When we talk about the evolution of 3d printing nowadays we talk about the 3d filaments for 3D printing. Printers evolves, but in a slower way. Because evolution is more about chemical limits not physical ones. For this reason, when we talk about the great evolutions of 3D printing in the present (as in the near future), we are talking about available filaments.
Filaments are part of the innovations that are progressing most at the moment!
Here we list the filaments available for your creativity to work on.
The two most used and discussed spindles.
Let’s take a look at the two most used filaments: ABS and PLA. You’ve probably heard of each of them and you normally buy a printer knowing whether it’s designed to print both or just one of them. What are the differences between these thermoplastics?
ABS is the abbreviation for acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene. It is widely available and has been a very popular plastic since the early days of 3D printing. ABS dissolves constantly at about 225 degrees Celsius, and even small printers reach this temperature. This material is relatively strong, slightly flexible and has a rather high “glass transition temperature”: about 100 degrees.
This is the temperature above which a plastic goes solid to a flexible state where it can lose its shape. These characteristics make ABS a very suitable material for 3D printing of functional parts, such as spare parts for machines or objects that are exposed to high temperatures, which stay under sunlight or in contact with hot water.
ABS is soluble in acetone and this feature is sometimes used to smooth the surface of the print. If the print is sanded and then treated with acetone the outer layer will dissolve, which will essentially smooth the object reducing the visibility of the print layers. The processing with acetone vapours fully deserves the label “don’t try it at home”, but not using it will preclude the possibility of having smooth prints.
The negative aspects of ABS are: the smell it produces while heated – which is neither good nor healthy – (think that recent studies have compared the exposure from ABS printing smells to smoke. Those who are exposed to these gases daily run the same risks as a smoker). Then, ABS must not be absolutely used for the production of objects designed to contain or treat food. As widely demonstrated, plastic interacts with food (especially during the heating phase) releasing molecules, some of which are also very dangerous to health if ingested, such as BPA (Bisphenol A), which is also present in almost all types of plastic.
Another negative aspect is that ABS is subject to strong expansion and retraction in the heated and re-cooled process. Shrinkage, in particular, is a problem for 3D printing, because it causes the prints to shrink and, if they are cooled down too quickly, they can undergo severe deformation. To counteract this, the ABS must be printed on a heated plate and preferably with a closed printer, so that it stays warm during printing and mitigates cooling, making it slower.
A heated plate and the “closed chamber” usually increase the price of a 3D printer and cause much more electricity to be used.
ABS special effects
ABS is generally available in fewer colors than PLA, but some might be interesting.
This temperature sensitive ABS, which changes color as the temperature changes.
Available in Blue->White, Purple->Pink and Grey->White
Available from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2t3gRah
There are not many special types of ABS, but intelligent ABS does (also known as Pro ABS)
This particular formula offers better adhesion between layers and about 30% less shrinkage due to deformation. The ABS Pro is mainly for functional parts, so the color range is limited, is available at this link:
When it comes to flexibility, this material is somewhere in the middle between classic ABS and flexible filament (we’ll talk about it later). Its name is “Bendlay”. It seems to be a modified ABS that is both clear and very bendable. They say it is 200% more bendable than the ABS and does not generate white stress marks while being bent.
The Bendlay is available for purchase at this address:
PLA or polylactic acid is a completely different type of thermoplastic material. It is composed of corn or sugar cane starch and is biodegradable, more environmentally friendly than ABS. Normally it can melt at a lower temperature of the oil-derived filaments, between 190 and 210 degrees, and does not smell bad during melting.
Because the PLA flows a little better than ABS, more detailed objects can be printed at higher speeds. It is particularly suitable for producing sharp edges.
The PLA is much less prone to deformation, so it does not necessarily require a heated print bed, however if you want to print large objects a little heat (about 60 degrees) does not hurt. Prints have a relatively glossy surface compared to ABS, but the amount of gloss depends on the extrusion temperature as well as the intrinsic characteristics of the filament used.
PLA is not soluble in acetone, it can be dissolved in sodium hydroxide (caustic soda). Remember that caustic soda is a very dangerous material and must be handled with particular care, it can create severe burns in contact with the skin. We recommend the use of caustic soda only in case of filling of the extruder, which cannot be released otherwise.
A safer way to “polish” the prints is to use a hot air gun paint stripper, the high temperature (up to 400 °) will dissolve the surface layer and will homogenize the surface, making disappear the steps left by the overlap of layers. This process also deserves attention, the object overexposed to heat could be ruined quickly, of course you need a bit of practice.
Some people use the PLA as a soluble medium for printing on ABS double extrusion printers.
The PLA is also widely available and is simply easier to print. In conclusion, PLA is currently the best solution for “standard” prints from home and office despite the recent introduction of “Next Gen” filaments that are trying to steal this record.
PLA special effects
Temperature change color PLA
Changes color when exposed to Temperatures:
It contains pieces of material that, of course, makes it glossy.
PLA – based blends or simulating
You can mix different PLA colours to create new colours and even shades. And you can mix PLA with almost anything! Some mixtures change its appearance and others change its mechanical properties.
PLA + Wood
Contains wood fibres. When you print this material your studio will actually smell like carpentry lab! They are available from various manufacturers and differ in colour and type of wood.
WoodFill by ColorFabb that contains pine wood: https://amzn.to/2BiL61w
Laywoo-D3 contains cherry wood and is a little darker than woodFill:
Easywood contains 40% ground coconut fibres and is obviously quite dark:
PLA + Bamboo
Contains 20% bamboo fibre. The bamboo filaments are lighter or darker depending on the temperature. By varying the temperature at different stages of printing – with software such as Simplify3D – you can create interesting effects.
Bamboo like filament: https://amzn.to/2UHishH
PLA + plaster
Contains milled plaster fragments and makes the prints similar to white sandstone.
PLA + Bronze
Since this filament contains particles of royal bronze, it can be polished. But it will also be as sensitive to corrosion as a bronze statue!
PLA + copper
different metal, different effect!
PLA + brass
with a composite of PLA and brass for a golden effect!
PLA + stainless steel
Polishable PLA stainless steel, real stainless steel effect.
PLA + Iron
The great thing about the filament containing iron is that it’s magnetic! Below is a rough print with Proto Pasta of magnetic iron.
Composite PLA – Rustable Magnetic Iron – from ProtoPasta: https://amzn.to/2TssHWJ
New materials- NEXT GEN
High resistance materials
PET (aka polyethylene terephthalate). In its original state it is a transparent, colorless and crystalline material, but it is available in many colors. PET is a rather rigid and very light material, very strong and impact-resistant.
Poly(ethylene-co-terephthalate trimethylene), is a PET copolymer.
It needs higher temperature and produces exceptionally strong prints.
Taulman 3D: http://taulman3d.com/buy-direct.html
The acronym PETG is the abbreviation of poly(ethylene Terephthalateco-1, 4-cylclohexylenedimethylene terephthalate) and is also a PET copolymer. It has the typical resistance of ABS, and the ease of printing PLA.
When a 3D print requires to be very strong, Nylon is a good option. It is usually in white and is available in different formulas. Nylon ineeds a relatively high temperature (245 – 250 degrees Celsius), but contrary to what you might think the print is odorless.
Nylon is widely used for mechanical parts: https://amzn.to/2Go3mJV
ColorFabb developed this new type of polymer. It is specifically designed for 3D printing. It is hard, odourless during printing, without BPA (Bisphenol A – molecule considered dangerous since 1930 and confirmed as a carcinogen and carrier of other diseases only in 2008 – present in virtually all types of plastics). XT Copoliestere is available in a neutral clear version and in an increasing amount of colors:
XT + Carbon
ColorFabb produces also the XT-CF20 – a blend of XT with 20% carbon fibre which makes it strong, flexible and gives a beautiful matt finish during printing:
Flexible filament is more like rubber than plastic. When it comes to flexible filament, it is all about finding the balance between softness and printability. The value indicating this flexibility is called Shore, the higher Shore value means less flexibility. This list describes filaments in increasing hardness. Harder (less flexible) filaments are easier to print.
In general, the most suitable 3D printers for this type of printing have “Direct Drive” extruders, which in fact print better than those with a Bowden extruder.
Here are a few different types of flexible filaments:
This thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) – sometimes thermoplastic rubber – is made of very flexible plastic. Many printers have difficulty uncovering it because of its softness which can very easily cause extruder jams. A popular brand of TPE is the Ninjaflex.
Also known as PLA springs, this is a modification, of the PLA which or makes it softer, is generally stiffer than the TPE:
TPU stands for thermoplastic polyurethane, and has many useful properties, including elasticity, transparency and resistance to oil, grease and abrasion. It is available as WolfBend and creativetools in 5 different Shore values:
Available as FlexFill by Formfutura:
Soluble filaments are generally used to print substrate structures with double extrusion printers.
Polyvinyl acetate is a component of common glue, like Pritt.
It is soluble in water, which makes it very safe for experimentation. It is a common supporting material for PLA. Dissolving PVA is as easy as putting your print in a glass of water!
PVA is widely available from different brands.
Shockproof polystyrene is soluble in limonene, which is a very strong chemical. It is useful to print support structures for ABS prints.
HIPS is available from several brands, including MakerBot.
This filament line consists of foams with a porous structure. With this filament, you can build flexible and porous objects.
This material consists of a polymer of elastomeric rubber and PVA. This means that part of this filament is water soluble. Once we immerse this material in water the PVA component dissolves and the rubber polymer remains an object with microporosity. It is available as at this link:http://www.mega-3d.it/it/brands/lay-filaments/?gclid=CJPHi8zyvs8CFRM6Gwod0fAB-Q
It gives the feeling of soft rubber with holes and is therefore ideal for printing soft rubber-like objects, such as folding suits and spongy objects, and elastic. Available as
Lay-Fomm 40 and 60.
Available Lay-felt, you can use this material for semi-permeable membranes, filters, artificial paper and “clothes of the future”.