Testing New 3D Printing Filament - Carbon Fiber, Wood Filled, XT, and more!

A few months ago, I received some samples of colorFabb PLA/PHA filament.  I liked it so much that I decided to become a reseller in the USA.  Here is my initial evaluation showing off some of the great properties of the PLA/PHA.  This material is awesome.  Prints like PLA with no heated build plate required, but is not brittle.  We offer sample packs for only $9 for people who want to check it out without sinking the cash on a full spool!  http://www.printedsolid.com/product-category/filament-sample-pack/ This past week, I was fortunate to receive 4 new types of filament to try out.  Two from my friends at colorFabb and two were from a new filament producer running a kickstarter, ProtoPlant.

colorFabb XT

The first I tried is more colorFabb XT, but this time in the newly released 1.75mm size. colorFabb XT is a transparent amorphous copolyester derived from renewable resources. It can be printed on a non-heated build plate (glass or painters tape) at temperatures of between about 210C and 240C. It is quite transparent at single layers. Toughness, elongation to break, and resistance to warp are all very good. It also has a higher glass transition temperature than PLA at 75C, so will fare better when exposed to some heat. AND, as I've discovered, it can be vapor polished and solvent welded(although the effect is not quite as extreme as ABS).  The bridging ability of this material is also excellent. I do have this material available for sale in the webstore in both 1.75mm and 2.85mm (3mm). Here are some pics of prints I ran this weekend.
Twisted Nautilus Gear Vase 01 (sphynx) / CC BY-SA 3.0
Printed on a Makerbot Replicator 1 with chunky 300 micron layers.  1 layer thick.
[gallery ids="2420,2421,2422"]
Twisted Heart Vase at 200 micron layers on a robo3D.  1 layer thick.
Twisted Heart Vase (Gyrobot) / CC BY-SA 3.0
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I also ran a quick Mr Jaws (attribution below) on a Replicator 2X just to see if the XT would run.  It ran well.  No issues
2013-11-20 13.13.20

ProtoPlant Chopped Carbon Fiber filled PLA

EDIT:  As of 5/20/14, we will be an official reseller for this material.  You can find it here. The next material I tried was a carbon fiber filled PLA that is being offered as part of a kickstarter campaign.  The ProtoPlan guys are doing some cool things.  I like the mechanical testing results that they are showing and hope more filament companies pick up on that.  It would be nice to see them show different variations in their tests. I tried experimenting with this material a little, so forgive me (and the material) if the prints are a little rough.  Several backers have already tried out samples, so I wanted to try some things to push it a little. First experiment is 'bridging a bridge'.  Mike Kelly on the Robo3D forum suggested this to me.   The bridge structure is good for demonstrating the stiffness of the material and it's bridging abilities.
Modified Parker Style Bridge Truss (Zax) / CC BY-SA 3.0
Printed on a Makerbot Replicator 1 with no cooling fan.  195C.  300 micron layers.  2 shells.
Yeah, there was some stringing, but I was pretty happy with the bridging given lack of a cooling fan.  The printed bridge is very stiff as expected.
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I also tried a few little cosmetic test prints.  Unfortunately, I had a little filament snag on the skull, but posting it anyways.  Woooo!
Celtic Skull Glowing Eyes Charm (Printed_Solid) / CC BY-SA 3.0
100 micron resolution on a Replicator 1.
2013-11-16 12.09.09
Mr. Jaws (Mahoney) / CC BY-SA 3.0
I tried out Mr Jaws on a Makerbot Replicator 2X I have access to.  The exciting thing for me about this print is that it succeeded.  When I've tried PLA on this machine before, it has plugged right away.  I think the stiffness of the filament helps overcome the plug.
2013-11-20 13.13.58

colorFabb Woodfill

I have to admit, that of the four materials I tried, this one was my favorite.  colorFabb has just launched a new wood filled PLA.  I wasn't too enthusiastic initially, but I am absolutely a convert.  The shop smells like wood when it is printing.  The wood grains hide the printing lines.  I did have some clogging to deal with, but the results were well worth it.  It's worth noting that colorFabb hadn't tried this material at 100 micron and (of course) I jumped right in.  I'm guessing that pushing it on layer height had something to do with the clogs. UPDATE:  Since I performed this evaluation, colorFabb has posted some printing guidance on their site.  My clogs were likely due to printing at too low of a layer height AND leaving the material in the hot end for too long.  Since this post, I have started pushing a little PLA or Nylon through the hot end after the print to ensure no woodfill is left in it when not printing and have had much better luck.  Check out their advice here. Here is another skull also on the Replicator 1. 2013-11-15 21.21.50   And another parker bridge.   This material handled the bridging a little bit better than the carbon fiber. 2013-11-16 13.53.09   Just for fun, I also ran a timelapse of this.  For some reason, there was a lot of stringing on the second print. [youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9hKgHt4PHk[/youtube] Of course with wood, you've got to make a tiki!  I tried a few different things.  Pics are a mix of 100 microns on the ultimaker and 200 microns on a Robo3D.  My 4YO took one and painted it with finger paints.  I took a failed piece and stained it with wood stain.  Great fun! Tiki statue (cerberus333) / CC BY-NC 3.0 [gallery ids="2437,2438,2439,2440,2441" orderby="rand"]  

ProtoPlant High Temperature PLA

Finally, we have the high temperature PLA from the same kickstarter as the carbon fiber PLA.  This is a mineral filled PLA.  The mineral fill acts as nucleating site for formation of a grain structure when the material is annealed at 60-80C.  Yeah, technical.  In simple terms:  after printing, if you heat this material at 60-80C, then cool it back down again, it is resistant to sagging when heated up again.  Cool idea.  My experience with this is that the material can sag during that initial annealing.  I used my heated bed at 80C.  The protoplant guys have suggested using a bowl of warm water. I struggled with how to demo this material with the experimental equipment I have on hand. I ended up making these little bench structures, loading them with pennies in the middle, and placing in the oven, and turning up the temp until failure.  So, it was sort of a mix between a creep and a heat deflection test.  Not particularly scientific...  my oven isn't calibrated or temperature mapped...  but I think it does demonstrate that this material can handle some temperature. Three different samples.  Annealed high temp PLA (front), standard PLA (middle) and high temp PLA that was not annealed (rear) [gallery ids="2443,2444,2445"]

Matthew Gorton
Matthew Gorton


Matthew Gorton is the founder of printedsolid.com. He is a mechanical / materials engineer by education and has worked as a design, process and quality engineer in the medical, electronics, and aerospace industries. He is enthusiastic about applying all he has learned through these experiences to 3D printing and sharing that with others.

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