In this blog post and Video I'm showing you how to make a simple heated drybox for your 3D printing filament that you can use whilst 3D Printing.
With just a few basic items from eBay (or similar) and some 3D design files to print (links at the bottom of this post) - you can make a drybox for both storage and in use while 3D printing.
An overview video of the heated drybox (including a #MasterSpool update) can be seen below and over on my Youtube channel here.
DIY Heated DryBox for 3D Printing filament - under $20 & MasterSpool Update - YouTube
For an overview and background to this project, do take a look at the video, I'll dive straight into the main components in this blog post below -
Polymaker Polybox - spotted at the recent TCT show.
During the TCT show in October last year, I had a chance to take a quick look at the Polymaker polybox. It's a neat enclosure, but I quickly realised that it is just an enclosure, that's all.
I pack all my filament in sealed zip-lock bags with desiccant. That's usually good enough for storage, but some materials do require drying or heating before use.
For some time I have been planning to build a dry heated storage box.
Now that I know the Polybox just monitors temperature and humidity I decided to build my own, but with a heating capacity installed too.
It's surprising how simple it is to make a heated dry box with off-the-shelf components and a little 3D printing.
The polybox has a number of bearings that polymaker filament spools run on, I didn't want to do that because I use a lot more different types of materials, some use cardboard spools, and having the spool edges run on bearings, just creates cardboard fluff.
Other spools are very small (Taulman Nylon), they simply would not reach across the bearing points.
I decided to keep it simple and allow spools to be mounted on a standard sized spool mount. Different diameter mounts could then be printed as required.
As a minimum I wanted a box that would fit 2 x 1kg spools of filament and allow both to feed independently if required.
This one is a straightforward build - you should find it quite simple to print out the required 3D printed parts - assemble and make up the rest of the heated dry-box. Any questions - just ask.
The main component I used for heating is a simple flexible reptile heater - you can find these on eBay for just a few USD - Search for '15*28CM Adjustable Temperature Reptile Heating Heater Mat'
The other main electronic component is the temperature and humidity monitor device, I opted for a round module, but you can get square and also ones with separate temperature sensing probes etc.
For the above temperature/Humidity sensor just search eBay for 'Mini LCD Celsius Digital Thermometer Hygrometer Temperature Humidity Meter Gauge'
Three 12mm cable glands make up the power in and dual filament out ports - just a simple 12mm hole will allow these to fit perfectly.
I bought a pack of 100 of these way back in 2010 - so I have been finding uses for them ever since :)
Print out the 3D printed parts - I used FormFutura ReForm rPET filament for the above.
The printed spool holder uses a section of M8 threaded rod and two M8 nuts.
Lastly bags fg 50g desiccant can be fitted under the heater - they can easily be removed or changed at any time.
The reptile heater just slides in the grooves in the 3D printed parts.
Cable goes out of the back of the box - allow yourself some slack cable so you can lift up the 3D printed parts to insert desiccant.
Optionally you can print out a seal for the lid - I made the above using ColorFabb nGen Flex - it has just the right level of flex, but not too floppy to easily seat onto the top of the box.
Fit the remaining two cable glands and use oversized tube to allow filament to feed out of your dry-box.
That's it. It uses 7w while being on, and does not take long to get to a stable ~30 Degrees C temperature - humidity will quite quickly drop to under 14%.
It's really useful for any type of dedicated support material - being able to be used while still inside the heated dry-box. It will also be great for Nylon, wood filaments, CF, PolySmooth and many other materials that are sensitive to moisture.
Bonus device -
I also have a little bonus invention for monitoring your filament coils while they are in Zip-Lock-Bags - here is the SpoolCheck sensor.
It uses exactly the same thermistor and humidity sensor, and a small packet of desiccant as the heated dry box project.
Just pop it in the centre of any 'standard' filament spool (or a loaded MasterSpool ) - and pop it all in a zip-lock bag.
You basically end up with a way to monitor filament in storage, and see if any is not in tip-top-condition :)
Even overnight you should see a drop in humidity inside your 'drybag'
The files for both the heated drybox and the SpoolCheck sensor are up on -
*Edit* - Updated Jan 28th 2018 - The Original STL files for MasterSpool had a few problems for some people - the final export was a little messed up, sorry about that.
I have now simplified the design and added the new V2 files up on YouMagine and Thingiverse - Links are at the bottom of this blog post - thanks.
We, as a community and industry, are making good progress on the use of sustainable filament spools. Cardboard is slowly becoming more common and even recycled plastic or eco-friendly spools are starting to be used.
Left to right - ReForm by FormFutura / 'MasterSpool' / Standard plastic PC spool / Cardboard by Proto-Pasta
For quite some years I have also wished for a no-spool based filament delivery system, MasterSpool could be a way to achieve this.
A filament roll of ColorFabb nGen - 750g of filament and another ~280g of almost 'bulletproof' Polycarbonate spool.
The MasterSpool standard is a concept idea for a way to deliver 3D printing filament to users without a spool.
The main concept is for manufacturers to provide a material refill system to users who can then use their own 'MasterSpool' in their 3D printer.
Here is a quick overview video of the MasterSpool proposal showing how it works -
I had the idea for MasterSpool when I spotted a small two piece filament spool over on Thingiverse by User 'Dingoboy71' The original 2-piece Filament Spool by Dingoboy71 can be found over on Thingiverse - https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1738730
Benefits should include a lower weight of transportation - Empty plastic spools often weigh around 250-300 grams. Smaller and less packaging for material and no empty spools for the end user to recycle or dispose of.
Most often, users of 3D printers do not want to use un-spooled filament. Winding filament onto a spool is also not a good idea, because it can encourage breaking and tangles. It also takes a lot of time for the user.
Having a 'cartridge' of wound filament that can be simply loaded onto a two-part spool allows for super quick setup and use of materials.
The two part spool, could be traditionally manufactured, to a defined standard - similar to what we already use now - ~200mm diameter spools with 750g or 1kg capacity.
The MasterSpool could be 3D printed - it easily fits on a LulzBot TAZ6, but it will also print on a standard Prusa i3 MK2/3
The 'MasterSpool' could also be 3D printed, customized and generally tweaked to accommodate various 3D printers.
Ideally a single MasterSpool standard would be used - then we may also start seeing more 3D printer manufacturers allow a defined space for these spools. At the moment far too many different spool sizes and mounting methods are available for a machine manufacturer to choose one single method of filament spool management.
Their will be problems that filament manufacturers will have to overcome to do this -
Wind spools of filament onto a cardboard or stiff paper form - with an ability to secure the coil in place after winding - maybe using tie-wraps or adhesive banding.
Remove the wrapped coil and pack into a simple box or vacuum sealed bag for shipment.
Manufacturers will still want to brand the filament coils and maybe add key information like print temperatures or material properties etc. This can be achieved on the card/paper support for the filament coil.
This was my very simple cardboard template to hold the coil - it works just fine, tie-wraps / zip-ties help secure the coil - a sealed vacuum bag would also be a perfect way to ensure the coil stays intact before use.
Hopefully the manufacture of a coil without a spool is possible to work out. I can see that vacuum sealing the coil would really help keep it in good condition for transport and have the usual bonus of protecting from moisture etc.
I tested the new V2 files in various slicing programs - so you should not have any issues 3D printing the files.
Quite a few people asked about the critical dimensions for MasterSpool (750g version) - so here they are -
Outer spool diameter is 202mm The inner ring diameter for the filament coil is 102mm The mounting hole size is 52.5mm For the 750g Spool the width of the filament coil is 46.7mm
For a 1Kg or 500g filament coil the width (46.7mm) is the dimension you would change to make a different, but compatible MasterSpool for other weights (that will not stay true for very heavy filaments like copper, bronze etc.)
If you are a Filament manufacturer that likes the idea and may wish to explore it further, then please contact me. I would be very happy to help with any testing, trials and promotion of the idea / standard to the wider 3D printing community.
If you are a user, and you have feedback or want to get involved, then talk to your current filament supplier, see if they are interested in an idea like this.
And if you have any feedback at all, do leave a message, comment or discuss it with me over on Twitter. Feel free to use the hashtag #MasterSpool - lets see if this idea has a future for 3D printing.
Yes! I finally get to use t-glase, this model is perfect printed in t-glase Red Star.
Days 23 & 24 tree sections are printed in Polyalchemy Elixir.
Small rolls, but amazing filament.
t-glase from Taulman3D is one of my all time favourite materials to use. I always have some stock for projects like this. It shines and shimmers and can be used for LED light guides or just to look beautiful.
Taulman t-glase with a Red laser beam catching the front edge.
t-glase is a PETT based material. You are more often likely to find PETG (Glycol modified) versions of polyester (polyethylene) being sold by many manufacturers.
Both PETT and PETG can print very nicely in 3D printers, I tend to use PETT for high optical clarity, bigger layers and anything using light or for beautiful objects & gifts in general.
I will use PETG for large strong functional parts, you can get a semi-clear finish with PETG, some formulations can produce reasonable optical clarity with the right settings and nozzle size.
Back-lit with a small white led - t-glase really shines (concentric infill - see below)
For this heart I'm keeping to a chunky layer height, and a specific infill type.
Left shows traditional rectilinear infill, and right shows a concentric infill.
It's worth thinking about the first bottom layer for objects like the heart box. The lid will be the bottom face when assembled, so you want that to look as nice as possible.
Likewise, the heart box bottom is also using a concentric infill. Look at those chunky 0.3mm layers, they look amazing on an object like this.
I also printed the final gift in the tree - Day 24 - The Grinch.
I have absolutely no idea how the yellow overhang worked. This had no support and should have failed at this point, but when I came back after switching materials, it was done and asking for the next colour! I can only think it must be some Christmas Magic?
Days 23 and 24 completed.
Print advice - (Taulman t-glase - PETT material)
What settings did you use? - t-glase needs some odd slicing setting. I will talk about a few, but as they are an odd mix of tricks and balance, I'll also include the Slic3r settings I use to help you tune t-glase perfectly.
0.3mm layers (0.4mm nozzle) work really well with t-glase / 5 top and bottom solid layers.
Use an infill of under 25% to get the best optical clarity from t-glase - Using honeycomb is also important, you need an infill that does not cross over line-fill paths. (honeycomb is ideal)
Finally I'm using concentric for top and bottom layers, but that is because of the object here, you can use rectilinear if more appropriate.
Balanced with the temperature I use, you need a relatively slow speed to get the best from t-glase
Especially the first layer, you want that to be neat and tidy for this object.
Make the extrusion widths around the same size as the actual nozzle size. Normally you would go slightly bigger.
250 degrees C - it will print lower and hotter, but for the speed balance, this will give clear (not frosty) results during printing.
80 Degrees C heated bed.
This is a really important one, don;t use too much fan cooling for t-glase. Max 40% unless bridging.
Finally, this is the really odd one - For a 0.4mm nozzle you need to tell Slic3r it's 0.45mm in diameter - with all the other settings above, this produces great results.
You can go to the same layer height as nozzle size for t-glase (here we could go 0.4 layer with 0.4 nozzle)
Why use it? - It's just one of the most clear and optically interesting filaments you can get. It's also a very strong material, with great layer bonding, so making objects to use, enjoy and give as gifts is high on the list of ideal uses.
Is it strong? - Yes, it's very tough, impact resistant and just a tiny bit of flex.
Is it easy to use/print - Yes, as long as you spend time tuning the speed, temperature and odd nozzle settings I have shown above.
Do you have to dry it before/after use? - Not really, but I do dry it out before use if I want the very best clarity or optical performance. Keep it dry / sealed etc.
Do i need a 'special' nozzle? - No it's not abrasive at all. All nozzles seem to work well, Bigger nozzles are glorious with t-glase. Just try it with a 1.2mm nozzle and a 1.0mm layer height, it's astonishing.
Does it smell when printing? - No.
Does it come on a eco friendly spool? - No :( They are usual Taulman micro-spools, can be tricky to mount as they don't have a 'standard' 52mm mount hole.
Conclusion for Taulman t-glase - If you have not tried it out yet, you are missing out. From the very first sucesful print, you will be hooked. It also not comes in more colours, that I'm going to get hold of in the New Year. It's in my top 5 list of most useful and great looking materials.
Olsson Ruby Nozzle check -
I thought it would be good to check on the Ruby Nozzle at this point.
Olsson Ruby nozzle after ~387 Hours of printing (not cleaned)
The ruby is looking perfect! no surface wear and hole size is still 0.4mm
This was how it looked originally (still in the box)
I just removed the nozzle (when it was at full 260 Degrees C temperature). It has not been cleaned in the image above. In the image below the same nozzle has been cleaned and refitted.
'Cleaned' and fitted back into the Hot-end for another print run - I'll check again in 1500 hours.
Print time check -
I installed this first Olsson Ruby nozzle in the summer of 2017. I reset the firmware timer at that point to keep track of the total print hours. This nozzle has now clocked up 16days 3hours 48mins.
That's around 387 hours of constant print time with almost every single type of material I have.
1.32km of filament length (1.75mm) is also around 4.2kg of filament so far.
To put this figure of 387 total hours of Ruby nozzle print time into context, this entire advent Christmas tree - printed on this Prusa i3, the Lulzbot TAZ6 (also fitted with a Ruby high-flow Nozzle) and one print made on the Sigma R17 was a total print time of - 139.5 Hours.
This splits into the following - All Advent gifts = 44 Hours 20 minutes total print time (Excluding the top star) Sigma Dual print (Jeep) = 2.43mins Top star = 5.5 Hours - check tomorrows post to see that :)
All Tree sections = 88 Hours (including top tree section for star)
2/3 of all parts were done on the Prusa i3 MK2 with a V6 Olsson Ruby Nozzle fitted (0.4mm). 1/3 of all parts were done on the LulzBot Taz6 with the High-flow V6 (Volcano) nozzle fitted (0.6mm) 1 part was printed on the Sigma.
The Olsson Ruby (Volcano) nozzle in the TAZ6 has only had around 50 hours of use, so I'll check the status at around 300 Hours.
Remember this Advent tree is scaled at 150% of the original files posted. The tree sections are also scaled at 150% but only 120% in depth (to make the gifts appear to pop-out more).
Can you guess the total weight of the finished advent 2017 tree? (and also how much filament has been used)? And also how tall the finished tree is?
Send me a tweet over on Twitter @RichRap3D with your guess. I'll post the weight and filament used in tomorrows post.
Days 1 to 24 of the Advent Christmas Tree.
Today story is simply about making beautiful objects with 3D printing. What I have now is another wonderful, creative and exciting advent Christmas tree, full of stories and interesting materials. We still get out the original 2012 advent tree every year. Now we have this one too.
I want to thank all the South African makers and designers for this amazing Christmas gift. it was a real pleasure to print these parts. I also hope you also learned some neat things to try yourself.
Day 22 gift is designed by Shaun Nadan- It's a Christmas Scene.
Christmas scene is printed in Polyalchemy Elixir Natural (snow white).
I was really happy with the print quality, 0.15mm layers, normal PLA settings
This is a very small model, so the details really came out well.
I was originally intending to print this snow scene in Laybrick (By Kai Parthy) filament. But my roll of Laybrick is around 4 or so years old now, and it has become brittle and unusable :(
My Laybrick filament is no longer usable (around 4 years old).
Laybrick is about the closest to 'snow' look, and even texture, you are likely to get in a filament. It has powdered chalk as the filler. Prints like sandstone, cold and oddly both smooth and rough at the same time to the touch. It's a little like using plaster or clay.
I will get another roll of Laybrick and show you what it can do at some point in 2018. Until then I have used the wonderful Polyalchemy Elixir, for a shining version of this Christmas snow scene.
I was going to tell you all about Laybrick, but I'll save that for a future post. Just one quick thing to note if you try any Laybrick materials. Do be careful what print surface you use. It can bond quite strongly to PEI, Tufnol and even coated glass. I have damaged a few heated bed / coatings using Laybrick, take care.
Days 1 to 22 of the Advent Christmas Tree.
Day #22 is completed. We are in to the final countdown very shortly.
The story, or maybe the moral of the story today is to use materials as soon as you can. Many filament's can become brittle or unusable over considerable time. My Laybrick was a casualty of not remembering, that I still had a roll at the very bottom of the filament storage box.
Join me next time for Day #23 - I'm also going to update you on the status of the Olsson Ruby nozzles. I plan to remove them, and inspect how they are holding up. Join me next time to find out.
Fillamentum Flexfill 98A has a firm, but flexible finish, bends well, but holds shape and form.
Print advice - (Fillamentum 98A) & Just go 30% slower for 92A
What settings did you use? - Flexfill 98A is very forgiving with settings, it's not as easy to use as PLA, but much easier (in a lot of extruder systems) than many softer rubber materials.
You don't always need a heated bed, but it works well with 50 Degrees C PEI surface, thinly covered in gluestick or Magigoo.
First layer speed set to 55% of normal print speed.
Minimum of 2 perimeter (shells) if using a 0.4mm nozzle
222 Degrees C first layer.
233 Degrees C all other layers.
Fans off for first few layers.
Fan at 55% max for printing (normal 25%)
+35% extra Extruder retraction length (from normal PLA settings).
I never use a BRIM, because it's just to tricky to remove, and is not required.
Print speed of 10mm/sec to 60mm/sec depending on your extruder setup. On an i3 MK2 55mm/sec is fine.
Try not to use support, you will find it almost impossible to remove without a very sharp knife.
Why use it? - It's perfect for anything that needs a slightly firmer rubber application. I use it a lot for seals, gaskets and generally any sort of rubber washer or firm grip / texture on a product. Things like gasket seals work well because they are not floppy, but do compress and seal faces together.
Is it strong? - Yes, it's very tough, you will find it very hard to rip, and if you ever need to modify it, only a very sharp knife or heating / deform works. It's hard to snip, cut with scissors and you can;t file or sand it.
Is it easy to use/print - Yes, the biggest issue is going to be stringing, use extra extruder retraction and tune to the speed you indent to print.
Do you have to dry it before/after use? - No - it should be good from the sealed pack, but keep it dry.
Do i need a 'special' nozzle? - No it's not abrasive at all. All nozzles seem to work well, smaller ones may cause pressure problems with some extruder systems.
Does it smell when printing? - No.
Does it come on a eco friendly spool? - No :( They are generic clear plastic spools, but they do have a recycle logo. I could not make out what material they are made of.
Conclusion for Fillamentum Flexfill 98A- I's a great material to have along side others. You can combine it well with PLA, ABS or PET. You are likely to be using it for some sort of flexing, or model making. It's obviously perfect for many model tyre projects. Check out the OpenRC project for more on that aspect.
Days 1 to 21 of the Advent Christmas Tree. I have no more room here, so it's going to be moved to somewhere in the house for the final few days of Advent.
Day #21 is completed.
Today lets focus the story around the physical uses of different materials in products and applications. It's easy to forget that not everything made is hard plastic or metal. Soft plastic's, rubbers and elastic components make up a lot of products. Especially with things that move or need to form around other devices. Thinking back to my days of being a child at Christmas, if I had a way to print new rubber tyres, skateboard wheels and soft-grips I would have been delighted to receive a roll of Flexfill :)
Okay, maybe I just wanted the skateboard, but now I would totally 3D Print some awesome custom wheels for it.
The benchy is a boat, it wants to float, so why not 3D print it with cork?
ColorFabb corkFill -
I really like cork, not just this filament, but in general. It's a fantastic material.
Cork is a natural product. It's also sustainable and ecologically friendly, being harvested over-and-over from the bark, not from cutting down trees. The cork industry has suffered over the last 10+ years because most wine bottles now use screw tops or plastic stoppers. Cork was and still is a better product.
Luckily cork is still used in many products, now including 3D printing materials.
Colorfabb corkFill is a filled wood-like material. It has powdered calk in a PLA/PHA base material. corkFill is one of my top special materials (along with bambooFill) It's easy to use and gives a really nice finish, it's quite unlike almost all other wood filament materials.
Ironically corkFill actually has hard 'stiff' finish to the printed model. Most other wood or fiber filled materials tend to have a slightly soft 'wood' feel, CorkFill feels more like normal PLA.
Benchy Printed with a 0.4mm Olsson Ruby Nozzle - 0.2mm layers at 215 Deg C Nozzle temp
Like other wood filaments, temperature does change the colour of the finish, slowing down during a print can make the finish uneven, so be aware of that or change to a more constant extrusion speed.
You get a nice sandy finish and it's less likely to string, blob or show defects than most other woodFill materials.
You can flame-finish it to remove any fine whiskers. it's also easy to sand, drill, paint etc.
Print advice - (ColorFabb corkFill)
What settings did you use? -
Use it like normal PLA but with a slightly increased temperature of 215 to 220 Degrees C (hotter will give a darker finish), cork has some insulating properties and can handle a higher extrusion temperature than plain PLA.
You can add a little to the extruder retraction if you are seeing any stringing or angel-hair. And a slight over-extrusion rate of +10% helps get a really great finish.
Why use it? - It's a sensual material, feels hard but looks soft, warm and has a nice colour tone. It's simply a really nice material to use, display and incorporate into projects. (something like a hand grip for example - and it really looks great combined with a metalFill material like copper or bronze)
It also floats, surprise! ;)
Is it strong? - Yes, it feels and acts like normal PLA/PHA filament.
Is it easy to use/print - Really simple, just follow the advice above, and you should be good. It should be called 'easyWood'.
Do you have to dry it before/after use? - No, It's not bothered at all with moisture, but as usual keep it in a sealed bag, that'll keep the dust off while not in use.
Do i need a 'special' nozzle? - No it's not abrasive at all.
Does it smell when printing? - Yes, it lightly smells. But for once I like the smell when printing, it's wood, but quite a soft scent.
Does it come on a eco friendly spool? - No :( They are the ColorFabb Clear PC spools at the moment.
Conclusion for ColorFabb corkFill - It's a great wood like material. Strong, solid and not so much like spongy cork, but easy to use and enjoy. I like handing someone a corkFill object, but the don't often guess what it's made from.
Days 1 to 20 of the Advent Christmas Tree.
Day #20 is completed.
Today's story, when anyone asks about the little brown boat in Day 20, will be about developing, making and using sustainable materials in the 3D printing process.
Because this model is a little more complex to print, and requires the use of support structures, today I'm giving advice about the use of different support materials available and how well they tend to work.
Single extruder setup -
First let's look at what a 3D print will look like if support material is enabled using a single extruder machine.
Support structure enabled - Support in Green, model in Yellow (top faces shown in red-orange)
Lets print that...
It printed just fine, but now you have to remove all that support material.
For removal of PLA you will need -
Cuticle Nippers (Top-Tip - they work great) - For MEN, or WOMEN - :)
Pointy thing (left hand side - very pointy)
cup of tea,
Have a guess how long the above support removal was, I'll tell you down below, after we look at the alternative method.
Dual extruder setup -
I'm using Faberdashery PLA( above) and Polymaker Polysupport (Below)
Another reason for doing this intensive advent calendar every day, was to test out the Olsson Ruby nozzles. They are doing really well, so today they get a short break.
The 500g roll of Polymaker Polysupport material fits really well in the SIGMA R17
Here I am using the support material in a different way, it's an interface rather than full structure.
The above Gcode image shows the model car in blue (PLA on left extruder), with a blue support structure (also in left PLA).
The interface (Dense support material) between lower PLA support and the model is shown in green, and is using the right extruder fitted with Polymaker Polysupport.
Let's print that on the SIGMA R17 -
The main PLA material is used for both the model and 98% of the support structure, just the interface is in Polymaker Polysupport.
Printed great, no problems at all - Polysupport prints a lot like PLA (just slightly higher temperature).
Lets remove the green support material...
The only tools you need for Polysmooth support removal are 'pointy thing' and a toothbrush,
It comes off clean and easily. Just a quick brush and a poke here the there.
Support cleanup time compare -
The Pink Jeep, using just PLA support (Single extruder) was 16 minutes and 23 seconds. I also used a flame to smooth off a few sharp edges. (+10 seconds)
The alternative Green Jeep, using Dual extruder 'IDEX' SIGMA PLA and Polysupport was exactly 1 minute and 18 seconds. That was including brushing time, I also did not need to use a flame for cleanup.
With big and complex print projects, a break-away support material saves you many hours of cleanup. The material basically pays for itself in time saved. You also only use a small amount of it, when using it as an interface layer as I have above.
The only reason you may want to use it for full support, would be if you were using an expensive material like Bronzefill, you would not want to waste Bronze material as supports.
Print advice - (Support materials)
I think I'm going to do a few more blog posts on different support materials and the best settings to use (in New Year 2018), it was not long enough today to really go into full details about all aspects of support structures and other materials available.
With that in mind below are my top-tips, advice and general experience of support materials.
There are other options for a dedicated support material.
PVA is often talked about as a soluble support material, designed for use in dual or multi-extruder systems. But it's usually a massive pain to use.
E3D spotted the pain that PVA was causing users and made a modified version called Scaffold (See below for more details)
PVA – I have tried around 10 different manufacturers and suppliers over the years. Still not impressed
General conclusion for PVA - I have wasted more time trying to print with ‘PVA’ than any other 3D printing material. It is possible, just not sensible or normally worth all the effort. It’s only fun/exciting and interesting the first time you try to use it. (I basically HATE it now).
Good aspects –
It is a support material…
Water soluble, good but also leads to many, many of the problems below.
Not so good – (my experiences with various printers and extrusion systems) -
It’s very soft; filament deforms easily in extruders and does not pop-back into shape – it just tends to get squashed / squeezed - and then stops feeding/extruding.
It will ‘cook’ in the hot-end – don’t go over 190 Degrees C for any long period of time - (long, being more than ~15 minutes) – take it out of the hot-zone.
It’ll often stop working (extruding) half way into a print job.
It’s quite expensive.
Few people make it, and many wished they didn’t when customers complain.
It will take on moisture, and in some cases become destroyed / useless.
It does not tend to stick all that well to many 3D printer build surfaces
It does not stick well enough to many materials, so not great at building on top of a material like PLA/ABS.
You really need to use a lot of it – dense supports for it to usually be successful – cost / time / risk of print failure increased.
It can leave residue inside the hot-end, causing problems if not fully cleaned out.
Most 3D printers (extruders / hot-ends) are not setup / designed to use PVA.
E3D Scaffold –
General conclusion for E3D Scaffold - It's so much better than PVA, but still not great in every machine or extruder setup. I can get it to work really well in my SIGMA that's fitted with Bondtech extruders and E3D V6 Hot-ends. It's just about perfect (apart from the general moisture problem).
Unfortunately in the standard BCN3D SIGMA R17, It will not work well enough, or for long enough to be of any use.
I really want to see a water soluble support material in general use, but until a formulation actually delivers ease of use in more 3D Printers, I'm going to find it hard to struggle on with PVA based materials.
Good aspects –
It is better and easier to use than a standard PVA.
Water soluble and also break-away easily.
Compatible with some materials PLA/PET, and tends to stick slightly better than most PVA only materials.
It’s grey, which actually makes it easier to see if it’s extruding well.
Not so good –
It’s still quite soft. In some extruder systems this will still be a problem.
Moisture will still damage this filament, keep it dry and out of sunlight.
It’s slightly less prone to ‘cooking’ but still use under 190 is possible and retract out of the hot-zone when not being extruded.
It’s about the same price as PVA, that’s good because it can actually work, unlike many PVA’s.
It seems less prone to leaving immovable residue inside the hot-end, but it will still require regular cleaning.
Still causing problems if not fully cleaned out.
Polymaker Polysupport –
General conclusion for Polysupport- It's so far the only support material that delivers on ease of use. For me it's the only dedicated support material worth using at this point (for my needs) It is not ruined by moisture, and that's a big bonus. It also works in the SIGMA extruder system. every other PVA material does not work as expected in SIGMA.
Good aspects –
It is a dedicated support material, and you can also print objects with it too.
It’s like using a normal PLA material. Quite easy in most systems.
Water soluble and also break-away easily.
Compatible with common materials PLA/PET/ABS, the bond is just strong enough to hold, but straightforward to remove from most materials.
It does not have a moisture problem, but keep it sealed when not in use.
It does not ‘cook’ in the hot-end, does not leave permanent residue.
Not so good –
It’s not water soluble, so you will still need to break-away, can’t be used in the same way a water soluble material could.
It’s quite expensive - but I also just demonstrated how it saves time and it ACTUALLY WORKS! - Bonus.
I'll go more into support materials, settings and techniques in a future blog post. But please ask questions and I'll make sure they are included next time.
Days 1 to 19 of the Advent Christmas Tree.
Day #19 is done.
Today's story is all about reminding people that not everything can or should be 3D printed, and the things that use support material structures can be a right pain, if you don't choose the correct materials.
Join me next time for Day #20 - getting close now...
Acrylic (PMMA) is not an easy material to 3D Print. Just try to look for it, it's not made by many manufacturers, and not many people report on using it.
Big 1Kg rolls - need to be kept airtight and away from sunlight.
Acrylic is however a very stiff, impact-resistant, strong and resilient material to use for many applications.
Firstly, Acrylic will warp like ABS, you need a heated bed running at 105 Degrees C.
I purposely used a lower printing temperature (see advice below) for a frosted look to my Ice-Pop.
Next you can't print onto a normal PEI surface, even with gluestick or Magigoo applied. It will not stick to PET or Kapton tapes, ABS likes these, Acrylic does not.
The secret to successful 3D Acrylic printing is to use a heated blue tape build surface. The only surface I have found to work well for printing Acrylic parts, both small and medium-big sized objects is 3M blue masking tape. You must still use a 105 Degrees C heated surface with blue tape.
Always use a super-sized Brim for printing with Acrylic - regardless of size.
The next thing you really need to do with all parts, regardless of size is to have a good brim on the first layer (see above image). I used a 4mm brim on this small object, no warping or de-lamination.
Day 18 tree section is printed in Polyalchemy Elixir.
Print advice - (Acrylic - PMMA)
What settings did you use? - Acrylic is probably one of the trickiest materials you are likely to use. (unless you get a particularly naughty Nylon) It's really not a material you can just pop in any 3D printer and use all that easy.
But I do really like using it for 'special' objects. So if you do give it a go, here are some tips and advice -
You will need a pinch of salt
100g of flour
1-3 hippopotamus - to taste...
3M Blue masking tape (it will not print on most other surfaces)
Must use a heated bed 105 Degrees C (or 110 if you can get that high)
140% width on first layer
First layer speed set to 35% of normal print speed.
3 perimeter (shells)
Over 20% infill level on most parts unless you are doing 'spiral vase mode'.
270 Degrees C first layer.
250 Degrees C all other layers - for a frosted-acrylic look.
265 Degrees C all other layers - for a more clear look.
272 Degrees C for spiral vase mode - most clear
Fans off for first 4-6-8 layers depending on layer height (0.1 / 0.2/ 0.3)
Fan at 55% max for printing (normal 25%)
Always use BRIM, and make it around +5mm even for printing small parts.
Print at ~35mm/sec print speed - for everything apart from support structures & first layer
Try not to use support. It's just asking for trouble.
All other settings - just as per normal PLA
Why use it? - It's a very tough material. You can further work, sand, drill etc. very, very flexible and strong. Recreus also now make different grades of soft and super-soft materials, so now you have even more choice.
Is it strong? - Yes, but when 3D printed it has a weaker inter-layer bond. You can help the bond with high printing temperatures and slower speeds, but this is it's weakness.
Is it easy to use/print - No it's not. But don;t let that stop you from getting hold of a sample to try, it is really good for some objects - dolls house windows, strong vase / bust style models.
Do you have to dry it before/after use? - Yes/No - it should be good from the sealed pack, but keep it dry, and away from sunlight. Dry if required - if it's still frosty even at +270 Degrees C.
Do i need a 'special' nozzle? - No it's not abrasive at all.
Does it smell when printing? - Yes, it smells of acrylic :) - Just like cutting a sheet of 'perspex' (Acrylic) using a jig-saw - it's smells just like that (not all that nice, but only a light odour)
Does it come on a eco friendly spool? - No :( They are generic plastic PS spools...
Conclusion for E3D Acrylic- I hope E3D decide to stock this again, I want to carry on using it for projects. Acrylic is great for printing dolls furniture, or other model parts. It's harder to use than (for example - PET based materials). If you can handle printing in Nylon, you should be able to use Acrylic.
Days 1 to 18 of the Advent Christmas Tree.
Day #18 is completed.
Today's story is going to be about Kacie Hultgren (Pretty Small Things) I always think of Kacie when Acrylic is discussed. Kacie designs, makes and sells the most amazing period dolls house furniture you are likely to see (many are printed and sold in Acrylic).
I have talked at various 3D printing shows about Kacie's work and her story. From self training in 3D design, to using Makerbot 3D printers, and running a successful 3D printing business, Kacie is one of the early pioneers who captured 3D printing to help do what you love. I have no direct interest in dolls furniture, but I do really enjoy telling people about such a talented designer.