While making a new heater I decided to try using stranded tinned copper tails rather than the solid tinned copper wire I used previously. The idea being to put less stress on the Cerastil covering.
I started with a standard piece of 7 x 0.2 stranded copper wire and removed the insulation. I found all seven strands too bulky so I decided to see how many strands I needed to carry 2A. I found that a single strand was cool to touch at 2A but very hot at 4A. I figured two strands would be sufficient for some margin.
The fact that a strand gets hot at 4A, and in fact red hot at about 5A, got me thinking that we could just use a single strand of copper for the heater. Nichrome is expensive, not that easy to obtain, and difficult to make connections to.
I measured the resistance of a strand 52cm long as about 0.3Ω (my meter only gives one digit). The strand measured 0.17mm diameter. Calculating its resistance from the resistivity of copper I get 1.72 x 10-8 x 0.52 / (π (0.00017/2)2) = 0.39Ω.
At 4A the voltage drop was 2.6V giving a resistance of 0.65Ω and a power of 10W. The thermal coefficient of resistance is 0.0039 for copper so the calculated temperature of the wire is 20 + (0.65/0.39 - 1) / 0.0039 = 191°C. It was certainly hot enough to cut through ABS.
10W and 190°C are not far from the operating conditions of an extruder. I tried winding it on the bobbin I had made for my heater but it was about twice as long as I could accommodate. I am trying to make a very short heater at the moment so I went back to using nichrome. Also 2.6V @ 4A is too much for my current drive circuit but it would be easy to come up with a switch mode converter to drive it, or simply use the 3.3V rail of a PC PSU.
So it has definite possibilities. Making the connections would be trivial. Just start with a piece of 7 strand wire and cut it down to one apart from at the ends. Some high temperature solder would keep it neat but would not be essential. A standard heater barrel with some insulation would be about 7mm diameter so 24 turns would be required. If you keep it taught and wind it in a lathe or drill chuck you can get about 2 turns per mm with some concentration. That would easily fit the space currently allocated for the heater.