CNC tool changer inspired multi-material concept


Is this a viable idea / why hasn’t it been done yet?

CNC milling machines have ability to simply change tools. Tools are parked somewhere in the milling area or in a separate chasis and the spindle can automatically pick up specific tools when needed.
Could you transfer the idea to 3D printing? You would have a carriage that could pick up different tool during printing. Tool would consist of extruder + hotend + nozzle. Tools would be parked somewhere in the printer. The XY holder would pick up the tool it needs and quickly switch to a different one.

Benefits over bowden + multiple nozzles:

  • can have direct drive
  • can have different extruders and hotends, each one suitable for particular filament or section in the print

Benefits over bowden + single nozzle:

  • no retraction and priming on each filament change
  • less wasted material

Unique new possibilities:

  • pick and place head, for example for automatic insertion of metal or electronic parts
  • nozzles of different diameters to optimise speed of printing


  • complexity and reliability: need elegant mechanical solution for mounting and locking onto carriage.
  • price: each tool would have it’s own extruder, hotend, etc. There is also additional mechanics for tool changing