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What is the Future of 3D Printer Filament?

 

 

You may find yourself standing over a cold 3D printer asking questions “How can I make my 3D models stand out more?” or even  “What is the meaning of filament?”.  Well, we have some news for you. You are not alone.

Filament is the lifeblood of most 3D printers. Without it, you couldn’t print your designs.

Once you have an understanding of the basics of filament, keeping up to date with the latest innovations and trends in 3D printing and filament technology will help you continue to improve your craft. Increasing your capabilities allows you to make more with less and produce prints that were previously out of your reach.

Patent Drawing for First 3D Printer
Patent Drawing for First 3D Printer Patent. 3D Printing Filament has come a long way since its first applications in the early 80’s – from primarily being made of single use resins to the re-formable, highly durable plastics used today.

One thing is certain, the filaments used in 3D printing will continue to evolve. The best makers know the …

Top Trends in 3D Printer Filament

  1. Improvements in 3D Printing Technology
  2. Increased Variety of Exotic Blend Filament
  3. Powdered Materials for Custom Blends
  4. Experimental and Optimized Filaments
  5. Custom Filament Colors
  6. Recycled Materials in Filament
  7. Plant Based, Sustainable Filament
  8. Spool-less Filament Rolls

 

1. 3D Printing is Becoming More Affordable
With printers becoming less expensive and more efficient, small businesses and startups are getting their own 3D printing setups to increase the speed of product development. New types of businesses are utilizing this technology for different applications as well.

Though we aren’t past the “Should I Buy a 3D Printer” stage, the industry has developed greatly in recent years. More printers on maker’s desks means more projects will be printed and more filament will be used.

 

2. Exotic Blends Are Friends

Filament blends allow you to create the right look and physical properties for your 3D printing project. If “Exotic Materials” sound exciting to you, it’s because they are.  Here are some of the hottest blends out:

  • Wood – looks great with its natural tones and can even transfer the scent of the donating tree.
  • Metal – strong, heavy and sleek. Using it can also make your prints magnetic and carry an electrical charge or signal.
  • Minerals – such as sandstone, glass and gemstones can be added to create different textures, finishes and other properties to the filament.
Exotic materials such as wood and metal are being used to generate specific properties in filament.

 

3. Powders Mix Better (than granulate)

Though it takes more time to produce, powdered feed stock mixes more uniformly for complex filament formulations. As new material blends are created, powdered feed material is getting a respectable place in filament production.

Specifically, higher concentrations of metals and exotic materials can be mixed when using powders and the filament consistency is much higher for complex blends.

 

4. Experiment and Control

Different projects have different requirements. While 3D printing is now established enough for commercial use, it is still at a stage where improvements can be made to filaments.

You can come up with your own formulations for best results which is very helpful in the prototype stage. By testing the attributes of different filament blends and logging the results, you can optimize your filament to suit specific project needs. Get your calculator out!

 

5. Customized Filament Colors

Variety is the spice of life. Having a wide array of colors to choose from is great help in making a vivid 3D print. In the past, there weren’t as many color options available for printer filament.

Sometimes, the color has to be exact. Makers are now creating their own custom filament colors to match branding or visual requirements for their clients and project requirements.

There are even companies like colorFabb that can create a vast range of filament colors for you to use on your 3D printing project.

alt colors colours
No longer stuck with a handful of options, 3D Printer Filaments Colors can be customized to project needs.

 

6. Time to Recycle

With the cost of quality filament extruding equipment coming down, it is easier than ever to make your own custom blend of filament to fit your project’s needs, including strength, appearance.

You can now recycle your existing models, print waste and even plastic bottles by first breaking it up, grinding it down, and then granulating it to a consistent size. Then you can take that granulate and form filament with an extruder.

 

7. Made From Sustainable Materials

Some may say that our environment has seen better days. Filaments made from PLAs (polylactic acid) use a plant based plastic that is biodegradable.

These new filaments made from plants, called bio-plastics or biopolymers, are sustainable and less likely to clog up landfills as they break down naturally over time.

3d filament plant based
3D Printing Filaments can be made from sustainable, plant-based plastics

 

8. Too Cool for Spools

Filament spools are heavy to ship and create a lot of waste for busy printers.

Recently, there has been a push to remove the spool from filament rolls. Look out for MakerSpool, a printable spool to load spool-less filament stock onto for
the feed cycle.

A lot of makers are extruding their own material around used filament spools, saving the need for shipping and disposing of print waste.

Future of Filament – Now You Know

Now that you know all the latest trends and innovation in the world of 3D Printing Filament Technology, perhaps you will incorporate it into your next project or streamline your materials sourcing.

At 3devo, we’re just getting started. Make sure to subscribe to our social media to keep up to date with everything 3D Printing.

Did we miss anything? Are you or your organization doing anything exciting in the world of 3D printing? Drop us a line here.

 

 

 

Don’t forget to share this post!

 

 

12 Things to Consider When Buying A Filament Extruder

A filament extruder is a device used to turn shredded plastic or discarded 3D prints into new filament. You can use this new filament for your next 3D prints. 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 of how to choose the best one for you?

Well, I decided to draw up a list of various options to consider when you want to buy 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.

failed-prints
Extruding Z-ULTRAT 3D Printing Filament. via 3devo.com

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 I prefer knowing (with proof) what I’ll be able to 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 are testing any new materials.

2. Precision (tolerance)

 

Poor vs good filament. via precision3dfilament.com

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 tolerance of 0.5 – 3 mm (0.02 – 0.12 inches). 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.

I 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.

3. Mixing

Materials 3devo
Make sure your extruder can mix materials. via 3devo.com

I 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.

4. Spooling

Don’t be a fool – check the spool! via 3devo.com

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 is usually better.

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 (shown in the image above), a type of slipper clutch and the ability to set custom spool dimensions.

5. Cooling

Choose the right extruder if you want to keep cool. via 3devo.com

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. I’d often find myself 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

Continuously updated software results into fewer bugs. via 3devo.com

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. I 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 (shown above on the 3devo filament extruder). However, make sure that the software stays up-to-date to ensure the reliability of your machine.

7. Reliability (quality)

extrusion screw, 3dprint, 3devo, filament extruder
Choose an extruder that will be reliable for years to come. via 3devo.com

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

Practical uses of filament extruders can help in your choosing. via 3devo.com

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

Customer support is just as important as the other listed factors. via 3devo.com

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. I find an 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)

Online or even offline support and training is essential. via 3devo.com

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 from 3devo.

“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.

11. Speed

Extrusion – not too quick, but not too slow either. via 3devo.com

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.

12. Price

“Buy cheap, buy twice”. via 3devo.com

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. I’d also suggest factoring in the prices of spare parts, as most won’t last forever.

Conclusion

I hope that I’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.

The Benefits of 3D Printing in Education

For many people living in this generation, subjects in school were not very – visual. Math problems and science experiments were done using textbooks, practising problems and the occasional science experiment (gone wrong). Schools and other education facilities involved problems that were often impractical. But recently technology has started to help matters. From calculators to computer-aided design, we could do problems beyond our simple capabilities. Now with the introduction of 3D printers and filament extrusion in the education environment, we are starting to improve how scholars interact with the world around them.

What Took So Long?

Planning the next big idea is now much easier. Image via Unsplash

It wasn’t until recently that 3D printers became more obvious in school and universities. The main cause for this is that pricing structures are now more affordable. Luckily there are companies out there trying to solve this problem.

Take for example Airworlf 3D, who want their AXIOM 3D printer used in schools as much as possible. This is thanks to its low cost and ease of use. What is great is that the printer is being used in schools all over the world. M.I.T., USC Roski School of Fine Arts, Cerritos College,  Florida State University, Jenkins Middle School (CO), and Huntington Beach High Schools (CA) are to name a few. Next is the Makerbot Academy, a project to help get a 3D printer into every US school.

Another cost to overcome is the price of the filament for the 3D printers. Most companies are trying to find cheap ways for schools to get filament, but it is not always easy. Here at 3devo we are trying to make redoing prints more accessible. Thanks to the NEXT and now the new SHR3D IT, schools would be able to shred prints and create new filament at the end of the day or week. This in turn reduces long-term spending.

A few years ago, price may have been a barrier for education facilities, but this is no longer the case. Thanks to reduced printer costs and faster adoption rates around the world, it is now easier for schools to afford 3D printers. But does having a printer in every class benefit the students, both young and old?

Make Learning Fun Again

Additive Manufacturing – the classes you’ll never skip

If you can think back to your school days, most of you would have had that one crazy science teacher, trying his or her best to make classes fun and enjoyable. In this process, you also tended to learn a lot too. The only issue, besides many safety violations, is practical experiments were often very limited. Subjects such as geography or mathematics would use textbooks. This drops the fun that could be available using real-life examples. 3D printing is trying to change this perception. In doing so, many benefits follow the introduction of 3D printing into STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics).

See It To Believe It

The first benefit – able to see an idea become reality. Quite often, learning about a subject would entail many drawings in a book, maybe a video if you are lucky. But it is not always easy to understand what something looks like. For example, learning about how the Earth’s tectonic plates move around and create earthquakes. Illustrations help, but actually creating physical objects to show students can help put it all into perspective. Using a printer, explaining complex systems is easy and kids will understand how common technologies interact with each other. Our world and how we interact with it isn’t all black and white. Students are realising that they are no longer limited to visualising complex topics, now they can feel and touch it too.

Maths And Engineering Now Play A Real Role

There are many times during math and engineering classes where students question whether or not a certain equation will be of any use. Well, in 3D printing, an object first needs to be designed in some type of CAD software. This often requires someone to have a fair bit of math knowledge to understand everything. It forces the student to use the knowledge they have learnt in maths and engineering subjects and apply them to a project. On the other side, students can replicate a problem or project they are busy with to help get clearer understanding of the problem as a whole.

Students Become The Creator

an Image showing several objects made with PPSF plastic

As the saying goes, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. The same is applied in education. From the previous point, making use of a 3D printer in a classroom means that the students can now be in charge to what the outcome of a problem. Students will have the opportunity to create their own objects, helping to boost their creativity. Also with the help of products such as filament extruders, students can now test out different materials for different results. This can result in unexpected successes and failures. Both of which can help contribute to a student’s progress in learning a particular topic or subject.

Reducing On-Screen Time

The introduction of internet was immense in education. It turned a culture from saying, “I guess we’ll never know to answer to that question” to “Just Google it”. Students can learning an extraordinary amount of new topics on the internet with ease. However, that ease leads to an increase on how long the child spends on the computer, i.e. an increase of on-screen time. The introduction of 3D printers means that children will become more interactive with something physical as opposed to something on the computer. Parents concerned about their child’s health, as glued to computer screen all day can lead to headaches and eyestrain. 3D-learning is a way to let kids use their imaginations to build or assemble collections of 3D printable objects that will keep them engaged in the real world and learning too.

What Subjects Can Benefit From 3D Printing and How

A 3D Printed Mini Help Canal House by Local Makers
A 3D Printed Mini Help Canal House by Local Makers
  • Mathematics – Math students can print out “problems” to solve in their own learning spaces, from scale models to city infrastructural design challenges.
  • Geography – Raw data can now be turned into objects to help with: population growth, erosion effects or even how mountains are formed. Production of topography, demographic, or population maps in 3D is changing the way students are learning geography.
  • History – Fossils and other artifacts can now be printed. This allows students to explore and understand the past in a real and more concrete way. These replicas can be manipulated more easily than precious archaeological artifacts and produced at reasonable costs.
  • Biology / Chemistry – Students can print out 3D models of molecules, cells, viruses, organs, and other critical biological artifacts. The 3D printed reproduction allows the pupils, especially the most kinesthetic of them, to understand a process or how it works.
  • Architecture – Most of architectural sketches and mock-ups are now designed with specialized CAD-software. This allows students to materialize their ideas. This can save hours on creating a study mockup and therefore save time to redo and improve their idea.
  • Design – Design programs are based on sketching and then producing these ideas in a design studio or lab. This is to get the whole process from a sketch to a final product. Design teachers have often stated that the development of CAD programs or 3D modelling software are not always the best. This is because it will lead to students spending more time in the virtual environment than learning from the studio and from practical workshops.

The Future of 3D Printing in Education

It is easy to see how 3D printing and filament extrusion will benefit the education sector. Students will start enjoying their subjects more often. 3D printing as a whole will become more mainstream and better adopted. When combining these two, it will lead to a society advancing its technology and problem solving. In the next five to ten years, students will be looking back at 3D printers the way we looked at calculators at school, except with a smile knowing that he or she is about to turn an idea into reality.

Is PETG the best filament in the 3D Printing Industry?

When it comes to 3D printing, information about filaments such as PLA and ABS is plentiful. However there is another filament out there –  PETG. With its strong, durable and ease of use characteristics, are making it more and more popular by the day. 3devo delves into what PETG is, how it compares to the aforementioned polymers in terms of printing and extrusion.

What is PETG?

 

 

Source: Pixabay

 

PETG first started as simply PET, or polyethylene terephthalate. PET had and still has many great uses, with its fibers being used everywhere from food packaging to plastic bottles, as well as other common plastic items. There are many variations of PET, such as ETE, PETP, PET-P, etc., however, the G in PETG stands for glycol. Glycol prevents crystallization in the thermoforming process (i.e. preventing it from turning hazy).

Thanks to the glycol, it means the classic PET is modified for extra durability. PETG has recently become very popular as 3D-printing filament due to this durability, so let’s take a closer look at what makes it so great.

Why did we choose to test PETG?

Source: 3devo testing area – PETG (Genius 80M) in its granular form.

 

PETG has quite a few beneficial properties, especially when it comes to applications such as 3D printing. It comes in a whole range of translucent colours, but here are some of its most common attributes:

 

Durable – regular PET becomes very hard and brittle when it starts overheating. PETG is also more flexible than ABS and PLA, too. The inclusion of glycol really helps here, making items such as a plastic bottle more comfortable to hold in the hand as well.

 

Temperature resistant – both minimal shrinkage and warping make it great for printing large objects.

 

Sticky – PETG is a bit sticky, this means that it would not be good to use it as a support structure for 3D printing models, but its layer adhesion is usually fantastic.

 

Good chemical resistance – great chemical resistance, with good water, acidic and alkalic resistance.

 

Tough – PETG is very strong. It’s not brittle, however, it can be easily scratched (more easily than ABS). It also has a high impact resistance, similar to that of polycarbonate.

 

Amorphous – excellent transparency and high gloss surface (great for artistic print items).

 

Environmentally friendly – recyclable and food safe. In medical applications, it also stands up to radiation and chemical sterilization techniques without changing color.
In short it combines the benefits of PLA (easy to print with) with the benefits of ABS (strong, durable and temperature resistant).

 

Common applications of PETG

Source: 3devo printed parts with in house made PETG filament (Genius 80M)

 

PETG is used in a variety of signage, packaging, industrial and medical applications:

 

  • Medical equipment such as braces and pharmaceutical packages
  • Protective guards/coatings
  • Bottles and food packaging
  • Guards and covers for electronic equipment
  • Point-of-purchase and graphic displays

Why PETG instead of PLA or ABS?

Source: 3devo 2.85mm spool PETG Genius 80M, made on the NEXT 1.0 Advanced Level Extruder

 

When it comes to printing with PETG, the above characteristics all help making it a great choice. As shown above extruding a roll is simple (you can visit our store if you’re in the market for an extruder), and printing is not too bad either (some users have made this their top choice of filament). We would not recommend printing everything with it as you might not always want your item to be so flexible, but below is a brief summary of how it compares with PLA and ABS.

 

PETG PLA ABS
Hardness Very flexible Not very flexible R105 to R110 (Harder)
Durability Very flexible Not very flexible More flexible
Food safe Food safe Food safe Not food safe
Heat bed Heated bed is not a must but it can be an advantage Doesn’t need a heated bed for 3D printing Needs a heated bed for 3D printing
Price Slightly more expensive than PLA (+/- 10%) Average price range Cheapest of the three
Recommended 3D printing temperature 220 to 250 °C for the hotend 190-220°C 230-250°C
Recommended print-bed temperature 50-60°C 50-70°C 80-120°C

Most makers out there say PETG isn’t the easiest to initially print with, as you first have to find that “sweet” spot if you want to create some quality prints.
We at 3devo really enjoy this practical polymer. PETG is very practical and easy of use when it comes to printing, and its combination of rigidity and mechanical properties makes it a great all rounder, perfect for your next 3D-printing idea. Don’t forget to check out our blog for more interesting articles.

Should You Buy A Filament Extruder?

If you enjoy 3D printing and often make a variety of prints, your filament choices are probably becoming more and more important. However, there is now another choice that is becoming increasingly popular – to buy 3D printing filament or simply make your own. This article is will guide you through the questions you need to ask yourself before making that decision.

A Guide To FDM Printable Plastics And 3D Printing Filament

When it comes to 3D printing, we are witnessing a huge wave of development, either in the 3D printing technology or in the use of innovative (something simpler). The process of producing 3D prints from various materials is generally called Additive Manufacturing (because the object is produced by adding a number of material layers until finish). In the past years, 3D printing has greatly evolved, featuring several new manufacturing techniques.

Top 5 Most Useful 3D Printed Objects – August 2015

So you have a 3D printer, and you love printing simply because it’s your hobby. However, 3D printers can also print items that have some practical use. Whether for yourself, or perhaps for some great gift ideas, these objects may be pretty useful. Therefore in no particular order, let us take a closer look at some useful 3D printed objects for your home and office.

Portfolio Items