Practical Magic: Dual Extrusion

You’ve heard the talk: Ada’s the new printer in town and she came packing two extruders.  But what exactly does that mean?

First, the basics:

The extruder is the part of the printer most closely related to the printhead and cartridge in a regular ol’ desktop printer like the one you might have at home.  The fun part of a 3D printer extruder, however, is that it gets up to 215 degrees Celsius (that’s about 419 degrees Fahrenheit for us Yanks) in order to melt the filament (the plastic we print with).  The extruder is basically a very precise hot glue gun cleverly disguised as a printer.  Fancy Ada has two.

Dual Extruders
Ada’s dual extruders seen from the top (L) and bottom (R).  The pointy brass bits do the actual extruding.

So, does this mean we can print twice as fast?

Sadly, no.  It does, however, mean that we can print two colors at the same time, making for some pretty stellar prints.

Dual Cat

We can’t print twice as fast because, just like in a regular printer that doesn’t print faster in color just because it has more cartridges, the extruders do not work simultaneously.  For example, if we’re printing a cat like the one above, Ada is not printing the blue and yellow at the same time, or even all of the blue then all of the yellow.  Dual extruders still print one layer at a time, from the bottom to the top, so they will print a few millimeters of blue, then a few of yellow, then a really little bit of blue, then a bit of yellow and so on, and in between, the extruder that isn’t printing takes a little break.

What dual extrusion does get you is more intricate prints like Mr. Meows up there, or more detailed prints like this simple but pretty awesome die from SETech found on Thingiverse.  Besides aesthetics, dual extrusion also gives us the ability to print any support material needed in our least favorite color.  This is great because it allows us to use up any smaller amounts of filament and conserve any really popular colors.  Bye-bye jadeite.

So, while it won’t win us any prizes for speedy printing, Ada’s ability to dual extrude is a nifty feature that comes in handy for pretty prints and sturdy structures.

We plan on pulling Ada out soon for one of our upcoming demos, so keep your eyes peeled.  And if you’d like to get something printed in two colors, check out our Dual Extrusion collection on Thingiverse for some excellent options, submit a link to the design using the form on our website, we’ll print it and you’ll enjoy it.


Check our events calendar and Facebook events page for updates on our upcoming 3D design workshops!


Gutenberg enjoys humming, getting crafty, and causing mischief around the library. Ada enjoys reading up on the latest 3D printing technology and researching tips and tricks to make life easier. Gute and Ada’s people enjoy tinkering, making, and discovering ingenious solutions to everyday problems. If you have questions or suggestions for future Practical Magic posts, please feel free to email us at

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