What Does the Hot End Do in a 3D Printer?

The hot end of a 3D printer is an essential component that is integral to how it operates. The hot end melts the filament, or printing material, which enables the printer to work and keeps things at a constant temperature for proper operation. 

This post will explain what the hot end of a 3D printer does. I’ll walk you through a hot end, how it functions, and why this component is critical to 3D printers. The goal is to give you a better understanding of how these printers work. 

Let’s dive in. 

Key Components

  • The hot end of a 3D printer is essential to normal operations and one of the most important aspects of the printer. 
  • By melting the filament and keeping the printing material at a constant temperature, the hot end enables the printer to work correctly. 
  • Hot ends can be slightly different in design from model to model, but they all function similarly to make 3D printing happen. 

What Does the Hot End in a 3D Printer Do? 

The hot end of a 3D printer is an essential component of the machine and heats the filament, or printing material, to a point where it can be melted. The hot end also keeps the filament at a steady temperature for proper operation. 

3D printers would not function without a hot end, so this part is critical for every type of printer. No matter what make or model of 3D printer you have, it has a hot end and serves the same essential purpose. 

The hot end functions as a nozzle for the printer, pushing the material out at a steady pace to allow the printer to be precise. The nozzle is heated properly throughout the printing process to help this go smoothly. 

What does the Extruder do in a 3D Printer? 

An extruder includes the hot end and other components that help a 3D printer function properly. The extruder pushes the filament toward the hot end, where it can be melted and spread across the bed for printing. 

Some people use the terms hot end and extruder interchangeably, but this is technically not correct. The hot end is part of the extruder, but the extruder includes more parts of the printer than just that one component. 

3D Printer Hot End Assembly

If you want to take things a step further in your understanding of how a 3D printer works, it’s a good idea to look at the components of the entire hot end assembly. The hot end is made of several different parts that allow it to function properly. 

As the filament works through the hot end, it first passes through the heat sink. This area helps keep things cool and prevents the entire element from melting uncontrollably. 

The filament is then passed through a tube that holds it in place as it approaches the hot end’s tip for melting. This allows the printer to be precise and not spill material everywhere. 

After the tube, you have a heat break that again helps to ensure that the melting of the filament occurs in a controlled manner. 

And the final aspect of the hot end assembly is the melting zone. This is where the filament is actually melted, and the temperature is regulated to keep it at a steady consistency for printing. 

All of these aspects of the assembly work with one another as the hot end creates whatever is being printed. The exact design of the assembly can vary from one model of printer to another, but these aspects are generally the same.

How to Choose a 3D Printer Hot End

Here are a few things that you should take into consideration.

Printing Materials

The first thing you need to consider when getting a hot end for your 3D printer is the materials you plan to use. Every hot end comes in at a different temperature.

Some can run hot enough to melt and print any material, while others can only print PLA. Metal hot ends also tend to run hotter than PEEK ones, which makes them much more versatile.

If you plan to use flexibles, you’re going to want a special model for that as well.


3D printing is an investment. However, you can control how much you want to put into it. When looking at hot ends, you have a choice.

You can either get a cheaper model to save some money upfront or you can get a more expensive model for the best possible results.

No matter what you pick, just remember that cheaper models may end up costing more if you have to constantly replace them. Look for ones from trusted brands to avoid that issue.


Not every hot end works for every printer. That’s incredibly important to note because if you don’t have the right model for your device it won’t do you any good.

You either want to get a model that works specifically with your 3D printer or one that you can easily change to fit with your printer. The filament size also matters.

Most hot ends work with 1.75 and 3mm filament, but you need to double-check to be sure.

What’s the Best 3D Printer Hot End?

Here are a few of our top recommendations, along with a quick review of each option.

1. E3D Lite6

As fun as 3D printing can be, there’s a lot to learn. That is where models like the E3D Lite6 come in. While it’s not the most advanced hot end you can find, the device is a fantastic option for people new to the 3D printing process.

This device burns at a medium temperature, which gives you the chance to learn and refine your prints before moving on to more advanced or precise options.

In addition, this has the same parts as the more advanced E3D, which means you get a stunning amount of flexibility here. No matter what material you’re printing with, this will give you the ability to carefully sculpt the design to your liking.

While this is only compatible with the 1.75mm filament, the low price and strong results make it perfect for ABS and PLA. It is also easy to assemble and get going too.

2. Flexion Extruder

If printing flexibles is your thing, look no further than the Flexion Extruder. This hot end makes our list because it takes typically difficult flexibles and makes them much easier to handle.

In fact, it goes after them head-on in a way that makes them print much more quickly and effectively. That saves you time and makes everything much less stressful.

The reason this hot end can handle flexibles so well is due to the fact that it has a restricted filament path that stops them from squeezing out.

In addition, it comes with micro teeth for better grip as well as a replaceable wire brush to ensure a consistent grip. You can get the extruder by itself, or you can choose between single and dual kits as well.

3. Titan Aero

The Titan Aero is a hybrid model that’s specially designed to give great results in a compact space. Unlike heavier hot ends, this small device delivers high performance without adding too much mass or weight to your setup.

It comes with a special extruder design that attaches a heatsink directly to it so you don’t need an external one. That then creates a shorter direct-drive assembly.

Another reason so many enjoy the Aero’s smaller size is that it greatly increases print time. Quick acceleration can cause a wobble in longer extruder assemblies, but you won’t have that same problem here.

In addition, this is an E3D model. That means you have access to the entire E3D line so you can change or customize the device as you need.


Here are a few frequently asked questions relating to what the hot end does in a 3D printer. 

What is the hot end of a 3D printer called? 

The hot end of a 3D printer is called the hot end. Sometimes it is labeled as one word and spelled hot end. This part of the printer melts the filament and is thus capable of reaching high temperatures, which is how it gets the name. 

What does the hot end fan do? 

Most 3D printers are equipped with a hot end fan that prevents other parts of the printer surrounding the hot end from getting too hot. This helps ensure proper operation and is another critical aspect of the printer. 

Should I upgrade to an all metal hot end? 

All metal hot ends are a good idea if you plan on using metals and other materials with a higher melting point. If you don’t have the need for that, you are likely fine using a standard hot end and not upgrading. 

Can I use any Hotend with a 3D printer? 

You need to match the proper hot end to your printer, and you can’t use any type of hot end. This is similar to other mechanical devices with model-specific parts. Some printers use the same hot end, but always check the manufacturing specs for the right option. 

Useful Tips and Resources

While a good hot end can vastly improve your 3D printing experience, it’s far from the only way to achieve excellent results.

If you want to make sure all of your prints come out in top form or without any issues, this guide is a good place to start.

The above paragraphs provide a quick look at different hot ends. However, it doesn’t quite go as in-depth on the technical side of things.

For those that want a deeper look into how the devices come together, this video provides some excellent tips on assembly.

Final Thoughts

The hot end of a 3D printer is very important and is where the filament gets melted so that an item can be printed. Hot ends can be replaced, and you can upgrade to various types for different melting purposes. 

Another interesting thing to know about a hot end is that this part of the printer cannot actually be 3D printed. Parts on a 3D printer that cannot be 3D printed are known as vitamins. 

Have you ever changed or upgraded the hot end of your 3D printer? Why did you do so? Let me know in the comments below. 

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