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Since 3devo was officially found in 2016, we have come a long way. It has been an exciting journey full of mutual learning, innovation, and breakthroughs which is why we are proud to celebrate our three-year anniversary this month. So far this year we’ve celebrated our anniversary, several new product launches, and our first-time presence at one of the worlds largest expo for 3D printing in the United States — Just to list a couple of reasons why this year has been a game-changing one for us.
We are very proud to see how well our innovations are perceived within the 3D printing community which is why we are actively trying to expand our presence. The many 3D printing events we have attended have allowed us to exchange expertise with innovators, researchers and industry-leading experts.
So far this year, we have traveled the world to showcase our innovations in Russia, Finland, the United States, Spain, and France. In this blog post, we would like to share some impressions of the experiences we had in Moscow, Helsinki, Detroit, Bilbao, and Lyon.
Interplastica – Moscow, Russia
Earlier this year, Anton Komarov represented 3devo at the Interplastica exposition which took place from the 28th – 31st of January. Anton experienced an exciting exposition with 25,000 visitors. For three days Moscow turned into a hotspot for innovation full of 3D printing enthusiasts that showed a great deal of interest in modern machinery and plastic processing equipment.
This exposition was a great opportunity not only for 3devo but for the whole industry to expand beyond the western economic area and to bring 3D printing innovation to a new market. It was great to see that even though Russia has been suffering under heavy sanctions for four years, numerous foreign exhibitors were attracted to showcase their latest innovations. We are happy that also Anton got the chance to introduce 3devo and our filament making ecosystem to an exciting new market. Despite not having fully utilized the possibilities of additive manufacturing just yet, we believe that the Russian market will have a strong drive in the near future.
Nordic 3D Expo – Helsinki, Finland
Shortly after Russia, two of our account managers, Anton Komarov and Pedro Lima, headed to Finland to attend Nordic 3D expo, which took place from the 3-4 of April. This expo was the first of its kind in Scandinavia and Northern Europe to focus on 3D printing and 3D technologies. It was great to see a wide range of 3D printing professionals and enthusiasts, alongside other 3D technology companies, students and hobbyists.
Rapid TCT – Detroit, United States
“It was great to meet so many people from the Additive Manufacturing industry and to engage with experts that have advanced plastics and manufacturing knowledge’’ – Tim Wesselink, CEO
The next stop on our journey was Detroit. We were proud to have participated at one of the world’s most influential additive manufacturing events: The RAPID TCT which took place from the 21st – 23rd of May. More than 400 exhibitors from over 20 countries presented groundbreaking additive manufacturing technologies, provided interactive learning experiences and held inspiring keynote presentations.
Our 3devo representatives along with CEO, Tim Wesselink, gave live-demos of our filament extrusion ecosystem and got to engage with industry experts, discussing the latest 3D technologies.
The Rapid TCT usually gathers all kinds of participants whether that’s businessmen, inventors, researchers or hobbyists, and it was therefore a great experience to bring all of our technologies to users across a whole wide range of industries. With two of our machines extruding PLA and other materials non-stop, our team was swamped by curious visitors with deep plastics and manufacturing knowledge. We hope to also welcome you there next year!
ADDIT3D – Bilbao, Spain
Shortly after our team got back from the United States they headed out to attend the ADDIT3D in Bilbao from the 4th – 6th of June. This event was another great meetup of more than 1000 firms from 35 countries and 20,000 visitors interested in the latest developments of the industry.
Our team, which consisted of Timo van der Laak (Material specialist) and Pedro Lima (Account manager), had a great time in Bilbao exchanging opinions, tips, tricks and future perspectives with hundreds of industry professionals. As many of our existing customers are located in the European region, this expo was a great opportunity to get to know each other personally and to foster relationships with the 3D printing community.
3D Print Congress – Lyon, France
While two of our 3devo representatives went to Bilbao, Anton Komarov (Account manager) and Louis Rinaldo (Material specialist) went to the 3D print congress in Lyon which also took place from the 4th – 6th of June. This exposition was particularly hands-on and allowed visitors to participate in workshops, conferences and innovation awards. Our team got the chance to interact with innovators from all 3D printing related sectors and exchange opinions with other material processing companies. Despite the 3D print congress with 4000 visitors being a little smaller compared to the other expositions, it was a full-blown success. We hope to get to see you there next year too!
We still have upcoming Events!
So far, 2019 has been awesome for 3devo. However, we love to keep looking forward. Later this year, we’ll be present at both the TCT in Birmingham and at the Formnext in Frankfurt. We’ll be giving away tickets to those two conferences as the dates approach, so be sure to keep an eye out. We hope to see you there!
24-26 September, 2019
19-22 November, 2019
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Game-Changing Year for 3devo
A filament extruder is a device used to turn shredded plastic, virgin pellets, or even discarded 3D prints into new 3D printing filament. The whole process allows you to customize the filament any way you want, with the added benefit of reusing old 3D creations. Around 10 years ago, filament extruders were quite primitive. They were wildly expensive and only used on rare occasions or for traditional large-scale filament production.
Nowadays, filament extruders are becoming more accessible to the general public. The quality of these machines is also steadily increasing, with many new startups having extruders that rival industrial ones. This rise of accessible filament extruders begs the question on how to choose the best one for you?
Well, we decided to draw up a list of various features to consider when buying your first (or next) filament extruder:
1. Material Range
First off, if you want to test a variety of filament to extrude, you need to make sure that the extruder can handle it. One of the many benefits of extruding your own filament is that you’re able to test different materials to get results you desire. For example, if you’d like to get your hands on PEEK or Bio PE, but the filament is suited only for ABS or PLA, you’ll be disappointed.
Ask the company for various tests of different materials, or visit their site to see what filaments have been extruded from their machines.
It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s better to know beforehand (with proof) what you’ll get out the extruder. Materials change all the time too, so don’t forget to do regular checks on a company’s site (or newsletter) to see if they’re testing any new materials.
2. Precision (Tolerance)
When it comes to extrusion and 3D printing, precision is everything. Getting a consistent filament diameter is essential, as extruding too thick or too thin a filament could be disastrous for your 3D prints. The prints can fail, your extruder can jam, or your overall print will suffer in terms of quality.
Choosing the right filament extruder means one that can give your filament:
- A precise diameter – at 3devo for example, the extruders have a range of 0.5-3.0mm and a tolerance of 50 microns. This tolerance is based on multiple in-house tests with various materials. Be careful when selecting a product that doesn’t have verified results, as many might claim a reasonable tolerance, but only as a result of 100% perfect operation settings.
- Consistency and roundness – Next you’ll want an extruder that can give you consistent filament that’s also as round as possible. Any amount of deviation in the diameter can lead to poor prints.
We like to ask/email the company for a complete breakdown for how precise their extruder is under various conditions and materials.
Knowing about what materials can be extruded as well as how precise the filament will both lead to a well-performing machine. Again, the more details the company provides, the more trust I’ll have with that company.
We mentioned that the ability to extrude different materials is essential, but another significant factor is the possibility to blend multiple materials. As you might enjoy the flexibility of one filament but want some additional strength from another additive.
Check to see what mixing options are available when choosing your filament extruder.
Does the device have a mixing zone? What is the mixing screw like? Many companies have a suitable screw, but it might not be the most durable. An example of a good screw would be one that is nitride- hardened as it ensures industrial grade filament. Also, an external mixing zone on an extruder screw allows you to blend different additives, plastics, fibers or powders to create custom filaments.
No matter the quality of the filament, it doesn’t help if your filament extruding spews it onto the ground for it to get dirty and tangled. That is where spooling comes in. Spooling allows you to wind the fresh filament around a spool so that it can be instantly taken away from the extruder and ready to print.
When choosing a filament extruder, check out the spooling options they have. Built-in units save you time.
Some might not have any and will require you to set up a manual spooling mechanism. Ones that do, check out the type of tensioning component they use. Having the filament spool too tight or too loose can profoundly affect your end-result. I’d be looking for an easily swappable spool mount, a type of slipper clutch and the ability to set custom spool dimensions.
It doesn’t help to have a filament extruder producing the best filament, but it’s too hot when it comes out. Why? A filament extruder produces extremely high temperatures to bind the material together.
When choosing, check to see what cooling mechanism they are using, as your new filament will deform and result in inferior quality.
Also, look at the housing of the components. Not enough space could lead to overheating. Either a robust single fan that the Filastruder uses or a dual-fan setup from 3devo can do the job. Don’t forget about the dust build up, too. We often find ourselves cleaning the fan vents if my extruder is in a dusty area. Having an extruder where dust in the fan can be easily removed is a huge bonus.
6. Software / UI
Something that many people might not consider is how significant a role the software and UI play in using an extruder. A display that allows you to see what changes are being made visibly helps in fine-tuning your settings. However, bugs still arise, even from the best of companies. Consistent software updates mean that your extruder will always have the most optimal code, resulting in quality filament being extruded.
Perhaps when choosing an extruder, ask the company how often do they release new firmware.
This will give you an idea of how active they are with their products. We would also ask what information is provided via the UI, as well as what options you can choose via the UI. As multiple intuitive and useful options result in the most accurate filament. However, make sure that the software stays up-to-date to ensure the reliability of your machine.
7. Reliability (Quality)
You want your filament extruder to be as reliable as possible. The quality of the components plays a big role. A cheaper product may seem like the best idea, but you don’t want to break down after a few uses.
Do some digging into the specs of filament extruder you want to buy, looking specifically how it’s made.
What are the components made from? What about the housing for all the components? From the aluminum alloy chassis of the Filastruder to the nitride-hardened mixing screw from 3devo, you want all the components to last as long as possible but also easy to replace. I’d even ask about the longevity of the components used in the actual making of the filament or how often the extruder needs to be serviced (if at all).
8. Practical Use
Choosing an extruder from a company that has examples of its filament in use is never a bad idea. Yes, their product might look good on paper, but without certified client responses or case studies, you won’t know for sure what you’ll be getting. A bit like buying a product from Amazon without any customer reviews.
Have a look at their site, or even send the company an email requesting customer testimonials or detailed case study reports.
Companies such as Noztek provide some testimonials from customers on their website. Whereas 3devo also features in-depth case studies on their website, such as how ESA (European Space Agency) uses their filament extruder to obtain the best possible results. Either way, knowing that people or organizations are actively using the product is an excellent sign.
9. After-Sales Support (Service)
Customer support is also something important to consider when making a decision. If your filament extruder happens to break down, you’ll want reliable support, and fast.
After-sales support should always be available when you’re going to be using your extruder often, so take a look at the FAQ and support section on a site to see what they offer.
This support can come in many forms, with how-to videos becoming a popular choice. We find the FAQ section or page should be a default option for a company, as well as contact details if you have questions after you’ve purchased the extruder. Good examples are the help section from Felfil, the extensive user manuals at Noztek or the comprehensive support plan from 3devo.
10. Ease of Use (Training)
Similar to 3D printing, the easier it is to use, the better your output will be. A filament extruder that’s easy to use means that you’ll be getting reliable filament with every use. Again, like 3D printing, it’s not just a simple – “turn on and walk away” setup. You need to know all the right settings depending on the filament you’d like to create.
Most filament extruders come with an LCD panel that helps you determine filament width, temperature, and other factors too. An instruction manual, of course, will be your best option here (however we’ve found that YouTube videos have been the better alternative). However, if you’d like to get the most out of it, you may even consider being sent for training by the company who sells the extruder. An example here would be DevoTraining.
“A new hands-on program, DevoTraining, brings extrusion and materials knowledge to individuals and teams hoping to learn how to get professional results.” – Sarah Goehrke, fabbaloo
Whatever your decision, make sure whoever uses it has adequate knowledge of filament extrusion before using the device to prevent any extrusion mishaps.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a whole spool of filament ready in a few minutes? Well, you would get filament, but it wouldn’t look good at all. A significant challenge the filament extruder faces is providing quality filament in a short time frame.
Don’t just look at the speed – but also under what the conditions were at the time of extrusion.
Anything from 0.7kg PLA per hour is a good result, with more expensive devices going up to 1kg per hour.
Lastly, you have the price to consider. To save on costs, you might want to build a filament extruder. However, your quality might suffer as a result. Buying a filament extruder means considering all the factors listed above. If you aren’t going to be needing high-quality filament and you won’t use the device all the time, you might want a cheap model.
But, if you want you or your company to produce high-end filament, you’ll need a high-end product.
It might seem as though our products are expensive, but after reading all the benefits listed above, you can see why. High-quality components and superior support mean you’ll always have reliable results with your filament. We also suggest factoring in the prices of spare parts, as most won’t last forever.
We hope that we’ve covered everything you need to consider when looking to buy your first filament extruder. It’s not an easy decision, as you need to not only consider your personal (or company’s) reasons for wanting one but also how will the machine perform. With the above factors though, your next purchase should be a lot easier.
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Recycling as a concept and recycling in real-time are very different things. In principle, recycled products should go back into the system as raw materials. In reality, however, they often end up in landfills. Closed-loop manufacturing seeks to change that.
To keep recyclable waste from entering landfills, we need to create a watertight system that manages how products are handled at every stage of their life cycle – from pre-production all the way to disposal. In other words, we need to stop seeing production and waste management as two separate processes. Which is essentially the concept of closed-loop manufacturing.
Linear is not the solution.
From the very first Industrial Revolution, our production systems have taken a linear route. Raw material has been mined from the earth and converted into products using energy and fuel. These products have been put into everyday use until it’s time to discard them. Fresh raw material has then been sourced for the next product line, which in turn has ended up as waste.
Over time, the flaws of this open-ended system have become increasingly clear. On the one hand, we’re consuming the planet’s limited resources like there’s no tomorrow. At the same time, we’re letting go of perfectly usable materials and components by assuming that they’ve run out their time. Not to mention the literal mountains of waste that are piling up on our land, clogging our oceans, and throwing our ecosystems off balance.
The linear approach to production can only head towards environmental disaster. But for our waste problem to go away for good, we can no longer rely on emergency measures. Instead, we need to actively move from the linear model to a closed-loop one.
Who are the closed loop manufacturers in town?
Capsule coffee manufacturer Nespresso has laid the foundation for what could soon become a global recycling system for aluminum coffee capsules. The process is simple. Users of Nespresso’s single-serve coffee capsules can order recycling bags for their used coffee capsules. Nespresso in turn partners with local courier services to pick up these bags, and with local recycling facilities to process the collected capsules. It separates aluminum from the coffee grounds, recycles it and sends it back into the production chain. The coffee grounds go into compost pits to create fertilizer.
Nespresso’s initiative is particularly significant because it deals with single-serve coffee capsules – a product that large numbers of people use (and discard) every single day. For closed-loop manufacturing to really make a difference, it needs to seep into similar industries producing consumer goods. Which is what has started to happen, thanks to some excellent initiatives by leading companies.
Battery maker Energizer has started setting up a circular model of production, by launching its EcoAdvanced batteries that are made using 4 percent recycled material. On paper this may not sound like a lot, but what’s happening on ground is promising. Instead of harvesting virgin zinc and cobalt for every new battery that it produces, Energizer is reclaiming these materials from used batteries. To encourage customers to buy these sustainable batteries, the company has also designed them to last longer than their predecessors.
Fashion, an industry that is notorious for its environmental impacts, has also warmed up to the idea of closed-loop manufacturing. Leading brands like Patagonia and H&M have jumped on the bandwagon, making recyclable garments designing new clothes from discarded fabrics. New brands like Evrnu have tailored all their efforts around reusing discarded textiles.
So why isn’t everyone a closed-loop manufacturer already?
At the moment, it’s mainly because the numbers don’t add up. Well designed and functional systems that facilitate closed-loop manufacturing haven’t gone mainstream in most industries. Which means that collecting waste and harvesting raw material from it is still a pretty expensive exercise.
Of course, companies like Nespresso and H&M are doing a great job of changing the situation. Their initiatives address the problem at a crucial stage – when products are about to be discarded by their users. Recycling is part and parcel of production in closed-loop manufacturing. By making it easy for customers to recycle stuff like used coffee capsules, old garments or plastic waste, manufacturers can remove a major obstacle from their sustainable production plans.
Implementing closed-loop manufacturing is relatively simple in industries that use plastics and polymer composites for production. Accessible technologies for recycling plastic waste into granulates or 3D printing filament have already been around for years. Both established manufacturers and new startups can make use of these technologies to reduce or even prevent wastage in their production chains.
Going forward, the disruptive innovations of Industry 4.0 will in all likelihood open up even more possibilities in closed-loop manufacturing. In partnership with carbon negative efforts, they might even get us to a point where we can start replenishing the planet’s resources.
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There’s no denying that catastrophic environmental changes are right around the corner. But what’s also around the corner is a global phenomenon that could be just the solution we need. The 4th Industrial Revolution can not only delay the inevitable, but might just prevent it from happening at all.
The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), or Industry 4.0, is unlike any of its predecessors. Be it mechanization, or mass production, or the more recent emergence of computerization and automation, the first three industrial revolutions were all about increasing our production capabilities. Often regardless of the consequences.
But 4IR is different. Because it doesn’t just create new possibilities – it also reminds us of our responsibilities.
Tech can help us close the loop.
Most of us are already enjoying the direct or indirect benefits of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Think artificial intelligence, the internet of things, 3D printing, 5G technologies, self-driving vehicles, nanotechnology, quantum computing, and so on.
There is a basic difference between 4IR technologies and those brought on by older industrial revolutions. 4IR technologies don’t just impact the world on a macro scale. Rather, they seep into the everyday realities of our lives, changing the way we live, work and communicate.
In other words, 4IR changes the world by empowering its people. And because it’s only just getting started, now is the time to make sure it saves the planet.
The World Economic Forum has already set the wheels in motion. It has initiated the 4IR for the Earth program in collaboration with MAVA Foundation, PwC and Stanford University. Governments, economists, environmentalists, innovators and academia from around the world are actively working together to make sure that emerging 4IR technologies have sustainability at heart. And in the process, entire industries are committing themselves to building a safer, cleaner and better earth.
Decentralization is the spirit of 4IR.
Many 4IR trends are currently taking the world by storm. But if we had to pick one that embodies the spirit of Industry 4.0, it would have to be decentralization. The first three industrial revolutions allowed us to produce more than we could ever have imagined. In the process, we consumed more resources than ever before. And we set up a linear economy in which resources are mined, used and discarded without a second thought.
The result? Waste. We’ve produced more waste in the past 50 years than our ancestors have generated throughout history. And the time for emergency waste management measures is over. What we need now is a complete shift in our idea of what is a resource. And a complete rework of our production systems.
Industry 4.0 and its accessible technologies can address both these requirements. They can replace giant, resource-intensive operations with smaller, decentralized units that are just as good if not better in terms of quality. They can also help us move to a circular economy in which resources are kept in use for longer periods of time and then recycled into something new.
Thanks to technologies like 3D printing, individual manufacturers and innovators can now take production into their own hands. Instead of relying on third-party suppliers, they can make the materials and components they need in-house. In the process, there’s less resource consumption and less wastage throughout the production chain – from manufacturing, to shipping, to packaging, to reuse. And there’s a whole new level of freedom to develop creative solutions from existing resources.
Can we 3D print our way to a sustainable future?
3D printing and additive manufacturing tend to come up in almost any discussion about the 4th Industrial Revolution. In a few short years, 3D printing has become a mascot for Industry 4.0. Because it’s one of the most intelligent, accessible and user-friendly ways of reducing waste and turning it into a resource.
Sustainability is part and parcel of 3D printing. It is by nature a zero-waste process, making objects one layer at a time using no more than what is necessary. It also lets creators make exactly what they need instead of patching something together using standardized materials and components. In other words, it can easily handle the changing demands of a consumerist lifestyle without wasting resources in the process.
A key reason why 3D printing has gone mainstream so quickly is the fact that it’s readily available. And it’s getting more and more affordable. Any innovator, designer or manufacturer can become a part of Industry 4.0 by adding a 3D printer to their setup. And by supplementing it with a filament maker or plastic recycler, they can become self-sufficient production units creating sophisticated (but sustainable) solutions.
Let’s throw some numbers into the mix. Per a 2015 study, 3D printing has the potential to slash manufacturing costs by 170–593 billion U.S. dollars. It can also cut down energy use by 2.54–9.30 exajoules, and carbon emissions by 130-525 metric tons.
These numbers are promising, but by far the most encouraging fact about 3D printing is that it’s a flexible technology. Which means that the opportunities it creates are endless. From making environment-friendly filament out of bio-plastics, to designing futuristic transport systems using 3D printing, AI, nanotechnology and robotics, innovators are already busy coming up with exciting new solutions that will shape our future.
And for once, it can be a future where our needs don’t compromise the interests of the planet.
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What can possibly make 3D printing even more fun and captivating? A variety of filaments you can use to bring ideas to life! That why making your own filament is convenient and fun. Just in case you still have a hard time grasping the value in filament making – No problem, here are some points to guide you.
If you’ve worked with the 3D printing long enough, you may have felt a glint of disappointment regarding the lack of the materials you wish to try in your projects. Of course, color changing, and glowing filaments are fun, just like the super-flexible ones, but creators need more potential and more appliance possibilities for their final printed items. And this is the exact reason to consider making your own 3D filament instead of purchasing the ready-made one.
We don’t know about your experience, but we face the defective filament too often to blame it on the coincidence. Different thickness, fragility, lamination – all of these low-quality 3D filament features can ruin your project, or even become a cause of your 3D printer’s breakdown.
Customization – creating your material with the required properties – can eliminate all these listed problems. And here are the reasons, why.
- Filament extruder allows controlling all features of the produced filament. Thanks to the built-in thickness meter, possibility to customize all the stages of granules heating, multiple sensitive sensors, the filament you’ll get will have the identically perfect properties without any thicknesses or thinnings, overburnt sections, cavities.
- You can combine different materials in order to get entirely new blends. When the standard assortment of filaments satisfies you neither with quality nor with characteristics, you’re able to experiment with different types of plastic granules, additives, tweaking compounds to obtain something brand-new for your projects.
When making your own printing material using a 3D filament extruder, you’re controlling the future of filament.
Let’s say you need less than a kilo of the Bio PE, but don’t want to wait several days before the delivery? Simply extrude whatever amount of 3D filament is required at the time it’s needed!
A home-made filament is convenient because:
- You make the needed amount of the printing material and don’t have to keep dozens of half-empty spools you’ve used once and not going to try anymore.
- The filament will not be stored in improper conditions. Sunlight, temperature change, high humidity damage the structure of the filament making it inapplicable for printing. But when you create it on-the-go and then immediately use it for craft, you get the best quality without any odd material remains.
- No need to order filament from unreliable sites. Every time you buy 3D filament on the Internet you rely on luck – its quality is quite hard to predict unless you’re shopping from your trusted manufacturer. Then again, having a filament extruder, the printing material you’ll be using in the craft will pass your quality test, so the prints will always be up to your standards.
- Have filament when you need it. Don’t count days before delivery – your perfect 3D filament is always within reach!
Let’s look at the price of the spool of the regular black PLA filament. You won’t find a decent material cheaper than $17 per 1 kilogram. This price, apart from the raw material price, includes the cost of the manufacturing (electricity, heat, industrial workstation, employees paycheck), shipping, storage, and seller’s extra charge.
Comparing the price of the ready-made PLA with the PLA pellets, you will see an unbelievable variation of prices: 1 kilogram of the most expensive PLA granules costs $5. Thus, when you buy filament pellets instead of manufactured spools you save around $12 per kilogram.
Of course, a quality filament extruder will cost money, and you absolutely don’t need it if 3D printing is your part-time hobby. In this case, you may never pay off the cost of the equipment, and the purchase will only leave you with a hole in your pocket.
However, if 3D printing for you is something more than making models of your favorite cartoon characters, we’d recommend thinking about buying a filament extruder to fulfill your demands.
We all know how often 3D printing process becomes interrupted by different issues – from a jammed nozzle to an accidental warping. You stop the machine, fix the problem and start printing again, but what about the plastic the printer has already used?
In many 3D workshops, such wasted material is collected for the re-using needs. The concept is simple:
- Collect defected plastic
- Clean and let it dry
- Put it into the special plastic shredder
- Manufacture the filament from the plastic granules using filament extruder
Such a scheme not only saves you a sufficient amount of money but also protects nature from redundant plastic pollution. Benefiting all sides of the ecosystem.
Filament extruders, on the top of all these advantages, are a promising source of income. You can freely share it with the other people for the additional price. Cost of the granulated plastic – even summarized with the charge for your services – won’t excel the price of the spooled filament. This way you’ll have a source of the passive income, and your extruder won’t stand idly when you won’t need it.
In addition, we’ve already discussed how you can use the extruder in order to experiment with the materials. Other 3D printing fans will appreciate a close-by source of cheap qualitative filament, so your extruder will have less chance to cool down!
To buy or not to buy a 3D filament extruder
This is not your option if you’re absolutely fine with the filament you buy from the manufacturer, as well as if you turn on 3D printer once a month. Still, when printing is your primary occupation, filament extruder is an excellent investment in your printer’s well-being and your creative freedom. Defective printing material is our collective nightmare, and an efficient extruder can really change a situation with filaments for better.
Do you want to know the latest news from the 3D printing world? Do you know why PEI is one of the coolest printing materials available on the market? Or what you can do with PETG filament? Well, you’ll find all the answers in our 3devo blog. Don’t miss an opportunity to learn something cool!
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Why are filaments so expensive and what you can do about it?
When buying filaments for your 3D printer, a common question may come across your mind – Why are these things so expensive? After all, it’s only a piece of plastic, right?
Yes, but there is more to 3D filaments than what meets the eye! We invite you to explore with us some of the factors which affect the price of a filament. We shall immerse ourselves in the basics of filaments and what it costs to get them from the manufacturer to your home. In addition, we will offer several secrets that will help you reduce the cost of filaments without sacrificing quality.
3D printer filaments are made of various polymers, which is the technical name for various ‘plastics’. Polymers are chains of repeating segments of molecules. The most common ones include ABS (a co-polymer of acrylonitrile, butylene, and styrene) and PLA (polylactic acid). We invite you to learn more about them in the following article. Never less, 3D printing may utilize almost any polymer, if it has the following properties.
It may be remolded when heated – Essential for 3D printing.
It can be “stretched out” when heated – Though it must not “leak” once it has been set.
It is durable when cooled down – This property can be enhanced or compromised based on your project.
The quality of a filament is determined by these properties. Additionally, you may require further special abilities for a specific product, such as flexibility (nylon), weather resistance (ASA), or outright strength (polycarbonate). In the graphic below, you can see which materials are the superheroes in their respective categories.
The cost of a polymer plays the main role in the overall price of the filament. Each comes from a different source and requires various techniques to prepare.
Quality of a polymer can also be reduced by impurities, which are common when it is prepared by cheaper methods. I can testify to this with my own experience. Even though I have been at first pleased to find cheap filaments on some e-commerce websites, I have always ended up with low-quality products, that leaked, cracked, smelled bad, etc.
Let’s talk about a less mentioned, yet very important part of filaments – the additives! The color of filaments alone suggests that they contain something more than just pure plastic. It is fascinating to explore the variety of enhancements that can be included in a filament and the effect that they have on its price.
The most common additive is a dye. Dyes vary wildly in quality – factors such as color, solubility, UV resistance, and toxicity can play a role in their price. This is the case especially for fluorescent dyes which glow in dark, or UV active dyes which glow under UV light.
Additives can also improve the physical properties of the product. A very important example is hardness, which can vary wildly even when we consider a single type of polymer. This is achieved by adding only small amounts of a necessary additive. But it’s by far not the only property that we can introduce!
Other common additives include flame retardants and autoxidizing agents. The small amount of additives does not impact the stability of the polymer, yet it expands the possible applications of 3D printed products. How cool is that?!
3. Processing, packaging and a niche market
Let’s take a look at a less technical topic, which is an issue of both quality and quantity. The processing of polymers into filaments is not necessarily expensive, but it requires special equipment to achieve their uniform dimensions. You may have already found that out the hard way, since cheap filaments often end up getting stuck in the printer. The use of expensive specialized equipment necessary for precise extrusion will be reflected in the price.
After extrusion, the filament is cut, packaged and sold not in bulk, but in single threads. It is necessary to wind every single filament onto a plastic spindle, which is called spooling. The spool adds to the weight quite a bit, which increases the amount of fuel required to ship them. It is also inefficient since the rolled up filaments contain a lot of air. This contributes to the price as well.
We must also account for the size of the market. This is the concept known as the rule of supply and demand. 3D printing is a fast growing, but still a niche market. This means that there aren’t many filament manufacturers, especially ones who would sell high quality products. The demand is increasing, but the production is expensive and low in volume – think of Tesla cars as another example. Thus, the manufacturers can ask for more money than for other polymer products, such as plastic spoons.
Tips – How to reduce the cost of a filament
From the reasons we have given, it may seem that compromising on the price of a filament will most likely result in a bitter surprise – and you would be right! Still, there are ways to get around this. Here are is a brief overview of the top 5 tips to lower 3D printing costs.
- Buying in bulk is always cheaper than by single spools. You may buy multicolor sets, or simply order a wholesale package of filaments.
- Read reviews, recommendations and compare prices. Thanks to the internet, we have all the information at our disposal!
- Make sure to plan your project thoroughly. Not only that you will not overpay for unnecessarily expensive polymers, but you will end up using less.
- Consider extruding your own 3D filaments from granulates. As seen in the table below, filaments are far more expensive than granulate they are made from.
- Recycle your products. This requires specialized equipment that reduces plastic products to granulate.
|Material||Filament price/USD per kg||Granulate price/USD per kg|
( Comparison of popular filament and granulate prices can be found here )
Material, additives and production costs all add up to the final market value. But don’t worry; we have also given you several ways to reduce the cost of your 3D printing operation! Still, there is so much more to 3D printing! Be sure to check out further articles on our blog to learn more about specific types of filaments, extruders and recycling.
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