Today’s discussion I cover some of the specialty filaments available on the market and the success and hurdles printing with some of them in the Imaginator 3D (I3D) machine. As such, I have used several nylons, flexibles, specialty colors, and photo chromatics. Some work well and some have their hurdles.
Taulman’s 618 and 645 nylons are two well known products in the market with good print characteristics and with which I have had some success. Both filaments seem to perform about the same, however, 645 is much stronger. Several key practices in printing success with nylon is to use a platform bonding agent (PVA Glue), slow down the print speed, and heat the build plate. Other factors do matter and a significant one is the shape of your design. These nylons do not like expansive area designs. You want your design to have a small footprint on the build plate because nylons tend to curl more than ABS. So, most of my designs that were printed which were vertical tended to print successfully and not so much with the opposite. Also, Taulman’s recommends a print temperature of 242C-248C , however, I have printed as low as 238C, but realize printing below the recommended temp of 242C could flaw the strength of your print. The manufacturer also recommends that you print at a resolution that is 60% of nozzle diameter, which for the I3D is .24mm. I have printed as low as .2mm with success, however, at lower resolutions (.30mm and up) my prints tended to delaminate. Lastly, you will need to slow down your printer to print around 25-45mm/sec. If you are using Makerware Desktop, this can be done in the Settings dialog.
Today, Ninja Flex (Sapphire) and Flex EcoPLA (Black) are two of the more well-known flexible type filament brands available on the market. Unfortunately, after trying both, I have been unable to yield any consistent prints from these two materials. Ninja Flex is extremely limp as it feeds into the extruder and the extruder motor could not grab and push it through the nozzle. Flex EcoPLA is a bit more stiff; however, it tended to wrap around the extruder gear mechanism and created jams. I continue to look for a flexible filament that will work in the I3D. I believe a filament that goes into the extruder stiff and becomes flexible when it cools will work, but I just have to keep trying until I find one!
Makerbot specialty filaments, Photochromatic, Sparkly, and Neon, round out the special filaments on my list today. The good news about these filaments is that most printed well. I have used the Magenta and Blue Photochromatic PLA filaments and they work very well. I used the standard PLA settings at normal speeds with success, and yes, they are cool! The sparkly black printed well, but will definitely need a little PVA Glue to keep it on the platform. I had much less success with the neon pink; however, I may have gotten a bad roll. It printed blotchy (gaps in the print) and eventually jammed my extruder. I am reserving my right to re-address this filament after I run it through my drying process and will update you once I run some more prints with it.
So, all in all, most of the filaments printed in an acceptable manner except for the flexible filaments and I will update you on the neon pink. The photochromatics and sparkly black from Makerbot performed as well as any normal PLA plastic and no special procedures were used. The nylons work, but care must be taken in the design of the print as well as platform glue, temps and speeds. If you are curious about a specific filament, drop me an email and I will run some tests on it. Until next week, happy printing!