Why should I preserve 3D filament? Sometimes the printer just doesn’t seem to cooperate, and prints often fail. In these cases we ask ourselves the way, “but how is that possible?” “Until yesterday, he was printing very well.”
Have you considered that the failures of your 3D prints, instead of your settings, capabilities or 3D printers could be caused only by moisture infiltrated into the filament used? This is a more common problem than you might think. With this article we will try to find the solution to the 2 most common questions that arise once the problem exists.
How to preserve 3D filament? If I have a wire that has taken moisture, can I recover it or the only possible future for it is in the dustbin?
We have several solutions, and if you read this article to the end you will come out, if not richer, at least more aware.
If you just keep the reels around, close to the printer, without a method of storage before or after you will encounter problems during printing, due to the hidden enemy: moisture.
The filament by its nature has such a chemical composition that it attracts water molecules present in the surrounding air, this peculiarity is called “hygroscopy”.
As we have already briefly explained in this article, nylon is saturated with water in a single day. The situation is even worse with special filaments, such as PVA, which is used to create support structures that dissolve easily in water, thanks to hygroscopy. PVA, for example, is extremely hygroscopic and must be stored in a sealed box, otherwise in a very short time it will attract so much water that it becomes unstable. But not only nylon or PVA, all filaments, whichever is less, attract moisture, including PLA and ABS.
The only non-hygroscopic filament is PET, in fact it is particularly suitable for prints that have an application in contact with and in water.
The most common problems that can occur when a filament has come into contact with moisture are: accentuated fragility, bubbles and bursts during printing (which cause under/over extrusion), increase in diameter and degradation of the properties of the filament itself.
The level of severity of these problems strongly depends on the type of filament. For example, as we said before, PET is not affected by ambient air humidity at all, while nylon saturates fairly quickly and can cause printing problems if it is not stored correctly.
But now, answer the questions: How do I preserve 3d filament?
If you are aware that you will not be using the printer, or a certain roll for a certain period of time then it is worth thinking seriously about its preservation.
The first solution we offer is very simple, but effective and very economical.
Vacuum bags for clothing! They are special bags for the storage of winter clothing and blankets, equipped with a non-return valve. These bags allow air to be sucked in with any vacuum cleaner. They normally provide protection against water, odours, mould, dust and pests.
These bags cost about 20 EUR for 10 bags. There are different sizes and in this the choice is yours based on how many reels you think you need to stock, however for added convenience we recommend bags measuring 50 x 60 cm.
These are normally transparent, so you can easily recognize the filaments stored, even if you have put many together.
If the idea of closing your reels in a closet and not having them immediately available does not convince you but you still want to preserve 3d filament in a place free of moisture.
Then the second option is for you! Here, too, we ask for help in the home and in the preservation of clothes and shoes.
This time we are talking about hermetic plastic boxes, easily available via the Internet, but also at the Brico under the house.
The hermetic seal protects the coils from external moisture, but nothing can against that already contained inside. In this case it is advisable to fill the bags with silica gel, also easily found on the Internet, as in Brico.
Adding a few bags of silica gel inside the box is essential to eliminate residual moisture. It is also recommended inside the vacuum bag to have the absolute certainty of the total removal of moisture, to preserve for a lot of time.
For the more finicky, there is also a commercially available silica gel, highly porous and synthetic, which uses an ecological color indicator, so that when the pearls absorb moisture, they change their color from yellow / orange to green or blue. Pearls normally turn blue only if they have been wetted in water, i.e. immersed. There are many types of silica gel on the market, the only advice we would give is not to buy a very cheap type that turns from blue to pink. This gel in fact contains cobalt chloride, a product that has been taken off the market in some countries because it is considered carcinogenic.
How to preserve 3D filament: Homemade Method
If you do not want to run the risk of coming into contact with unknown substances of unclear origin, and you want to build your own personal moisture capture, you can do so with objects that you have in your home.
Just fill an old sock with rice at will, close it with a string and you’re done. Surely it will not perform as well as the silica gel but still absorb moisture inside the box protecting your filaments.
Rice is cheap and readily available and has hygroscopic properties.
We cannot use it as a desiccant, but it is hygroscopic enough to absorb moisture instead of plastic.
When silica gel, or rice, absorbed moisture that was in their power to absorb they can be regenerated by passing in the oven for 3 hours at 120 degrees. As for drying mushrooms or hot peppers during the drying process, the oven door should be kept slightly open (a few millimetres), for one’s own sanity it is advisable to carry out this operation in winter, when the warmth of the oven gives a certain pleasure.
If we have purchased the silica gel that changes color with the absorption of moisture we can be sure of the success of the treatment noting that the balls return to their original color.