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FILAMENTS - SPECIALTY

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:

If you would like us to add any other specialty filaments to this list, please let us know and we will do our best to honour your request.

 


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ANTIBACTERIAL FILAMENTS

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.

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The graph provided by COPPER 3D depicts the results of 2 studies that confirm that the Colony Forming Units (CFU) of Staphylococcus aureus MRSA and Escherichia coli DH5α, falls abruptly during the first 6 hours of exposure to PLACTIVE (>95%), continuing the elimination of bacterial strains until reaching >98% elimination at 8 hours and >99.99% elimination at 24 hours.

The graph provided by COPPER 3D depicts the results of 2 studies that confirm that the Colony Forming Units (CFU) of Staphylococcus aureus MRSA and Escherichia coli DH5α, falls abruptly during the first 6 hours of exposure to PLACTIVE (>95%), continuing the elimination of bacterial strains until reaching >98% elimination at 8 hours and >99.99% elimination at 24 hours.

 

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PVB - Polyvinyl Butyral

Polyvinyl butyral is a plastic that is widely used in laminated safety glass for automobile windshields. It is tough, flexible and offers optical clarity.

In the 3D printing world, PBV filaments offer the user a unique ability to smooth and polish to a beautiful glossy finish using alcohols such as IPA (isopropyl alcohol) or ethanol. Application of IPA can be by way of spray bottle or soft cloth, or the use of a more sophisticated delivery method like the “Polysher” by Polymaker, which delivers a fine mist in even proportions.

PVB  has impressive mechanical properties such strength, toughness and flexibility. Compared to PLA, PVB is significantly stronger and more heat resistant; PVB has a softening temperature of 70C, very low odor and prints as easily as PLA.

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POLYCAST INVESTMENT CASTING TREE

POLYCAST INVESTMENT CASTING TREE

POLYCAST

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.

Settings for PolyCast™ are typical of PLA and is compatible with almost any filament-based 3D printer. Polymaker has developed the material to provide excellent printability, dimensional stability and easy removal of the support material.

The printed parts can then be polished in Polysher ™ to significantly improve surface quality. After polishing, the part is ready for use in precision casting.

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COLORFABB COPPERFILL PRINTED BUST

COLORFABB COPPERFILL PRINTED BUST

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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.

Two important notes however…

  • 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.

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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 removes all risks of nozzle clogs and increased nozzle wear.. 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.