3D Printer: Direct Drive vs Bowden

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Updated January 17, 2023

The 3D print market has exploded in recent years as more consumers flock to these unique devices’ practical and recreational value. However, a lot goes into selecting the best 3D printer. There are many types of devices, but the best printers come with varying specs that you need to be familiar with. Below, we’ll discuss a critical component of any FDM printer, the feeding mechanism. So read on as we compare two types of 3D printers: direct drive vs Bowden.


  • Every FDM 3D printer has an extruder mechanism that pushes the filament into the heated nozzle.
  • Bowden tube models attach the extruder to the printer frame, reducing the printhead’s weight and resulting in faster printing.
  • Direct drive models attach the extruder directly to the printhead, increasing print time but producing a more reliable extrusion process.

If you’re not yet familiar with the different types of 3D printers, we have plenty of helpful articles to catch you up to speed. For example, we have an article on FDM vs DLP 3D printers and a great buying guide outlining the best 3D printer extruders money can buy.

Insider Tip

To reduce the likelihood of oozing, calibrate your retraction speeds and distances.

Difference Between Direct Drive vs Bowden 3D Printer

Every FDM printer has what’s called an extrusion system. This mechanism moves the spool of the filament towards a heated nozzle. Then, the filament is melted, layered, and formed into a 3D object. There are two main types of extrusion systems: Direct Drive and Bowden.

Bowden extruders (also known as Bowden Tube extruders) connect the Teflon tube from the nozzle to the extruder, which is attached to the printer’s frame. The filament is passed through the tube and into the nozzle, where it’s melted and shaped.

Direct drive extrusion systems remove the tube and push the filament directly into the nozzle. This is possible because the extruder is mounted onto the printhead instead of the frame.

Although they both accomplish the same thing, there are many differences between them.

If you finished this and want to read more of our stuff, we have a great article comparing 3D pens vs 3D printers. And if you want to learn about some specific models, we have a piece comparing the Ultimaker 3 vs S3.

Extrusion Capability

Because the design directly feeds filament into the printer head, removing the need for the tube, a direct drive system ultimately results in more reliable extruding. In addition, it can quickly retract filament if any issues arise, whereas a Bowden tube model takes longer to respond, which can cause oozing, stringing, or globbing of the filament.


The more sticky or abrasive filament you use, the more likely it’ll get caught in a Bowden tube.

Print Time

Bowden tubes result in faster print times. This is because the extruder is mounted to the frame rather than the printhead, and much fewer weight results in faster, unrestrained movements, which speed up the print process.


Similar to print time, the decreased weight of a Bowden tube model results in less stress on the printer head, resulting in more accurate print quality.

STAT: The FDM printer was invented in 1989 by inventor Scott Crump. (source)

3D Printer: Direct Drive vs Bowden FAQs

Can you change a Bowden tube into a direct drive?

Many choose to do this. However, it takes technical knowledge and the right set of tools.

Which type costs more?

While it's hard to gauge the price of the extruder itself, 3D printers with Bowden tubes are usually more affordable.

What is an SLA printer?

Unlike FDM, which uses a filament spool to create objects, SLA printers use a vat of liquid reason to create 3D objects.
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