Having used the Micro Swiss All Metal Hotend before, I know that this new Micro Swiss Direct Drive Extruder kit will be of the highest quality! Machined and made mostly in the US, there is no modification needed for your printer and no printed parts. A simple plug & play system!
Read on to learn more and about the fitment of this to my Creality CR10S printer and its performance…
What’s in the Micro Swiss Direct Drive box?
- 1 x Micro Swiss All Metal Hotend (If option selected)
- 1 x Main Extruder body
- 2 x Gears
- 1 x Extruder Lever
- 1 x Spring Pin
- 2 x Gears
- 1 x Spring
- 1 x Knob
- 2 x M5 20mm Nylon Patch Bolts
- 1 x M5 Nylon Lock Nut
- 1 x M5 Washer
- 3 x M3 Motor Mounting Screws
- 1 x Extention Cable
- 2 x M3 Bolts
- 1 x M5 30 Bolts
- 2 x M3 Nuts
- 1 x Shoulder Pin
- 5 x Zip Ties
- 1 x Printed Bracket
- 1 x Beveled Capricorn Liner
- Stepper motor and roller wheels are not included
- 1 x Micro Swiss Sticker
- Dual-drive train
- Hardened tool steel, CNC precision cut gears
- Adjustable filament grip
- Easy filament loading
- The short, highly constrained filament path
- Prints flexible filaments with high speed and accuracy
- Outstanding extrusion control
- Lightweight aluminium body
Lets Get Started
What is Direct Drive? A direct drive extruder is commonly placed on top of the hot end. This means moving the stepper motor on top of the gantry. By doing this, it reduces the travel of filament to the hot end and allows a more positive experience printing of flexible filaments.However, it doesn’t come without its downfalls. More weight on the gantry could affect the overall finish of your print!
Installation of the Micro Swiss Direct-Drive is straightforward. The QR code included takes you to a link of a PDF which gives clear, pictured instructions. I have linked them here also. The main base plate is very light. I’d weigh this to see how light it is and its a mere 62g.
Before installing, you will need some tools to assist you along the way. These are mostly different sized Allen keys as well as an adjustable spanner, socket wrench and a Phillips screwdriver! All are detailed in the instructions.
The first step into getting this started is to remove your old hotend. The kit they sent me came with an all-metal hotend, and although I already had one installed, I wanted it all new. My current setup involves the Hero Me fan duct. However, I will put my stock fan housing back on.
The next stage is to remove the extruder and extruder motor now.
Now we remove the extruder gear, unhook the belt and then remove the carriage assembly. To unhook the belt loosen the belt tightener bolts on the right-hand side of the gantry. You can then unhook from under the carriage. After removing the carriage, remove the wheels.
Installing the Micro Swiss Direct Drive
We can now start to assemble the Micro Swiss Direct Drive starting with using the two wheels from the top of our original carriage. There are two nylon patched bolts provided, so use these. Tighten them until there is no wobble on the wheels, yet they still spin freely.
There is another bolt that is used for the eccentric bottom wheel along with the nylon lock nut. Ensure the eccentric fitting is the right way on with the longer part facing away from the wheel. Before doing this nut up, place the Micro Swiss Direct Drive carriage plate on the gantry and then tighten the nut up, again, ensuring there is no wobble with the carriage on the gantry.
You can now secure the belt into the slots and then tighten the tensioner bolts back up to ensure it is taught.
The next stage in this process is to install the extruder motor. You can use your existing one for this. With the 3 x M3 bolts provided, secure your motor with the plug facing up onto the carriage.
You can now attach the lever using the supplied bolt which will then secure to the last bolt hole on the extruder motor.
Drive Gear installation
Loosen the grub screw on the gear then place this onto the shaft of the extruder motor ensuring the flat side matches. Push the lever up, so it is up against the drive gear with the teeth interlocking. Now place a piece of filament in and move it up and down slightly, so it aligns the gears. You can then tighten up the grub screw. Look down at the top to ensure the gears are centred. Drive gear installation complete!
The lever pin can now be installed. Place through the gap and then tighten the nut, so it is flush with the end of the bolt. This should be a good starting point for the grip on the filament, so may need to be adjusted as you go.
We can now install the filament guide bracket. This part is 3D printed but supplied with the kit. This bolts on to the bracket where the extruder motor was using the provided M3 nuts and bolts.
The next stage is the hotend installation; however, I won’t go through the installation of the hotend as this is covered in my previous article. Feel free to check it out! We can now go ahead and attach the Bowden tube from the filament guide to the carriage and then install the filament guide tube. This installs from the hotend to the dual gears.
The extruder motor can now be plugged in using the extension wire supplied and then the cables secured to the filament guide bracket with the zip ties. The Micro Swiss Direct Drive Extruder installation is now complete!
Calibrating your new Micro Swiss Direct Drive Extruder
Now that all the hardware is in place, it is recommended to configure your esteps to 130mm as a baseline. To do this, you need to connect your printer to your computer via USB and use Pronterface. Alternatively, if you have Octoprint, you can also use that.
Using a terminal window to send commands to your printer once connected, send the command M503. This will display your current settings. Make a note of your current esteps should you need to revert. Look for the line that starts with M92. Take a reminder of the E value at the end of that line. That is your current esteps
To set your esteps to 130mm, firstly send the command M92 E130.0. Secondly, send the command M500 to save. That’s all there is to it! I would also advise doing a PID tune to calibrate the temperature on the hotend. You can read how to do that here.
The first prints I had from this conversion were troublesome. I had some under extrusion, stringing and the prints were just not right! You can see some of my many prints below.
I couldn’t fathom as to what was causing this after increasing the printing temperature, using a different stepper motor and filaments. Also reseating the tubing and adjusting the tension on the spring all to no avail. I contacted Micro Swiss, and they gave me a few suggestions, but again, I was still experiencing the same issues.
As I was checking everything over again, I nudged the thermistor cable slightly, and this caused an error on my printer screen. After checking more thoroughly, It appears that it wasn’t seated correctly in the heat block, so that would mean the temperature wasn’t staying consistent I was printing at! After reseating and securing, I did another cube test print.
Success! This print is much better and has smooth layer lines! More fine-tuning is needed on the direct drive extruder to set retraction and retraction speed, however, I thought I would go for another print. I printed a simple toothpaste squeezer.
I was pleased with this result! One of my smoothest prints to date I’d say! As I have only been printing small objects, I thought I would go with something a bit bigger and with more detail.
Here is an Einstein bust available from MyMiniFactory.
I printed this with 3D Jakes Thibra Skulpt Copper filament. This filament allows you to heat the model and skulpt it further to enhances the features of the model. A review of this filament is on the way so keep an eye out for that!
Direct Drive Extruder systems are designed to be able to print flexible filaments with ease and speed, so let’s now give that a try! The TPU I am testing is Sunlu Black TPU…unfortunately, that is all I have. I did have trouble at first trying to get the TPU into the hotend, but a quick snip of the filament at an angle and I was able to get it inserted in.
I first printed the XYZ calibration cube with the general settings for this on the Thingiverse page, and the speed was set to 40mm/s using a temp of 230. Retraction distance was set at 1mm with a retraction speed of 30mm/s.
Not a bad first attempt…all the layers have adhered. However, I think the filament is old and may have moisture in it as there are some inconsistencies. I still carried on with this TPU though and decided to print a phone case for my Samsung Galaxy S10+.
Again, I had some inconsistencies at the start but did leave a cooling effect on the back of the case, and it is so smooth! This printed better than I expected. I did have retraction turned off, which resulted in stringing, so something I need to play around with further. Unfortunately, the case did not fit my phone very well. Although the design said, any material can be used, not for my TPU! Best printed in PLA or a tougher TPU perhaps.
I am currently in the process of printing a Delage RC model created by Martin Brida from 3Dtlac.xyz of which requires some tyres and also a bench seat of which I am printing with TPU, so let’s give this a go!
Unfortunately, these prints look a bit rough too, of which I do put down to my filament. I plan to get some new TPU and then re-try printing to see if the results improve. I am continually changing settings here and there, and have yet to hit the sweet spot. I’ve had no further issues using PLA with this. Below are the TPU tyre and PLA wheel printed using the Micro Swiss Direct Drive.
I did experience a couple of issues where the filament buckled and ended up coming out of where the gears are. To remedy this, I just slowed down my print to 30mm/s which seemed to sort it, however, isn’t the idea of a direct drive to be able to print flexibles faster? The tightness of the spring arm could also be a factor as well.
Where to buy?
The Micro Swiss Direct Drive can be bought directly from the Micro Swiss site. You have the option of having it with an all-metal hotend at the price of $99.75 or just the extruder parts for $57.75. Also, it is available as a pre-order from 3D Jake
To sum up, this Swiss Micro Drop-In Direct-Drive Extruder is easy to install, and the build quality is excellent. Unfortunately, I have hit some snagging points along the way. But so far this is due to no fault of the product in any way. You don’t lose too much build height (I’ve never utilised the full build height of my machine anyway) There are many alternatives to make your direct printer drive, but if you have the spare cash, want quality and quick setup, then why not go for this! Still, some trial and error to get optimal settings for myself so this will be an ongoing project for me personally, and I will be keeping an eye out to see how others fair when using this.
I will update this article with future prints and any significant setting changes using the Micro Swiss Direct Drive, so keep checking back.
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Do you want to learn more about extruders have a look at sculpteo article that explains more about extruders.