Okay, so while PET and Nylon filaments may no longer be considered “exotic”, this chapter of the 3D filament guide by 3DSupplyGuys looks at some less common filaments! They point out what you should look out for before printing with them, and some specifications you need to check out before you make your purchase.
As with last time, if you’re looking for a summary chart for the filaments covered, there’s one at the bottom of this post! Perfect for a cheat sheet!
A new generation of 3D printing filaments
As consumer demand for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printers continues to grow, the variety of 3D printing filament materials available also continues to evolve.
For every print there may exist a number of materials that would result in a successful build, though each will undoubtedly display unique characteristics. We recommend using this guide (and others) as a starting point to evaluate the feasibility of using a given material for your project, then experiment with test pieces to find the best fit for your print with your printer.
In part 2 of this series, we’ll take a look at PET (Polyethylene terephthalate), Nylon (Polyamide), Woodfill (PLA plus recycled wood fiber), and Sandstone (Specifically LAYBRICK— milled chalk and co-polyester).
PET is a popular alternative 3D printing filament due to strength and flexibility characteristics that surpass many ABS filaments. It’s also easy to print with; offering some characteristics in print performance similar to PLA. PET is the perfect choice for phone cases or mechanical parts that require flexibility and impact resistance or toughness.
Nylon is a popular, if not iconic, synthetic polymer used in an array of industries. With nylon 3D printing filament, you have an inexpensive plastic that’s strong, flexible, and wear resistant. It’s also less brittle than PLA or ABS. Nylon is used in an array of applications that include numerous parts, containers, tools, consumer products, and toys.
Woodfill has also gained in popularity thanks to its ability to create objects with a simulated wood appearance. There are a number of wood-based 3D printing filaments on the market, each with a specific mixture of plastic and wood fiber.
For architectural or landscape 3D prints that require a “stone” finish, LAYBRICK combines fine chalk powder with co-polyesters to produce a sandstone appearance. By varying the extrusion temperature during 3D printing, LAYBRICK can offer either smooth or rough surface characteristics.
While some 3D printers can accommodate a wide variety of materials, it’s always best to understand your machine’s specifications. Some printers may not be able to heat and properly melt certain filament, causing print failures or even printer damage. Other printers may allow only limited access to printing parameters, with presets available for only the most popular materials. Prior to trying any “exotic” materials, please consult your printer’s manufacturer to ensure compatibility with your machine.
PET (Polyethylene terephthalate)
PET combines toughness with flexibility to create objects with engineering-grade quality in mind. It’s chemically resistant and doesn’t absorb water. Designed to be 100% recyclable, PET brings ABS-like functionality to 3D prints and can be printed without a heated build plate in temperatures that typically range between 220 and 250 C. Featuring a glossy surface finish, PET is priced about the same as PLA or ABS; making it a suitable high performance alternative. It’s often considered a “workhorse” filament for producing functional models. Layer bonding is superb, allowing you to make prints that are ideal for withstanding impact or shock. PET can also be used for screw threads; preventing over-torqued screws from stripping the material. Used in mechanical parts, robotics, drones, phone cases, and wearable technology, PET is designed for easy use with desktop 3D printers.
Derived from a family of synthetic polymers (polyamides), Nylon has been an integral material for industries around the globe. Most Nylon 3D printing filaments use Aliphatic Polyamides which occur both naturally and artificially. Nylon offers self-lubricating capabilities, making it ideal for bearings, gears, or other frictionless parts. Featuring greater strength properties than PLA or ABS, Nylon is also consistently cheaper. Depending on the type of Nylon, it can be used for medical devices, toys, FDA approved products, mechanical components, and more. In the (even more-experimental) days of early consumer 3D printers, Nylon weed-whacker or trimmer line was fed into 3D printers with varied results. While it works overall, this type of Nylon contains additives such as fiberglass and calcium that can clog your nozzle due to the higher temperatures required for melting. Nylon is non-hydrophobic and should always be stored away from wet or humid environments.
Wood Filament (Polymer binders + recycled wood fiber)
Filament such as Woodfill and Laywood (LAYWOO-D3) contain a combination of recycled wood and polymer binders that allow them to be extruded with similar print characteristics to PLA, but an appearance similar to wood. With wood filament, you can create natural looking objects for furniture design, home décor, and other applications. It requires no heated build plate and therefore experiences little to no shrinkage during printing. When printing, wood filament even gives off a wood-like smell and features surface characteristics similar to wood grain. A common technique used when printing with wood filament is to create changing gradients on the surface of your model. Users can edit the slicer settings to make the temperature change during the course of printing. The hotter your extrusion temperature, the darker your layers become. The cooler your extrusion temperature, the lighter your layers become. This creates a combination of gradient effects to produce realistic tones or shades of wood.
Sandstone – Specifically LAYBRICK (milled chalk and co-polyester)
LAYBRICK was developed to mimic sandstone material for 3D printing filament. It contains a mixture of super-fine milled chalk and safe co-polyesters to produce a sandstone-like surface for architectural models, sculptures, or landscapes. LAYBRICK does not exhibit a plastic feel and can be printed with smooth or very rough surface characteristics depending on how low or high you set the extrusion temperature. LAYBRICK does not warp or curl and does not require a heated print bed. Since it does not contain a high amount of plastic, LAYBRICK is somewhat delicate to print with as the filament is fairly brittle. Once the object has completed printing, let it sit for 2-4 hours for additional hardening. The sandstone surface can then be colored or grinded according to your requirements; allowing you to create an array of products with a stone-like finish.
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A new day, a new 3D printing filament
Experimenting with new types of 3D printing filament is just that – an experiment. It’s often a challenge with rewarding results, offering excitement and experience to even experienced makers. Trial and error is always required, especially with the variety of capable desktop 3D printers on the market today. By working with different filaments, you’ll discover the nuances of each and develop an understanding of which settings they’ll require. Even across different manufacturers of the same filament type, there are inevitable differences in composition that impact the performance characteristics of that filament.
Regardless of the success of your 3D printing outcome with a particular filament, it’s always beneficial to record your results for later reference. Like all unique 3D printing filament, understanding a printing material’s requirements will help save time, improve prints, and reduce failure rates with each successive print. Explore each filament by printing challenging objects and don’t be afraid to push the limits of your printer!
Have you worked with any of the materials covered in this article? What sort of experience have you had with them? We would love your input! Share some prints you’ve done on Pinshape or download a new design to test out your filament!
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We’d love to hear from you!
If you have a specific filament you’d like to hear more about or something to add to the existing article, please comment below!
If you’re looking to try out a few of these exotic filaments, head over to Pinshape to find some designs!
Until next time, Pinshapers!
About the Author
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