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If you are considering getting into 3D printing, or already own a 3D printer, you are probably wondering about what that stuff is that the final product is made of. After all, when you use your laser printer, there’s a cartridge that you need to fill from time to time that provides the material for your copies. Why would 3D printing be anything less? The truth is that the “stuff” from which 3D printing is made of is called filament, which comes in a variety of sizes, types, and colors, depending in large part on what you want to create.
3D Printer Filament Types
Before you purchase and use any type of 3D printer filament, you should decide what your end use for the product will be. For example, if you are using your 3D printer for common desktop uses, you might do well with a 3D printer filament PLA, which is the default that is recommended for everyday use. It offers several advantages, a couple of which are being odorless, low-warp, and eco-friendly.
Another type of filament that is commonly used is ABS filament, which is good for use when products need to be more durable than with those made with PLA.
For those who spend more time with 3D printing, many users want to know the difference between ABS and PLA. Simply put, PLA, which means Polylactic Acid, is a good for use in a broad range of applications. Besides the advantages mentioned above, PLA needs no heated bed to be used. It is also made from annually renewable resources, which makes it more eco-friendly and less demanding to use energy-wise.
ABS, which means Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, on the other hand, is another filament that is good for common applications but is made to better withstand higher temperatures than those with PLA. ABS is also great when you want to add acetone when you are done to create a glossy finish to what you are making. The one downside to ABS is that it requires a heated printing surface, which can result in warping when you aren’t careful.
Want to see ABS in action? Check out your child’s Lego toys.
Wood, PET and PetG
The march of technology never stops, or even slows. Want proof? Check out the most recent additions to the filaments available. For example, there’s wood 3d printer filament, which recreates whatever you want to produce in a product that looks like wood. Then there’s PET type, also known as Polyethylene terephthalate, which is a good, all-around filament that is strong, durable, flexible, and recyclable. Then there is PETG , which is also flexible and very durable.
Now that you know more about 3D printer attributes, it would pay you to know more about other things that will make it more useful to you.
Which is the Strongest One?
A commonly asked question about 3D printing is “What is the strongest 3D printer filament?” The answer to this question is often broken down into two types of “strong,” pull and bend. Carbon reinforced PLA is generally considered the strongest of all filaments. On the other hand, in many studies that have been performed so far, common PLA seems to be just as strong as the carbon variety.
How Much does it Cost?
Just as is the case with other products, the cost varies dramatically. Price is a primary concern among those shopping for 3D printing materials. Cost is per gram. According to the three primary PLA suppliers, a large spool of filament costs $48 for 900 grams. That translates to $0.053/gram.
The 3D printing filament supply business is new and wide open, at least for the time being. At the moment, there are many suppliers in business, although that number is expected to decrease as time goes on. For now, there are 30 of what are considered to be the major manufacturers across the country. Here is the list of manufacturers that would be considered the best.
- 3D FilaPrint
- 3D Prima
- MG Chemicals
- Taulman 3D
Once you have your own 3D printing area set up, you will probably want to know how to keep everything organized so you can use it better. That’s good news, especially since now you can buy spool holders in a variety of configurations, from those that are desktop to those that hang as a dispenser on the wall. Not only are these very inexpensive, but for a Google search, you can copy plans to make one on your 3D printer.
If your plans for storing your supply of filament includes throwing it up on a shelf until you need it, we have bad news for you. Depending on the type of filament you plan on keeping, it probably won’t last until the next time you use it. The key is moisture. Simply stated, the dryer you keep your filament, the better and longer it will last. This depends primarily on the type of filament you have, but it is true of nearly all of them. PVA is one of the worst about absorbing moisture that is around it. Other types absorb moisture, but at a lesser rate. The are several solutions to this problem. Perhaps the least expensive is vacuum bags. There are a number of other solutions that you can buy at your local printer store.
3D printing isn’t cheap. That’s a given. It doesn’t take long, however, before a user figures out that even after his printer is paid for the costs don’t stop. Filament is expensive. Fortunately, there is a way to lessen the cost considerably. This is via what is called an extruder. An extruder is a device that uses heat as well as pressure to create filament from pellets and other raw materials. These devices rival printers in cost, which is a serious downside, but there are several models that can be built on Instructables, or you can join a revolution to create one on several kickstarters