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Direct Drive or Bowden?
When it comes to FDM 3D printing, the choice is Direct Drive or Bowden. There are pros and cons for each set up, depending on the type of printing required. They both essentially do the same thing, the difference is where the extruder is fitted. Let's further explore the pros and cons of each option.
Direct Drive includes the extruder on the printhead and feeds filament directly from the extruder into the hotend. This means the setup has a much smaller piece of PTFE tubing (a guide tube), which allows for better retraction and the ability to print flexible filaments with more success than with Bowden. As the set up is literally direct, the extrusion out of the nozzle is often more consistent.
The Bowden setup places the extruder off the printhead (usually on the printer frame). Filament travels from the extruder through a piece of PTFE tubing (much longer than Direct Drive) to the printhead and through the hotend. The longer piece of PTFE tubing means that printing with flexible filaments becomes very difficult to achieve. Jamming is also something more prone with the Bowden setups with regular filament such as PLA. This can be caused by increased friction of the Bowen tube if the bend is very significant.
Retraction is less responsive than direct drive. However the advantage of Bowden is there is less weight on the printhead. Less weight on the printhead allows for potential faster printing speeds and less imperfection due to inertia.
From experience we have found that Bowden setups do need more maintenance than Direct Drive. Both setups have their place and can achieve great results, as long as they are used for the correct type of printing. We have fitted Dual Drive extruders to most of our Bowden printers with great results. The Dual Drive extruder and also be fitted to and Direct Drive system if need be.