Josef Prusa: Multi Material Extruders for Amazing Color Prints

The Prusa i3 Mk 2 is the hotness in consumer-grade, quality 3D printing right now. And things just keep getting more interesting. We caught up with Josef Průša at Maker Faire Bay Area this weekend to see the multi-material extruder in its final form. It’s an upgrade to the Mk 2 which allows a single hot end to print in four different materials, be it different colors or different types of filament.

A Bit of History

Final version of the Prusa i3 Mk2 with multi-material add on

Jo has a reputation for turning out some of the most clever and dependable design improvements to 3D printers. Just one year ago he was at Maker Faire showing off the new version of the popular i3 printer, called the Mk2. He followed that up in September with an announcement for the multi-material upgrade which he had on exhibit for the New York Maker Faire last October. Check out Brian Benchoff’s coverage for in-depth details about how the Multi-Material extruder works.

A few details that went into manufacturing delayed delivery. But customers that pre-ordered the upgrade are now receiving their units. Anyone ordering now can expect delivery starting as soon as August.

Why it Works

In the past, common approaches for multi-material printing used a separate hot end for each material. But the big flaw in that design is the added complexity. With more than one hotend you need extremely precise calibration so that the nozzle heights (Z axis) are exactly the same and the X/Y alignment between the heads match.

Prusa Research sidesteps this issue by using a single head. Four Bowden tubes all connect in a 4-way splitter on the print head. When it’s time to switch materials the head travels to another part of the bed and purges the remains of the previous material before returning to the print with the new filament.

As you can see, the results are spectacular. The alignment of different materials is perfect. Add to this the already great resolution and printing capabilities of the Mk2 and you have another leap forward in affordable, high-quality printing. The printer itself starts at $699 and the multi-material upgrade is $299.

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