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3D Printing Tips and Tricks: Filament Quality and Why It Matters

By: Charles Gantt | 3D Printers in Maker & DIY | Posted: Mar 19, 2014 1:51 am

Filament Quality and Why It Matters Continued




I often get asked how many objects I can print from a single spool, and I usually have a hard time answering as it varies greatly with my prints due to my tendency to change up infill levels for each print based on its use, design, and size. While reading over Voltivo's website, I found a handy answer for this question. On average, an iPhone cover takes about 1.14 meters to print using 3mm PLA. Based on the numbers above, I can print about 100 iPhone covers from a single 1kg spool of 3mm filament. For me, it varies depending on what I print. I have had spools last me several months because I am printing a lot of small items with downtime in between, and I have burned through an entire spool in just a few days because I printed a few very large and dense objects.




Like I mentioned earlier, the depth of documentation that Voltivo has provided for its customers is immense, and things like recommended extruder temperature per color of filament is a very big deal for me. Each color of plastic has its own "sweet spot" that it likes to print at. This is because 3D printers do not print with molten plastic, but rather they print with plastic that is heated to what is known as the "Glass Transition Phase" (GTP). The GTP is the point just before plastic becomes molten and runny, and pigments in 3D printing filament greatly affect the plastic's GTP.


Since the optimum printing temperature varies from color to color, lots of time and plastic is usually wasted through trial and error when trying to find this sweet spot on new plastic. Voltivo has made this process quick and painless by listing out the optimum printing temperature per color for PLA and ABS of both sizes.




While I prefer to print in ABS, PLA is quickly winning me over due to its lower temperature and lack of need for a bonding agent to keep it stuck to the printing surface. My apprehension to PLA goes back a few years to a bad experience I had with the plastic. At the time, PLA for 3D printing was still in its infancy, and I happened to get a very bad batch of filament samples from a company that was seeking my evaluation of the product. I could not get it to stick to anything, and it repeatedly clogged a 0.5mm nozzle. I have printed from several different spools of ExcelFil in different colors and have not once experienced a jam or clogged nozzle. On the other hand, the spool of cheap purple PLA I purchased off of eBay has forced me to tear down the extruder on my Punchtec Ord Bot Hadron several times.




It has been quite a while since I have had an extruder jam with ABS, which is my preferred plastic to print in. Therefore, I always purchase high-quality filament of known origin. The ABS ExcelFil was no exception either; it prints like a dream, and the colors are deep, rich, and smooth when extruded. I find that I need less tension, too, for my extruder to get a good grip on the filament, which is usually an issue for other brands of ABS. On some, I have to turn the knobs on my Lulzbot AO-100 almost all the way to get a good grip.




Finally, Voltivo impressed me with the extra mile it went in designing the packaging for its ExcelFil filament. Usually spools of filament come packaged in a thick plastic bag that has been vacuum sealed with a small desiccant pack tossed in. The spool is then tossed into a box with several other items or spools of plastic and shipped to your home. Often times, the bag the filament is sealed in springs a leak and allows air to once again fill the bag. This lets moisture in, which the plastic quickly begins absorbing, which causes popping and bad prints. ExcelFil is sealed in the same thick bag with a desiccant pack, with each spool then being placed in its own box for protection. This extra step ensures that the plastic vacuum sealed bag is not damaged and the filament arrives nice and dry.




As someone who has seen and used hundreds of pounds of 3D printing filament over the last several years, I can honestly say that Voltivo's ExcelFil is at the top of my list for best 3D printing filament. I like ExcelFil so much that I have adopted it as the only filament that I will use in my 3D printer reviews here at TweakTown, unless, of course, the printer uses a proprietary filament cartridge such as the Da Vinci from XYZprinting. Using a high-quality filament that is consistently good across all colors is a very big deal when it comes to benchmarking 3D printers, and, with Voltivo, I know that I am getting the best of the best.

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