COMMERCIAL FILAMENTS

Commercial grade filaments are identified as such because most of their physical properties provide value in the production of functional components.


NYLON

Nylon refers to a group of 8 plastics also known as ‘polyamides’, typified by amide groups (CONH) providing a broad range of properties. There are 8 types of nylons: Nylon 6; Nylon 6,6; Nylon 4,6; Nylon 6,9; Nylon 6,10; Nylon 6,12; Nylon 11; and Nylon 12. Each nylon offers different physical properties and will be the subject of a future blog article.

For the purpose of FDM printing, our focus will be on Nylon 6 and Nylon 6, 6 which offers an excellent blend of heat and chemical resistance, and flexibility which makes it a favorite for tooling and the medical community, especially in cases where exposure to cleaning chemicals and heat is high. Even when considering nylon 6 there are many sub-categories, each offering a slight variation of properties so it is important to know what you are printing.

PRINT SETTINGS AND CONSIDERATIONS

  • Moderately difficult to use
  • 235° – 275° Celsius extruder temperature
  • 75° – 100° Celsius build platform temperature
  • High possibility of shrinkage/warpage
  • Hygroscopic, so store in a dry location
  • Possibly food safe, but check with supplier

POST PROCESSING NOTES: Because nylon is hygroscopic, and since most nylons are available in white or natural, one of the post processing benefits is that it can be dyed. Following printing, the component can be immersed in a food safe dye for color.

NYLON BRANDS: Taulman, Chemres, others

PRICING: Nylon filaments typically start around CDN$40/1lb spool


POLYCARBONATE

Polycarbonate (PC), in addition to being one of the strongest 3D printer filament presented in this list, is extremely durable and resistant to both physical impact and heat, able to withstand temperatures of up to 110°C, and insulates electricity making it an excellent filament to use in electrical components and hardware. It’s also transparent, which explains its use in commercial items such as bulletproof glass, scuba masks, and electronic display screens.

For the sake of comparison:

  • PLA has a tensile strength of 7,250 psi and was able to lift 285 pounds
  • ABS has a tensile strength of 4,700 psi and snapped instantly under 285 pounds of weight.
  • Polycarbonate has a tensile strength of 9,800 psi and lifted a whopping 685 pounds — far more than any of the other materials that were tested.

Despite being exposed to similar uses PC should not be confused with acrylic or plexiglass which tends to shatter or crack under stress. By contrast with these materials, PC is moderately flexible which allows it to bend until it eventually deforms.

PRINT SETTINGS AND CONSIDERATIONS

  • Moderately difficult to use
  • 270° – 310° Celsius extruder temperature
  • 90° – 110° Celsius build platform temperature
  • Prints best in an enclosed and heated build chamber if possible
  • High possibility of shrinkage/warpage
  • Hygroscopic, so store in a dry location
  • Not considered food safe

POST PROCESSING NOTES: For best performance, we recommend annealing polycarbonate prints at 100° C for 1 or 2 hours to maximize mechanical properties. Polycarbonate can also be wet or dry sanded and painted with an acrylic paint.

POLYCARBONATE BRANDS: GizmoDorks, Chemres, Polymaker, others

PRICING: Polycarbon filaments typically start around CDN$50/spool


CARBON FIBER

Carbon Fiber is a polymer, sometimes referred to as ‘graphite fiber’. It is a very strong, lightweight material that pound-for-pound is five-times stronger than steel and twice as stiff. These traits make it the manufacturing material of choice for a vast array of parts.   Carbon fiber is comprised of crystalline filaments of carbon often thinner than a strand of human hair, and that gets stronger when twisted together like yarn. It can then be woven to form cloth and if needed to take a permanent shape, carbon fiber can be laid over a mold and coated in resin or plastic.

NOTE: Carbon fiber is not a filament on it’s own. It would be more correct to say that, carbon fiber strands are combined to reinforce a base polymer like PLA, ABS, PETG or nylon. The result is an extremely stiff and rigid material with relatively little weight. Such compounds shine in structural applications that must withstand a wide variety of end-use applications.

PRINT SETTINGS AND CONSIDERATIONS

  • Consider base polymer when reviewing heat and speed settings
  • The carbon fiber strands are very rough and it is not unusual for brass nozzles to wear out on as little as 500 grams of filament. Consider upgrading your nozzle to steel or better prior to printing.

POST PROCESSING NOTES: Currently not available

CARBON FIBER BRANDS: ColorFabb, 3DXtech, Protopasta, Nylon X

PRICING: Carbon fiber filaments typically start around CDN$60/spool

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ASA

ABS may be very popular, but it has it’s weaknesses among which are it’s inability with withstand weathering and UV. Along comes ASA – acrylonitrile styrene acrylate – which was originally developed to be a hardy weather-resistant material primarily used in the automotive industry.

Sharing many of the physical properties of ABS – strong, rigid and relatively easy to print – ASA is also extremely resistant to chemical exposure, heat, and most importantly, changes in shape and color. By comparison, prints made of ABS have a tendency to denature and yellow if left outdoors.

Additionally, ASA tends to warp less than ABS during printing.

PRINT SETTINGS AND CONSIDERATIONS

  • Mid to Easy to use
  • 220° – 230° Celsius extruder temperature
  • 70° – 90° Celsius build platform temperature
  • Little possibility of shrinkage/warpage
  • Mind cooling fans and possible drafts to avoid cracks.
  • Not considered food safe

POST PROCESSING NOTES: Currently not available.

ASA BRANDS: Chemres, others

PRICING: ASA filaments typically start around CDN$50/spool


POLYPROPYLENE

Polypropylene (PP) is likely the 2nd most widely used plastic in the world, and it is on the rise is as on the rise in 3D printing because it offers a lot of very key characteristics. It is lightweight but has a comparatively high tensile strength, fatigue resistance, biological and chemical resistance, higher melting point and electrical insulation, and is likely one of the most food safe thermoplastics available.

Unfortunately, as a 3D printer filament type, PP is notoriously difficult to print with, often presenting heavy warpage and lackluster layer adhesion. If not for these issues, PP may have contended with PLA and ABS  for most popular 3D printer filament types, given its strong mechanical and chemical properties.

PRINT SETTINGS AND CONSIDERATIONS

  • Moderately difficult to use
  • 210° – 240° Celsius extruder temperature
  • 70° – 90° Celsius build platform temperature
  • High possibility of shrinkage/warpage
  • Print slowly in order to maximize layer adhesion.
  • Not considered food safe

POST PROCESSING NOTES: Currently not available.

ASA BRANDS: Chemres, others

PRICING: Polypropylene filaments typically start around CDN$50/spool


ACETAL/DELRIN/POM

Polyoxymethylene (POM) is also referred as acetal and Delrin. It offers a very low coefficient of friction and is well known for its use as an engineering plastic, for example in parts which move or require high precision, and is commonly used in gears, bearings, camera focusing mechanisms and zippers.

POM performs exceptionally well in these types of applications due to its strength, rigidity, resistance to wear, and most importantly, its low coefficient of friction. It’s thanks to this last property that POM makes such a great 3D printer filament.

For most of the types of 3D printer filament in this list, there is a significant gap between what is made in industry and what you can make at home with your 3D printer. For POM, this gap is somewhat smaller; the slippery nature of this material means prints can be nearly as functional as mass-produced parts.

PRINT SETTINGS AND CONSIDERATIONS

  • Difficult to use
  • 210° – 230° Celsius extruder temperature
  • 100° – 130° Celsius build platform temperature
  • High possibility of shrinkage/warpage
  • High adhesive on bed required
  • Print slowly in order to maximize layer adhesion.
  • Ventilation strongly recommended.
  • Not considered food safe

POST PROCESSING NOTES: Currently not available.

ACETAL BRANDS: Chemres, Dupont

PRICING: Acetal filament typically start around CDN$45/spool


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