Quite often, filament is seen as a simple material used in 3D printing. However, learning filament extrusion and understanding its ways can lead to greater knowledge of 3D printing as a whole. By taking your knowledge one step further, you’ll learn the importance of filament extrusion and the many benefits that come along with it.
As 3D printing technology advances, so does the additives involved. We’re here to help you understand why learning filament extrusion can benefit you and your company. But first, we need to start off with the basics.
What is Filament Extrusion?
As you may or may not know, 3D printers use filament, or thermoplastic feedstock, as the raw material for 3D prints. Filament comes in all different shapes and forms depending on its application. But before the filament is loaded into a 3D printer, it needs to be extruded.
Filament extrusion is the process whereby a machine converts raw plastic pellets into filament wires. Failed 3D prints can also be shredded and reused as a substitute for these raw plastic pellets. Below is a brief desktop demonstration:
Usually, large-scale extrusion machines are used for this mass-produced process. However, there has been a rise in demand of small-scale desktop machines. The setup process is fairly simple in just 5 steps:
- Insert the pellets (granulates) into a “feed bin” or hopper.
- Select the desired settings for the outcome of the filament.
- Start the machine’s extrusion process, which includes heating and extruding the granulate.
- Wait a few hours until the process is completed.
- Once cooled the filament is wound onto a spool and ready for printing.
This process can change depending on the requirements of the filament (large scale or small scale), but it’s still the best method to create clean and accurate results. The mass-produced spools of filament you buy at the store or online have already gone through all of this. With desktop extrusion, there is now a way to understand how filament works, how to modify the materials involved and quite often – how to improve the filament to meet your specific needs.
What Are the Benefits of Filament Extrusion?
It might seem like an unusual skill to learn. There are hundreds of variants of filament available out now on the market. From PETG to Bio PE, all types of filament can be easily purchased for your 3D printing needs. But then you could say the same thing about buying a plastic part over 3D printing it yourself.
People use 3D printers because they want quickly build a new part, or perhaps the part they want doesn’t exist yet. Extrusion plays the same role for filament.
Learning filament extrusion gives one the ability to understand how polymers react under certain conditions, and how their physical and chemical properties play a fundamental role in your 3D prints.
Individuals or educational facilities who focus on polymer studies and experiments would find filament extrusion extremely useful because of these benefits:
- Rapidly validate the properties and capabilities of your filament and make changes if needed
- Combine different types of granulate and additives to create your optimal filament within a few hours
- Reducing the costs of testing new forms of filament each time
Quite often you might find using off-the-shelf filament can do a similar job for your 3D printing needs. However, learning how to do it in your own environment opens more possibilities for yourself, your company and/or your educational facility.
Why Should You Learn Filament Extrusion?
As you can see, a process like this within your company can be quite useful. However, having to rely on a third party to set-up, maintain and produce the filament for you does have its drawbacks. Why not take the matter into your own hands, and learn about the process yourself?
Receiving filament extrusion training also comes with its own benefits:
- Create higher quality filament suited for your needs. Sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly how your filament should turn out, now you’re able to do it all on your own.
- Improved setup and processing time when using the machine. Once you’ve mastered your skills, setting up, cleaning and overall processing times become a lot quicker.
- Easily experiment with challenging granulate compositions. Once you’re proficient in extrusion, understanding how different polymers work experiments become a lot easier.
- More confidence in using the machine. Often people might get nervous about using an extrusion device, but once you understand all the steps involved, extrusion becomes a breeze.
- Quickly and easily find the settings you need. You don’t need to rely on a business’s schedule and priorities.
- Your machine will last much longer as you will understand correct maintenance procedures.
- Quickly troubleshoot issues with the process instead of relying on external assistance. No more downtime due to waiting for someone else to fix the issue, which can range from hours to days.
It makes a lot of sense. Outsourcing, while useful at times, can get costly and often takes a lot longer to fulfill your needs. If you are still unsure about receiving training, look into your current working environment. The questions below should be able to help you.
Are You the Right Person to Learn Filament Extrusion?
Filament extrusion and 3D printing almost go hand-in-hand. However, you can live without any knowledge of filament extrusion and still be proficient in the latter. It comes down to what industry you are in, and if you’d need this knowledge on a regular basis.
Some questions below might aid you in knowing whether or not learning filament extrusion is right for you:
- Are you a lecturer/professor at a university or any other educational institution that focuses on polymer studies?
- Are you an individual/team in a research and development department that often experiments with varieties of filament?
- Is large-scale extrusion too expensive and inflexible for your current needs?
- Do you want to educate people on recycling using failed 3D prints or recyclable materials?
- Do you work in the automotive, manufacturing, education, or materials industry where 3D printing is used as an on-going process?
The questions above might be relevant to your company as well. Both large and small companies can greatly benefit from having someone skilled in filament extrusion.
How Can You Learn Filament Extrusion?
Luckily here at 3devo, filament extrusion is not only our expertise but also our passion. We provide everything you need to learn filament extrusion. Based in Utrecht, Netherlands, we’re able to provide assistance in multiple ways. Currently, we offer:
- International live demos at additive manufacturing events.
- Private training days for professionals/lecturers at our HQ in Utrecht, NL.
- Support Platform with helpful articles and videos on filament extrusion.
Unfortunately, we don’t offer online courses. As we’re focused on providing hands-on training to our workshop participants at our headquarters in Utrecht, the Netherlands.