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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.
3d printer for plastic | 3devo

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.

 

Fontys University uses NEXT for hands-on training

The NEXT filament maker has become a part of the polymer studies department at Fontys University of Applied Sciences…

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?

StockSnap 97OL3QOZWU | 3devo

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

EDUCATION DSC 0585 | 3devo

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

EDUCATION DSC 0613 | 3devo

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

working at 3devo | 3devo

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

3devo aerospace rapid prototyping | 3devo

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

3devo engineering hand extruder lego | 3devo

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?

water 19659 960 720 | 3devo

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?

PETG e1494958102567 | 3devo

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

PETG 3dprint inhouse e1494963947722 | 3devo

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?

fa156bb9 1b74 425b 91f6 3571fd393f3a | 3devo

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…

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 printing material. 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. Today, engineers and developers strive to improve 3D printing while making use of the latest technologies launched on the market. The current 3D printing technologies are:

Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

Overview of different 3D printing technologies, via Windesheim

  • FDM Fused Deposition Modeling
  • SLA Stereolithography
  • 3DP – Tridimensional Inkjet Printing
  • PJP Polyjet printing
  • LOM Laminated Object Manufacturing
  • DLP Digital Light Processing
  • SLS Selective Laser Sintering

Whilst all the above technologies are still under development, each comes with its advantages and disadvantages. The most popular 3D printing method today in terms of affordability, use of technology and 3d print quality is FDM, or Fused Deposition Modeling.

What is FDM?

FDM is a simple, accessible and productive 3D printing technology used for new product development, prototypes and other manufacturing purposes. Since this is an ecological and easy-to-use technology, it is widely used in the transportation and food industry. (We discovered it long ago and have been using it ever since – or something like that)

Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

Sideview from a FDM 3D printer, via Printspace3D

How does it work?

Specialized software makes possible for the 3D model to be virtually sliced in transversal sections/ layers. The printing technology consists in inserting a plastic filament through an extruder that warms it until to melting. At this point, the melted filament is homogenously applied through extrusion, layer after layer, with high accuracy, in order to manufacture the 3D print according to the CAD pattern.

Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

How the FDM process works, via Rapidprototyping

Types of plastics used for FDM production

The prime matter used for the FDM technology consists in plastic materials. However, we are not talking about just any kind of plastics. 3D printing requires a special type of material: thermoplastics. There are countless types of plastic materials used to produce filaments for 3d printing:

  • PS (Polystyrene), as a thermoplastic material, can be melted at 100 Celsius degrees. At room temperature it features a glassy state. It can be successfully used for 3D molds with fine details. However, it degrades slow, creating environmental debates.

    Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

    CD covers are made of PS, via materialrecoveryinc

  • BioFila Linen is a relatively new material used for creating 3D printing filament. This material doesn’t in fact contain any linen fibers, but Lignin, an organic material. The properties of BioFila are amazing. The 3D prints feature a texture similar to linen, yet stronger and more porous-looking like structure.

    Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

    Organic resources are used, via 3ders

  • PLA (Polylactic Acid) is a fairly strong material. However, it is less flexible than ABS. what’s interesting about PLA is that it’s biodegradable and will corrode in wet conditions. Since PLA is a resorbable composite, it is widely used in tissue engineering and maxillofacial surgery.

    Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

    PLA is very appropiate for creating detail, via prototypingengineer

  • PA (Polyamide) is used for producing some of the cheapest 3D printing filaments. PA is less brittle than PLA and ABS, thus much stronger. Additionally, it features self-lubricating properties, ideal for gears printing.

    Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

    PA is tough, stiff and suitable for editing, via alibaba

  • PPSF (Polyphenylsulfone) is generally used in product development due to its high heat resistance. In addition, it is appreciated for the increased mechanical strength and resistance to solvents.

    Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

    PPSF is a high-performance thermoplastic, via springitalia

  • PC (Polycarbonate) is ideal for complex 3D prints, such as fixtures, prototypes or composite works. It features a flexural and high tensile strength.

    Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

    Some grades of PC are optically transparent, via superdacha

  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a material that delivers mechanical stability and resistance over time.

    Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

    The famous Lego bricks are made of ABS, via transvorm

The last three types of plastic materials are the most commonly used for the production of industrial quality filaments. Filaments are an excellent prime matter for professional 3D printers. The better the filament quality, the better the 3D print results. Therefore, it is essential that thermoplastics used for the manufacturing of filaments should feature exceptional properties. The filament quality has a direct impact on the heat and mechanical resistance of the resulted prints. Therefore, PLA and ABS filaments are used to manufacture 3D prints for prototype testing. Read more about the differences of these two filaments here.

What are the properties of these materials?

Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

Printing layer by layer, via capinc

Thermoplastics are heated, formed and finally cooled in infinite shapes. Such materials feature specific properties that make them indispensable for the 3D printing industry:

  • Lightweight (density varies from .9 to 2 gm/cc).
  • Resistant to various temperatures: from -100F up to an astonishing 600F.
  • Thermal and electrical insulation.
  • Adaptable chemistry can turn thermoplastics into objects similar to rubber consistency or as resistant as aluminum.
  • Resistant to solvents at room temperature.
  • Adding metal fibers or carbon to thermoplastics will confer electrical conductibility.
  • Excellent replacements for metal objects, with significant weight savings.
  • Resistant on long term and less prone to deformation, unlike metals.
  • Engineering thermoplastics feature a tensile strength of over 7,500 psi.

Which industries rely on 3D printing and have undergone intense material research?

Walt Whitman on spiders, describing their silk as filament.

3d printing technology helps MX3D to build a bridge of steel in the center of Amsterdam, via inhabitat

Although 3D printing is a relatively new industry, and there is still no mainstream production method, one thing is sure: the speed of development in the field is absolutely breathtaking. Some of the industries that already use 3D printing technology to improve and stimulate progress are:

  • Aerospace industry
  • Architecture industry
  • Automotive industry
  • Commercial products
  • Defense industry
  • Dental industry
  • Consumer electronics
  • Medical industry
  • Mold industry
  • Education

Considering the fact pace of current technologies, industrial techniques and equipment become obsolete very quickly. Whilst many companies are perfectly comfortable to using traditional production methods, many are foreseeing the future and opt for investing their resources to develop using a technology as simple and highly efficient as 3D printing.

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