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TL;DR

Is it possible to build a hotend, using separate parts, sourced on eBay, from China, and still achieve a high quality print?


In my opinion, the E3D V6 hotend is rather expensive, at $/£70, especially to those building to a tight budget. Now, obviously/presumably, there is some quite rigorous QA and testing of the build, and they have to pay for their research costs and initial machining set ups and this is reflected in the high cost. Also, the expression, you get what you pay for, springs to mind.

However, I wondered if I sourced the individual parts from China, for a dollar apiece, that is to say the:

  • Throat (with Teflon lining)
  • Heating block
  • Heatsink
  • Nozzle
  • Pneumatic connector (PC4-05/PC4-M06)
  • Heater
  • Thermistor

could I too, end up with a hotend, that performs as well as, or even out performs, an E3D hotend, or am I living in cloud cuckoo land?

After all, let's not forget that most, if not, all of the parts used in a E3D hotend probably come from China anyway, these days, as most production facilites have moved from the US/EU to the cheaper manufacturing bases and machining shops, in SE Asia.

I have read so many times that people were experiencing extrusion problems, shoddy prints, etc, from their cheap printer, until they finally shelled out the cash and upgraded to a genuine E3D hotend. After that the prints were much improved. I have read this countless times, in blogs, threads, etc., so I presume that it is not possible.

I realise that if the parts are not finished correctly, and end up with burring on the inside of the throat, nozzle, etc., then the filament will not extrude correctly. See tbm0115's answer to How long is an extruder's/nozzle's life? However, assuming that the parts that I receive are machined, and finished, correctly then there should not be a problem, right?

Has anyone actually done this? Is tinkering with hotends a done thing? Does anyone have any good pointers and/or tips?

NOTE: This question is not really after opinionated answers, in order to stay within SE rules - although opinions are always welcome - but I just want to know if anyone has first hand (positive or negative) experience of this.

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Hard to say for sure - my whole printer is cheap parts bought as a kit in China by a Chinese student who abandoned it in the US (I resurrected it after it was abandoned.) It includes all the parts you list, and I think we finally sorted out what the thermistor actually is so the temperatures are more accurate now.

It prints.

Could it print better? - Probably, but at some point replacing all the various cheap parts starts to look foolish .vs. just build a new printer with better parts all around, leaving the original functional. I doubt I've ever met a "E3D V6" and I'd have to google it to see what sort of paragon of printing it's supposed to be. The only thing I'm actually considering replacing is the nozzle itself, partly because I'm just guessing what size it is (mostly based on the way it prints when set to various sizes.) I'm also contemplating adding some sort of insulation for the heater block, having squnched some aluminum foil around it as a first stop-gap.

Likewise, if your concern is with burrs, etc. a degree of fettling by you can sort that sort of thing out, if you know to do it and how to do it (i.e. you need to be somewhat mechanically ept.) But of course "parts from China" are not a monolithic entity - there are good parts and bad parts that both come from China - given the state of internet sales, you may well have (unknown to you) the choice of parts that passed quality control, parts that failed quality control, and parts that quality control never looked at (some of which might pass, some of which might fail), from the same production facility, available to you from various vendors at various price points. And then there are many different production facilities as well.

Production in the US or Europe is no magic bullet either - competing with imports on price is difficult, so one hopes that superior quality is on offer, but it may or may not actually be from a given vendor, or a given batch of parts.

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Sorry for digging up the topic, but I'd like to share my experience with cheap Chinese parts obtained from those obvious auction sites.


For my Hypercube Evolution I have ordered all parts from Chinese suppliers except for the Aluminium extrusion profiles. This includes belts, screws, nuts, electric cables, printer board, steppers and drivers, hotend parts, you name it.

I do not own, or have ever owned, an official E3D hotend, so I cannot compare the clone E3D hotends to the official directly. However, I do own an Ultimaker 3 Extended (UM3E) that I manage for a group of printing enthusiasts to promote building your own printer and produce spare parts that are not sold commercially or sold at ridiculous prices. The quality of the products produced by the UM3E are very good, as expected from this quality brand, so I can compare the products from my own printer with the ones from the UM3E.

It is often said by others that the prints I have created with my HyperCube Evolution are at least as good as the products produced on the UM3E, or sometimes even better. In that respect, it is very hard to see any differences in the products. The UM3E is known for the simplicity of use and it's relative low need to tinker to get or keep it working, but my own creation does not require a lot of tinkering either. E.g. I have never had any clogs (several kilometers of 2.85 mm filament printed) while I use a relative high retraction length (the same as on the UM3E as default in Cura). In this respect I have never had the need to upgrade to an official E3D hotend, and most likely will never do need to.

So to answer your question if it is possible to build a hotend, using separate parts, sourced from China, to achieve a high quality print (while maintaining a low need for tinkering), I can vouch that it is indeed possible.


Sidemark: Note that if you source your materials locally, e.g. local webshops, you probably also end up with imported Chinese parts! (usually at much higher costs; but at least they arrive sooner!)

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  • $\begingroup$ I do sometimes source chinesium parts via amazon from local sellers due to time constraints - if something breaks I simply don't have weeks to wait for the parts. $\endgroup$ – Trish Sep 12 '19 at 17:10

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