Entries in material (59)
by General Fabb
In a recent press release, Lomiko Metal, a Vancouver based firm, announced its intention to create a laboratory dedicated to the development of “graphene-enhanced” 3D printing materials.
Graphene, which recently proved to be the world’s strongest material, has been of keen interest to a wide range of industries since its first isolation in 2004. One reason for this interest, aside from its strength, is that graphene is both more conductive than copper and the thinnest material known to man.
As part of their announcement, Lomiko Metal outlined their plan to enter into a strategic alliance agreement with Graphene Labs. Together, the two organizations will create a joint venture named Graphene 3D Labs. As part of the agreement Lomiko will be the sole supplier of graphite to the new lab, which will immediately begin researching and engineering graphene-based 3D printing materials.
Read More at ENGINEERING.com
We had a close look at the FilaFab, a "Desktop Filament Fabricator". It's pretty simple in concept: put in some plastic bits and usable 3D printer filament comes out the nozzle.
But there's a lot more to it than that. The device has been carefully designed to ensure consistent melting temperature and flow rate to produce filament with reliable diameter and appropriate characteristics.
You'll need a source of plastic that's broken down into small bits for deposition in the hopper on the top of the machine. You can obtain bulk plastic pellets at a far lower price than filament, perhaps as much as five times or more less. By the way, FilaFab handles both PLA and ABS plastic. We suspect that they could also handle other plastics with a bit of testing.
Alternatively, you could somehow break up your existing models and failed prints into small enough pieces that would fit into the hopper. FilaFab might work on a "chopper" feature in the future, but for now you'd best get out a big hammer. We think this is pretty important, because, well, we happen to have a great many failed prints in a rather large pile at our lab. And so do you.
One feature we'd like to see on the FilaFab is a spooling mechanism to capture the new filament. Hot, soft filament would wrap very neatly around an empty spool, but not so much after it cools down. Perhaps FilaFab will add a spooler to future models.
The FilaFab is now on sale for £699 (USD$1100), but we understand they are still seeking certification for sales in the USA.
It was the first plastic used in personal 3D printers, but are ABS's days coming to an end?
The once popular plastic seems to be supplanted by PLA. In fact during the recent 3D Printshow in London we encountered many 3D printer manufacturers who simply dismissed ABS as something they didn't want to support any more. "Who prints in that?"
Why is this so? There are some reasons:
- PLA doesn't warp. Much. ABS, on the other hand, is terribly difficult to print with unless you have a heated chamber (currently under patent by Stratasys)
- PLA is a biodegradable substance that disappears over time. You won't find much in a landfill
- PLA is made from renewable sources: typically corn starch is used to create the plastic, not oil
PLA also comes in much cooler colors.
However, one key advantage of ABS is that it is a stronger material capable of withstanding more stress than PLA. In other words, if you're printing gears for a machine, for example, you probably want ABS instead of PLA.
So it's PLA. Until something else shows up.
For millennia marble has been one of the most impressive materials for building and sculpture. However, marble quarrying wastes material and creates plumes of calcium carbonate dust. Unfortunately, this dust represents a major environmental and public health risk.
In an effort to eliminate the negative effects of marble dust, engineers created MarbleEcoDesign. This company has found a way to bind collected marble dust with a photo-reactive polymer creating a 3D printable marble material.
Read more at ENGINEERING.com
If you happen to have a Form 1 resin-based 3D printer, you'll likely to have purchased resin from Formlabs, its manufacturer. Formlabs provides resin tuned specifically for their machine, but as of now it comes in only two colors: grey and clear.
That's changing because MadeSolid has launched a new series of resins that just happen to be compatible with the Form 1 - and they come in Black, White, Pink, and Blue. As you can see in the image above, they'll likely be announcing clear sometime soon, too.
Aside from multiple colors, the advantages of this resin are:
- High Definition
- Low to No Odor
- Reasonable Pricing
- Easy to Clean (No More Isopropyl Alcohol)
The last point is very interesting, indicating that MadeSolid's resins are quite a bit different from Formlabs'.
What about "reasonable pricing"? It's always hard to judge such matters on crowdfunding offers, as they are typically lower than prices offered in the future. It's like a "sale". That said, MadeSolid offers 1L of resin for USD$70-75, with discounts for bulk purchases (NOTE: Resins all have a shelf life, be careful how much you purchase). This is around half the price of Formlab's resins.
How will Formlabs react? We suspect they will release additional color resins on a much faster schedule. They may also consider a proprietary mechanism on future 3D printers to ensure only Formlabs material can be used, but time will tell on that.
No, no, we don't mean "Green". We mean "Green" as in environmentally responsible. We've been looking at filament supplier GP3D, who sell a decent selection of ABS and PLA plastic filament in 1kg spools.
Their pricing is decent (USD$32-44 per kg depending on the color and choice of material) and their color selection is not bad, either. You can choose from among 24 different options of material and color.
But how is it green? GP3D is a subsidiary of Green Project, Inc., who:
Strive to provide you with a premium filament choice when it comes to 3D printing material. Our products are extensively developed by the best engineers, and passed through heavy quality systems such as ISO 9001. Product development is our strength and that is what our customers look to us for.
The Green Project takes discarded inkjet printer cartridges and "gives them new life". Apparently they want to do the same for 3D printer filament.
We're not exactly certain how they provide greenness, though. Perhaps they recycle spool holders? Do they accept used prints and recycle the plastic? We could not find evidence of either on their site, so they may not be as green as stated.
Leapfrog 3D printers introduced a new type of PVA filament for 3D printing that, according to them, "actually works".
PVA is a different kind of plastic. It's not ABS nor PLA, but something different. Because it isn't ABS or PLA it can be used as a support material for both, but it's most interesting property is that it can be quickly dissolved in water. Imagine printing a very complex shape with tons of support material, then simply tossing the print in a bucket of warm water and watching the supports dissolve cleanly away. Check out the spider above, which was printed with PVA and is seen after the PVA dissolved.
Other vendors have offered PVA, including MakerBot, who we believed offered it first some years ago. However, they no longer offer it and instead have something called "MakerBot Dissolvable Filament" that works only with ABS.
After much research and experimentation we now introduce the first PVA that does not get in the way of you and your happy printing by boiling in your nozzle or messing up your print in any other way. PVA dissolves in (hot) water, so it is the perfect support material for your PLA or ABS prints.
Apparently their formula is "100% PVA" and is "not diluted with additives", which apparently occurs on competitive PVA offerings.
The improved PVA can be stored in a safer manner because it does not absorb humidity from the air as fast as other PVA. It dissolves completely in about "half an hour".
If you'd like to try their PVA, it's for sale today at a cost of €69 (USD$94) per 500g.
For those of you scrambling to find a source for inexpensive filament, we found one: Seacans. They have a reasonable selection of colors that should satisfy most buyers, but the important thing is price. You can buy a 1kg spool of 1.75mm filament in either PLA or ABS plastic for only CA$19.99. That's USD$8.08 per pound for you non-metric folks.
This is one of the least expensive sources of filament we've found, but there are some caveats. We don't know the reliability of this vendor. We don't know the quality and consistency of their products. We also don't have any certification of non-toxicity from them, as filaments from some overseas sources have been known to use lead as a colorant. Shipping costs will be added, and they may vary considerably depending on where you're shipping to.
Nevertheless, the price is low enough to warrant an experimental purchase.
We hadn't noticed it before, but evidently Monoprice has been selling plastic filament suitable for 3D printers for months now.
If you're not familiar with Monoprice, they are a large online retailer of electronic goods, specializing in ultra-inexpensive cables. For example, you can get yourself an HDMI cable as little as USD$4, while you'd pay perhaps five times or more that price from a typical brick-and-mortar retailer. Even better, if you order in quantity you'll qualify for a discount.
So how do they do with filament? Do their filament prices match their low-cost reputation?
First, they sell a rather small set of filaments in 1kg spools. Simply choose: ABS or PLA; 3mm or 1.75mm; Red, White or Black. There's only 12 possibilities.
Each 1kg spool sells for USD$26. You can get a discount if you buy more: 2-9 is USD$25.80 (0.7%), 10-19 is USD$25.1 (3.5%) and over quantity 50 you'd pay USD$24.00 (7.7%) each. These are not terrific quantity discounts, but they are available.
Checking prices at other common suppliers for 1kg 1.75mm PLA shows (if offered at a weight other than 1kg, we've scaled the prices to 1kg equivalents):
- Filaco: USD$44
- Faberdashery: USD$101 (sold by the meter)
- FormFutura: USD$37
- JustPLA: USD$32
- MakerBot: USD$48
- MakerGear: USD$46
- Plastic Web Shop: USD$68
- ProtoParadigm: USD$42
- Ultimachine: USD$46
So it would seem Monoprice is less expensive than many other sources. However, there are a few other things to consider before buying from Monoprice:
- Monoprice has a reputation for switching suppliers; the second time you order you may get a completely different product
- There is no guarantee of safety with their filaments; some filaments have been shown to contain lead for coloring
- There is no guarantee of consistent specifications; you may find the filament has varying diameter, for example
- If you need specific colors, Monoprice has a pretty terrible selection
- Shipping costs may vary considerably
Nevertheless, it does seem like a good price and may be worth an experiment.
All the recent hires at MakerBot have obviously been put to good use: this week MakerBot released not one, not two, but three important new products.
The first is the MakerBot digitizer, their first non-3D printing device. We've covered this item previously, and this release was expected. But now you can actually order one if you have USD$1,550.
The second is a new release of MakerWare. MakerWare is the software used by the company to drive their printers by preparing and converting 3D models into print instructions. The new release includes significant improvements in color handling, which is generally awkward for most color-capable 3D printer manufacturers recently.
The new MakerWare generates support structures that match the color they support. This prevents color contamination in your prints. The software also provides a detailed color print preview so you can understand what's going to happen before committing to a print. Finally, the software includes support for new materials.
The third release is two new materials: a Flexible Filament provides the ability to print bendable objects. The Flexible Filament becomes bendable at 60C, permitting you to heat and reshape a printed object. It's not clear if this material can be printed with ABS or PLA, however.
The other new material is a dissolvable filament. You can use it as a support material for very complex ABS prints, as the print can be submerged in limonene for a day and all the supports will disappear. This filament replaces their previous "PVA" material and is now named "MakerBot Dissolvable Filament".