Are 3D Printer Nozzles Universal?

If you’ve ever needed to buy a new nozzle for your 3D printer, then you may have been wondering what type of nozzle you should buy. When a failed print destroyed my nozzle, I did a ton of research to find what kind of nozzle I should buy.

Are 3D printer nozzles universal? Nozzles are not universal. They they come in varying sizes, materials, and diameters. Before buying a new nozzle, make sure that it is compatible with your printer.

These 3 things make a huge difference in how and what you can print. Buying the wrong nozzle can cost you your valuable time and money, so here are the 3 determining factors for the nozzle you use.

1. Nozzle size

When you search for nozzle size online, almost every single result is for the nozzle diameter. The size of the nozzle can affect the way the filament comes out. If you have the wrong nozzle size, bad things can happen.

For starters, the nozzle might not even fit inside the heater block at all. Some nozzles have really long threads, and others have fatter ones. If you’re going to buy a nozzle, make sure that it will be able to fit.

Sometimes, the thread count of the nozzle doesn’t quite match up with the thread number you need for the heater block. This can cause filament to actually leak out of the threads.

Never try to force the nozzle in. If you are screwing it in and feel resistance, stop right away. First check to see if you have bought the right size nozzle. If the size is correct, then make sure there isn’t anything stuck in the heater block.

The size of the nozzle is also a factor in what size of filament you buy. The size of the entry hole that the filament is pushed into is referred to as input diameter. The most commonly used size of filament is 1.75mm, but you can also purchase sizes such as 3mm.

Buying filament that is too large for your nozzle will result in clogs and inconsistent extrusion. Usually the hot end supports one size of filament, so just check to see which size it will work with.

2. Nozzle material

The nozzle you buy will make a huge difference on the filament types you can print. Standard nozzles are made out of brass due to the metal’s great thermal conductivity.

However, brass is a softer metal. It will work just fine for average filaments, but more “exotic” filaments will hurt the extruder. Besides the filament type, it can get damaged much more easily by tools or scraping the bed.

Here is an explanation of different nozzle materials and their uses.


By default, your 3D printer will come with a brass nozzle. These nozzles work great for the standard filaments, which include PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylon, TPE, TPU, and PC.

The reason that this type of nozzle is optimal for these filaments is that they don’t have any abrasives that can destroy the nozzle. For the average 3D printing hobbyist, you won’t need anything more than these materials.

Since brass nozzles are easier to machine than steel ones, they typically have the smoothest interiors. This results in better quality prints.

For many of these filaments you’ll need an enclosure to control temperature and filter out the harmful fumes (especially ABS). Filaments with the highest melting points may also require that you buy an all-metal hot end for your printer.

Unless you need one of these plastics for a specific purpose such as strength or durability, PLA should be the best for you. Many people only want to print small models and trinkets, which PLA excels at.

If you never plan on going crazy with filament types, stick with the brass standard nozzle and avoid a lot of extra hassle.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel isn’t really a nozzle you should use every time you print. The only real reason you would use this type is if you need to print anything involving foods.

The FDA has approved stainless steel for food applications. For example, you can 3D printing a custom dinner plate with a stainless steel nozzle using a food safe filament.

Other than food applications, you don’t want to use this type of nozzle. The stainless steel is not as thermally conductive as brass is, leading to more clogs and extrusion issues.

Hardened steel

When you’re ready to move on to abrasive materials, a hardened steel nozzle is the way to go. While it will still wear down over time, it will stay in good shape much longer than a brass nozzle will.

The filaments you can print with these nozzles include NylonX, wood filled, copper filled, and steel filled. These all have small particles inside them that would easily scrape up a softer nozzle.

The downside of using this would be worse heat distribution than brass. It is not as conductive, so it could result in issues such as poor bridging and more stringing.

Hardened steel is more expensive than brass, but not by a huge amount. If you plan to use some crazy filaments, hardened steel is your best option.


Ruby nozzles are made out of brass, but have a small ruby at the tip. This allows the extruder to have the best conductivity and also allows it to handle abrasive filaments.

Now I said before that hardened steel is best for abrasives, and I’ll explain why. Only the tip of the nozzle is ruby, and the rest of the nozzle is the soft brass. This means that the inside of the nozzle is more prone to being scratched up.

This wouldn’t be a big deal, but the price of a ruby nozzle is $90 or more. Hardened steel nozzles are around the $20 range.

Some people will argue that the ruby nozzle is the best for abrasives because most of the pressure is put on the tip of the extruder. While true, the inside and outside are just plain brass.

If you’re going to pay $90 for something, it should last longer than a cheaper replacement would. My advice would be to just stick with hardened steel for abrasives and save your money.

3. Nozzle diameter

Generally, a nozzle can only print up to 80% of its diameter. For example, a .4mm nozzle can’t print with a .4mm layer height. You would need to get a .5mm if you wanted a .4mm layer height

There are a ton of different nozzle diameters you can buy, and each serve a specific purpose. Here is a brief explanation of the most common types you can buy.

< .3mm

Any nozzles that are less than .3mm are for prints that are either very small or prints that need very thin layer lines. Using a smaller nozzle will also increase your print time. dramatically.

One thing you need to understand about nozzle diameter is that it is not equal with layer height. Printing a .1mm height with a .4mm nozzle is going to be much faster than using the same layer height with a .3mm nozzle.

This is because the printer is laying down less plastic per line. Therefore, it needs more movements to complete a layer than a larger diameter nozzle would.

The smaller hole is also more prone to blockages. These blockages are then harder to remove than a larger nozzle diameter would be.

Another reason to use a smaller nozzle height is that support structures are easier to remove. There is less bind to the plastic, which leaves less residual filament on your print.

Unless you are going to be printing miniatures or functional parts, you should stick with a .4mm nozzle. In short, smaller nozzle diameters make your print look better, but with the cost of slower print times.


.4mm is the 3D printer nozzle standard. Your printer probably came with one of these installed, and it is the easiest to work with.

With these nozzles, you can print the most common layer heights such as .1, .2, and .3mm. These will print much faster than a smaller nozzle would at these layer heights, and still achieve comparable quality.

The blockages that happen with this occur much less, and are usually a breeze to remove. These are the standard for a good reason. The other nozzles have some advantages, but the .4mm works just fine for most prints.


Like I said before, a nozzle can only print up to 80% of it’s diameter. Because of this, a 1mm nozzle can do up to a .8mm layer height.

These nozzles are awesome if you need large prints done at a much faster speed. Some of the Creality printers with larger beds benefit greatly from these improved speeds.

The downside of a larger layer height is that layer lines are much more visible. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you need any mechanical parts printed. You’ll just need to spend some extra time sanding and finishing the print.


Since 3D printer nozzles are not universal, there are a lot of things to consider before buying a new nozzle.

Always be sure to check if a nozzle is compatible with your specific printer. Also, stick to the standard brass nozzles for the non-abrasive filaments, and use a .4mm nozzle diameter for the easiest time.

Jay Simmons

Jay Simmons is the main writer for The 3D Bros. He has several years experience working with 3D printers, and is the the co-owner of Cubold Manufacturing, LLC.

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