozzle and get melted, but the difference is in the way the filament is passing to the printhead. Both Direct Drive and Bowden, have their pros and cons, which are detailed below to help in your decision.

Both Direct drive and Bowden extruder setups are exclusively used in FDM 3D printers. Although the working methodology is the same that the filament is pushed through a heated Nozzle, the difference lies in the location of the extruder. 

In the Bowden type system, the extruder is fixed on the printer frame and filament will pass through the PTFE tube till the hotend nozzle. In the Direct Drive System, both the extruder and hotend nozzle are mounted within the print head assembly. This pushes the filament directly onto the hotend. 

Both of these systems have advantages and disadvantages with great performances. Let’s go through them below:

Direct Drive Extruder System

In the Direct Drive Extruder setup, the filament is pushed by the extruder into the nozzle directly. This is widely used in many printers. Below are some pros and cons:

Image: Direct Drive Extruder System | Source: 3DJake

PROS

  • Better Extrusion: Since the direct drive system has an extruder on the printhead itself, pushing the filament is easier for the motor minimizing the extrusion problems. 
  • Improved Retraction: Retraction is greatly improved because of the extruder and Nozzle is closely located.
  • Low Power Motor: As extruder and nozzle are closely located, even a low power and less torque motor is sufficient to push the filament. 
  • Supports Wider Filament Range: Direct Drive Extruder can print a wide range of filaments including flexible and abrasive filaments like Wood, Metal.etc

CONS

  • Less Accuracy: As printhead contains both Extruder and Nozzle, this adds up to the weight. Increased weight limits the speed and reduces the XY movement accuracy. 
  • Difficult Maintenance: Parts contained within the printhead assembly are difficult to access and service. 

DIRECT DRIVE VS BOWDEN EXTRUDER

Bowden Type System

In the Bowden Type system, the extruder stays fixed on the printer frame and the filament is supplied to hotend via a long PTFE tube called Bowden tube. This also has some pros and cons as below:

Bowden Type System | Source: 3dJake

PROS

  • Easy movements: In the Bowden system, as the extruder is fixed to the printer frame, the print head weight is lesser. This less weight increases accuracy, prints faster at high quality. 

CONS

  • High Power Motor Needed: Because the filament passes through the long PTFE tube, there exists a certain friction and more torque is needed to move the filament. 
  • Slower Response Time: Due to the friction in the Bowden tube, the filament movement gets slower between extruder and Nozzle. Thus, higher acceleration is needed for extrusion and retraction for accurate deposits and prevent stringing. 
  • Less Filament Range: Bowden type supports only a small range of filaments and is incompatible for abrasive and flexible filaments. 

Conclusion:

So what kind of extruder system to go with? Before deciding it, check for the below factors and choose accordingly:

If you are looking for speed and precise printing, then Bowden is an ideal choice.

If you are looking to print a wide range of filament materials, such as abrasive, flexible filaments, then Direct Drive setup is suitable.

Good luck with your extruder selection!

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