E3D have upgraded their extrusion lineup once more – but is it an improvement this time?
This is the new E3D Titan Aero – you got a sneak peek of it in my E3D portrait video and I’ve been using the prototypes and the final version for the last few weeks. It was originally known as the “Lidsink”, and for the record, I did like that name name better, but the concept of moving the heatsink for your 3D printer’s hotend from the hotend itself to the extruder body still hasn’t changed. I think it’s a good step forward, but I think we should still discuss whether this new integrated arrangement an actual improvement over the classic Titan + v6 combination or if it’s just an easy backport of the older Makerbot-style extruders.
Let’s get to it.
For reference, this is what E3D’s extrusion system looks like if you don’t use the Aero heatsink:
It’s the 3 to 1 geared Titan extruder with the hotend’s groovemount fitting perfectly into the Titan’s body along with a little filament guide spacer part for the distance between the hotend and the hobbed gear. This is really useful for flexible or even somewhat softer filaments like Nylon.
You’ve got that separate fan on the hotend, clamped on with a polycarbonate shroud, which, on some of my hotends did get quite loose over time from popping it on and off a few too many times. And while this setup works and makes good use of the components that were already available, it was just that and nothing more – the existing E3D hotend clamped into the made-to-fit Titan body. With the new Aero heatsink and fan, you’re now replacing the hotend heatsink, fan shroud, fan and the clear Titan lid.
The rest of the components are unchanged and compatible both ways, so you can upgrade a classic Titan to an Aero and vice-versa. Overall, it actually makes the assembly about 11g heavier, due to the larger heatsink and fan, but also 50mm shorter. While you won’t be increasing your printer’s usable print area with the Aero, your printer can still potentially gain up to 50mm in print height if your linear guides and Z-axis drive are long enough.
On a delta, that usually isn’t an issue and just results in extra usable print volume, but for a classic Cartesian machine, you’ll need to check that you have enough space on the linear guides and spindles at the extreme positions. Usually, it’s ok and you’ll simply end up with a longer usable Z-axis, but it’s something to check for before taking the plunge.
But that’s not the only geometry change: There’s this corner of the heatsink sticking out on the side that used to be flush with the Titan body, and that required me to change a few mounting parts, granted, they were pretty tight anyways, and there’s also the extra depth from the aluminum fins and the fan, so if you had for example a part cooling fan and fan duct mounted close to the Titan’s lid, you will need to move it. I think it’s a bit of a missed chance on E3D’s side to not include a native part cooling fan to the full Titan Aero + v6 package, which is already most parts of a 3D printer’s toolhead in a box, but who knows, maybe we’ll see, like, an official fan and printed fan shroud bundle some time soon from E3D.
And one more thing to note: Since the Aero heatsink is now the equivalent of the v6’s heatsink, its filament path geometry is now also specifically made for either 3 aka 2.85mm, or 1.75mm filament, but as far as I know, the only thing that changes is this little hole on the aluminum piece between the filament guide in the Titan and the screwed-in heatbreak. In the 1.75mm version, it’s 4mm through-hole that gets lined with a short bit of Teflon tube, in the 3mm one, it’s just a plain, I believe, 3.2mm hole that gets no liner. Yes, they are physically different, but to be honest, I don’t think using the 1.75mm version with the larger hole for 3mm filament is going to be an issue at all, the filament is extremely well right as it leaves the filament guide above it and as it enters the heatbreak.
So how well does it work in actual use?
To be honest, there’s just not much of a difference when you look at how well it prints, at its core, it’s still the same extruder and hotend, after all. Which doesn’t mean that it’s not performing well, quite the opposite, but aside from the much shorter filament path, and maybe the slightly changed cooling performance, there’s just nothing that would influence print quality. In theory, the shorter hotend should help with flexible filaments as they’re going to see less friction in the filament path, and it should also make the assembly more stable as the Aero moves around, but unless you have a particularly flimsy mount or machine, or have your printer move at ludicrous speeds, it’s probably not going to directly translate into nicer prints.
Instead, I see the Aero as more of a comfort upgrade, I guess, and as the logical next step in pushing filament through a tiny heated hole, even though the Aero is probably the largest change in concept E3D has ever attempted. The larger fan on the Aero is mounted much more securely than the old one clipped onto the standard v6 heatsink, so this new setup is never going to start rattling, and just having that larger fan means it won’t have to work as hard for the same amount of airflow so it’s going to be less noisy for the same cooling performance. Though it doesn’t guide air out of the heatsink in quite the same control. The extra 50mm of usable printing height are also nice, but again, you’re most likely not going to see a difference in print quality. Still, having the hotend’s heatsink further on the extruder instead of having it as a separate piece just makes sense. But wait a second, haven’t the Makerbot-style MK7, 8, 10 extruders and their clones always done that? Yes they have. With the older Makerbot-style extruders, the typical assembly has quite a substantial aluminum block with the hotend’s heat break threaded in, that block also serves as a mount and then it has a standard flat heatsink attached to it, and a pair of screws that thread all the way into the stepper motor.
It’s the same basic concept as the Aero and while the Makerbot-style clones are usually not quite as nicely machined, usually they also do their job for the most part. But if you’re just looking for something that kinda does its job and not much more, the E3D Aero probably isn’t the extruder and hotend combo for you. Instead, the Titan Aero and, for that matter, the classic Titan as well do have a specialties: They do come with the advantage of the 3 to 1 gearing, which helps with printing fast or optimizing the extruder for weight by using a smaller stepper motor, and the Titan has much better filament guidance, well, I guess it’s hard to do any worse than these MK extruders. As usual, the hobbed profile on these cheaper gears isn’t particularly sharp or even consistent, and there have been reports that they don’t run true, which causes light artifacting on a print’s surface as well as a reduced overall strength, which I have been observing on a few printers using these gears before. E3D’s Hobbgoblin profile is sharp as ever and does dig into the filament quite well. It’s still only a single-gear extruder, and I will need to investigate whether something like Bondtech’s new dual-drive Mini extruder actually makes a difference in how consistently the filament is fed into the hotend, especially at higher speeds.
Of course, you can still do everything with the Aero as you could with the standard V6, after all it’s the exact same setup from the heatbreak downwards. That means you can still drop in different nozzles, like hardened, coated or copper, tungsten, stainless-based ones and use all the different sizes from a tiny 0.15mm one up to 1.2mm with a Volcano block. You can put a sock on it, upgrade it to different temperature sensor cartridges like the high-temperature PT100 or a thermocouple, and even on the extruder side you swap out the mid-size stepper motor that you can add to the kit to either the super-light pancake types, high-resolution 0.9° motors or a super beefy one if you want to print really fast.
And I’ve read on the RepRap forums that someone was complaining about not having that clear section where you can peek in and see how far you’ve tightened the idler spring. Yes, the Aero lid is obviously not transparent aluminum, through to be honest, that would be incredibly cool, but there is still a small window to that spring and the accompanying nut that lets you check out how tight you’ve set everything.
So the Aero is available right now in about two dozen different configurations, it’s 90 GBP for the full kit, and then you get various motor, voltage and diameter options. In total, it’s about as expensive as buying a full v6 hotend and regular Titan extruder. Alternatively, E3D are also offering an upgrade kit for 32 GBP, but I don’t think it’s necessary to upgrade your existing setup to the Aero unless you want the shorter assembly or need that edge with flexible materials.
I mean, it’s not like the Aero is a bad product or anything, it’s just that what E3D offered before it just worked really well already. Still, if you’re building a new 3D printer and have the option of using either a classic Titan + v6.1 combo or the new Aero, it’s an obvious choice for the Aero, I think.
So there you go, that’s the E3D Aero setup. If you want to grab one, there’s a link in the video description below that’ll take you to the appropriate shop for your region. If you found this review helpful, give it a thumbs up, and get subscribed if you want to see more stuff like this. Also, bell, notifications and stuff, you know. Check out the other affiliate links as well, for anything you might buy on Aliexpress, Matterhackers, Amazon, eBay or iGo3D, or if you want to directly support what I’m doing here, head over to Patreon to chip in a dollar or two per month. So thanks for watching, and I’ll see you in the next one.