Brian Reifsnyder asked for volunteers to test his hybrid PEEK and PTFE insulator design, so I used it for the hot part of my Mendel extruder to start with. The drive mechanism is Wade's design.
It worked well at first, requiring little force to extrude PLA, but got harder and harder until eventually it completely jammed. This video below shows that even with the nozzle removed and starting with a completely empty barrel I couldn't push more than about 15mm of filament through it.
The reason was that the PTFE liner had slipped a little leaving a small gap between it and the end of the brass heater barrel.
This makes the extruder jam completely solid. The reason is that PLA goes rubbery above 50°C, so any pressure on it makes it expand width wise and grip the side of the tube. If there is a gap that it can expand into it locks the filament.
I stripped it down, cleaned it out and reassembled it with some washers to hold the PTFE down.
Brian has added a circlip to the design to solve the problem.
I haven't tested this version yet because I ran into another problem before it arrived. When I started using a heated bed for PLA the extruder jammed again. This time it was because the top end of the insulator got hotter than the glass transition of the PLA, so it swelled as it went into the insulator and jammed in the tapered entrance. There was also some leakage around the threads.
The reason it got too hot is a combination of the heated bed, the fact that I used an uninsulated heater with a large surface area, and the fact that the Mendel carriage traps the rising heat.
I decided to try out an idea I had a while ago, which is similar in intent to Brian's scheme. Instead of putting PTFE inside PEEK to stop it expanding I put it inside a 15mm copper pipe. This not only totally constrains it so it cannot swell, it also removes heat from it, shortening the transition zone. I am calling this one Plumbstruder. Here is a sketch of the layout: -
The end of the copper pipe is closed off by soldering an end cap on and then drilling it out to leave a lip to support a PEEK disk which the barrel screws into as well as into the PTFE. That means the PEEK supports the extrusion force, as in Brian's design, but I also use the thread in the PTFE as a seal rather than just having a compression joint.
The copper pipe gets hot so I coupled it to a big heatsink with a copper flange.
I turned this from a solid block of copper a friend gave me (thanks Paul). I soldered it onto the pipe and screwed it onto the heatsink.
I turned the one piece nozzle / barrel from hex stock so it has a nut shaped flange in the middle to make it easy to screw in and also gives the aluminium heater block something to tighten against.
I had to turn down the PTFE to be a tight fit inside the pipe. I was hoping to find a size where the ID of the pipe matched the OD of the PTFE. 22mm copper pipe has an ID of 20mm, so theoretically 20mm PTFE rod would fit. In practice I have found that PTFE rod is about +/- 0.5mm so, unless you were lucky, the fit would not be good enough.
Even with a big heatsink it was getting uncomfortably warm so I added a tiny fan.
I have been using this extruder on my Mendel for a few weeks and it is totally reliable, with no sign of leaking. I think that of all the extruders I have made, this one needs the least force to extrude. I can push plastic through by hand at high speed with ease. For an extruder to work I think the transition zone needs at least two of the following three attributes: short, slippery or tapered. Unfortunately a short transition zone seems to mean using a heatsink, which is not ideal for a moving head machine.
I also think a short melt zone improves the accuracy by reducing the start-stop time. In that respect this design is not ideal, although it is no worse than the standard design.