SPECIALTY FILAMENTS

The popularization of polymer based FDM/FFF 3D printing using basic thermoplastics has served as the platform for material engineers and plastics manufacturers to experiment with combining core filaments like PLA or ABS with compounds that would imbue the filament with a particular trait without changing how it prints.

The Specialty Filament Section includes filaments that have very specific use properties integrated into their composition. Some of them – like the ‘filled’ filaments – are aesthetic, in that they are designed to give them the look and feel of whatever particle they have been ‘filled’ with. Others – like antibacterial and casting filaments – are specifically designed to address a perceived need in the industry.

There are hundreds of different ‘specialty’ filaments, including ‘beer’ filaments, algae filaments, glow in the dark filaments, and so forth. For the sake of expediency however, we will keep the specialty filaments fairly short to the following list:


ANTIBACTERIAL FILAMENTS

COPPER 3D and others have designed 3D printable personal protection equipment files to help deal with the current pandemic situation. If you would like to find out more and to download the free-share .stl files, please view the article in our blog by clicking HERE

Many plastics can absorb trace elements – like moisture – from the environment, which means they can also absorb and house bacteria which can be passed along with human contact.

Antibacterial filaments are made of a root material, like PLA or PETG and laced with trace antibacterial agents like silver or copper ions which can greatly inhibit bacterial growth – by at least 99 percent – greatly reducing the risk of infections.

COPPER 3D PLACTIVE AN1 is one such patented, innovative nanocomposite which combines high quality PLA and a nano-copper additive. It is designed and ideal for use in medical applications, or any application where it is considered important to keep bacterial contamination down to a minimum. The combination has been scientifically proven to eliminate more than 99.99% of fungi, viruses, bacteria and a wide range of microorganisms. Importantly, PLACTIVE AN1 maintains all the mechanical properties of the host material and so prints with ease and has thermoforming characteristics that facilitates post-processing and final adjustments of the 3D printed application.

The virtual elimination of bacterial growth and contamination not only allows for polymer 3D printing to broaden its uses for medical purposes, but also household use where there is high contact like food serving implements or toys.

PRINT SETTINGS AND CONSIDERATIONS

  • print setting will vary according to the base polymer – PLA, TPU, or PETG – being printed

POST PROCESSING NOTES: please see post processing notes for PLA, PETG or TPU

ANTIBACTERIAL BRANDS: Copper3D

PRICING: Antibacterial filament averages


METAL CASTING FILAMENTS

Lost-wax process, also called cire-perdue, is a method of metal casting which dates back almost 3,000 years across all continents except Australia.

Lost-wax casting requires the creation of a wax model of the end product, which is then packed in clay or sand. Once packed, it is heated, melting the wax and allowing it to be drained away leaving a mold into which a molten metal can be poured. The metal is allowed to cool and the clay or sand is removed and this leaves behind the desired item.

3D printing offers users the ability to create ‘lost-wax’ CAD precise models that can be used for this process.

Because the heat used in the process, a wide variety of filaments – like ABS – can be used since all will melt and can be drained from the mold. However the required finish and the amount of time invested in post processing has required the development of filaments that are more suited to the task.

However filaments like PolyCast™ have been specifically designed for metal investment casting, and offer a two main benefits over other polymers:

  • PolyCast™ can be polished in Polysher™ (using Polymaker’s patented Micro-Droplet Polishing ™ technology), eliminating layers and creating a very smooth part surface with a greatly reduced amount of labor. This is crucial for the quality of the metal parts.
  • In addition, most polymers leave a residue when they decompose or are burned – this is a problem during investment casting and can lead to defects in the metal parts. Filaments like PolyCast are designed to completely decompose at T> 600 C and provide a clean mold for casting.

Printing Settings and Considerations

  • 180 – 210 degree print temperature
  • 20 – 50 degree, but heating pad required
  • Minimal warping or shrinkage

POST PROCESSING NOTES: Polycast can be post processed much like PVB/Polysmooth, using isopropyl alcohol. It can be wiped on using a soft cloth, or it can be evenly applied using an ionizing mister like the Polymaker Polysher.


BLENDED FILAMENTS

  • BRASSFILL
  • BRONZEFILL
  • COPPERFILL
  • STEELFILL
  • WOODFILL
  • …others…

If you are looking for something that is a little closer to metal or wood, blended filaments might be what you are looking for.

Filament producers like Colorfabb have created lines of filaments that have blended PLA with powders – from 50% to 80% – in order to allow the user to create prints that reflect the aesthetic appeals of the powdered component. The number of different blended filaments is growing but include brass, bronze, copper, steel, wood, aluminum, and so on.

Just a few things to remember, however…

  • Blended filaments are typically denser, but pending the amount of actual material powder used in the filament, the end product can be a little more brittle because the powder compromises the fusion of the base polymer. In other words, they are mainly aesthetic and not typically good for function components.
  • Blended filaments do NOT extend any of the physical properties of the powdered material. A steel-filled filament does not convey extra-strength, conductive or thermal properties to the filament.
  • In their unfinished state, blended filaments typically have a textured, matte finish that looks a bit like dried clay and require post-processing to bring out the desired look. Each filament sands very easily and we recommend starting with 220 grit sandpaper. Normally, the surface sands and polishes to a smooth finish with little effort.
  • Metal blended filaments specifically can be hard on softer brass nozzles and we recommend that you either a nozzle to be used specifically for the blended filament, or investigate the availability of more durable nozzles like stainless steel.

Printing Settings and Considerations

Print settings for blended filaments will vary according to the base polymer. If PLA is the base polymer, then PLA print settings will work best. The same is true of ABS based blended filaments and PETG.


POLYWOOD

Polywood filament is very similar to blended filaments and makes use of similar settings, however it differs in that it does not contain wood powder.

PolyWood™ is a wood mimic filament without actual wood powder, which minimizes risk of nozzle clogs and premature nozzle wear…especially when using brass nozzles which are known to be softer and more prone to wearing.

PolyWood™ is made entirely with PLA using a special foaming technology.

When sanded and properly processed, it exhibits some of the same properties of wood.

Printing Settings and Considerations

  • 180 – 210 degree print temperature
  • 20 – 50 degree, but heating pad required
  • Minimal warping or shrinkage

POST PROCESSING NOTES: Polywood comes out of the printer looking good, but applying a high grit (220+) directional sanding effort will smooth out layer lines and give the final model a more genuine wood look and feel.


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