3D printing has become more affordable. Its adoption has become more prevalent in the lower cost consumer segment thanks to light to mid-grade printers. What can this mean for the industry? Here at MakeShaper, we are seeing these lower cost machines produce more consistent, higher quality prints that are able to rival the more expensive counterparts. We feel the big movement in the fused deposition modeling (FDM) segment of 3D printing will be in the materials sector, coupled with growing strategic partnerships. The fit, form and finish of prints from FDM printers have a lot to do with the characteristics of the materials being used. As a manufacturer of materials, we have to develop ways to enable FDM machines to produce better prints. It’s similar to when a new computer is released with new hardware specifications; software companies have to design to what will work with the computer. A few years ago, the two main options for FDM printing were ABS and PLA, but now we see hybrid, unique materials, some with higher diameters, that have enabled users to produce a higher quality of print, with less finishing all at a lower cost. As the industry pushes forward, material manufacturers will continue to expand their offerings, continually advancing the quality of prints on lower cost printers. Collaboration will be key in these advances. True material manufacturers will emerge to meet the needs of the industry. Recently, MakeShaper partnered with Diabase Engineering to design and manufacture an ultra-flexible shore 60a material to complement their line of Flexion Extruders. This has enabled users to print things that until now were just not possible with lower-cost FDM machines. We have also worked with 3D Platform to accommodate their new line of high flow extruders. Our manufacturing capabilities allowed us to extrude a 6mm diameter filament that permits the machine to print sixteen times faster, in excess of 237mm3/s using their HFE900 extruder. This new option allows a much faster print, at a reduced cost by decreasing the machine time. 3D printing is still in its genesis and it is exciting to think of what the future can bring. One thing is for certain, more materials will be made available for low-cost printers, allowing for more polished, professional quality prints to be made from wherever the need exists… be at home, office, or a small business. Production ready prints will no longer just be available to the larger manufacturers who can afford an expensive 3D printer. Material manufacturers like us will continue to collaborate more with machine manufacturers and listen to the needs of the market to help bring continued innovation to the industry.
North Carolina knows rapid prototyping and 3D printing. N.C. State University, Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill and the Research Triangle Park anchor the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, making the region a hotbed of rapid prototyping on the East Coast. The Tar Heel State also has (as of February 2017) more than 326 3D Hubs within its borders and 3D-printing work labs spread throughout the campuses of its post-secondary schools. To get to know 3D printing in North Carolina, start with the innovators and look to the area’s large amount of colleges and universities.
InnovatorsChapel Hill's altruistic star shined bright in 2014, when UNC biomedical engineering major Jeff Phillips created a prosthetic hand for a local 7-year-old born using a 3D printer and 3D printer filament from UNC's biomedical engineering lab. At a cost of about $20 for the filaments, the prosthetic allowed the child to grasp objects for the first time, and contributed to advancement in the field of prosthetics. Aly Khalifa, TEDxer and cofounder of Raleigh-based Designbox, approached leather shoes' resistance to biodegradability by starting LYF shoes, which makes modular footwear without adhesives. LYF shoes not only break down easier than leather shoes, you can repair them or print new uppers and soles, which consist of an insole, performance plate, heel lock and sole, using a 3D printer. Author and entrepreneur Ping Fu and 3D printing go way back -- all the way to 1997 when she co-founded 3D software firm, Geomagic -- and she hasn't stopped since, now serving as 3D Systems' Chief Strategy Officer in the Research Triangle Park. 3D Systems produces the Figure 4 printer, which prints 50 times faster than conventional SLA 3D printing systems and puts out about four billion drops of 3D printing filament per minute.
3D Printing at N.C. State: Hunt and D.H. HillN.C. State's J.B. Hunt Jr. Library features a Makerspace workstation that offers a 3D scanner and three 3D printers -- a Fusion F306, a Formlabs Form1+ and a Stratasys uPrint SE Plus -- for faculty, staff and student use. Hunt charges $10 per cubic inch of ABSplus, 35 cents per gram of PLA filament and 60 cents per milliliter of photopolymer resin. The Makerspace at NCSU's D.H. Hill Library provides students and staff with a host of 3D printing software, including Autodesk Fusion 360, MakerBot Desktop and Blender.
Duke UniversityDuke University offers the U.S. education system's largest 3D printing facility, with a 24-7 lab that features 56 3D printers. In addition to commodity printers, Duke researchers work with state-of-the-art equipment and technology, such as PolyJet, laser sintering printers and the Carbon 3D SL process.
Wake Forest UniversityWake Forest University in Winston-Salem leads the nation in the bioengineering application of 3D printing technology. Research scientists and students at Wake Forest School of Medicine, for example, made 3D printing of human tissue reality by crafting body parts and organs using live cells sourced from patients. Led by Dr. Anthony Atala, the team makes ears by printing a scaffold of the ear and grafting cells onto it, and makes solid organs, such as bladders, by printing the organ's structure using polymers and living cells and creating channels that deliver nutrients and allow capillaries to form.
Wake Tech Community CollegeWake Tech Community College in Raleigh has a robust 3D printing program that includes courses for enrolled students and Model 3D sessions open to both students and the general public at the main and northern campuses. Wake offers six courses that incorporate 3D printing in their syllabi and a stand-alone specialized certification course in 3D printing. Wake Tech also offers a 3D Hub for fabricating designs.
Central Carolina Community CollegeCentral Carolina Community College (CCCC), with campuses in Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties, offers Associate degrees, vocational certifications and diploma programs in computer-aided drafting technology that rely heavily on 3D printing and CADD modeling and design software, including Inventor, SolidWorks, MasterCam and AutoCAD.
Randolph Community CollegeRandolph Community College in Asheboro provides two-year degrees in interior design that require on-campus training in 3D modeling and printing with the design lab's Mcor Matrix 300+ industrial printer. The curriculum includes training in SketchUp, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and InDesign.
Primary and Secondary SchoolsNorth Carolina boasts a number of private primary and secondary schools, such as Ravenscroft Prep School in Raleigh, Peak Charter Academy in Apex and Cary Academy in Cary, that make 3D printing technologies part of the curricula starting as early as ninth grade. Cary Academy, for example, includes study in architectural design, designing and fabricating scale models of structures, such as the school's campus.
Where to Buy 3D Printer FilamentCheck out MakeShaper next time you're in the market for high-quality 3D printer filament. Based in Sanford, MakeShaper is North Carolina's largest 3D printer filament maker. More than a manufacturer, MakeShaper is made of individuals active in the rapid prototyping scene on both personal and professional levels.
Bed adhesion or 3D printer bed prep is one of many factors to consider when it comes to producing successful 3D prints. The first few layers are usually the most crucial as it can set the tone for the rest of the print. MakeShaper has a few suggestions on how to prep your bed prior to printing, but before we dive deeper – the first thing to consider is the orientation of the print itself when printed. Using supports may be a headache to remove, but a large footprint on the print bed could make even the first few layers susceptible to warping or other problems on certain materials. MakeShaper usually recommends using glue on printers with a heated bed, depending on the filament material. To apply the glue, first start when the bed is cool to avoid the glue melting. A rule of thumb is you want to apply the patch of glue slightly bigger than the base of the printed part. We recommend using a water-based (PVA) standard glue stick. Our office favorite is the classic standard of Elmer’s water-based glue. Since not all materials have the same print characteristics, we recommend different methods for applying glue for different materials. When printing with ABS, you should use two thin layers of glue. The first layer should be applied in the same direction and not overlap. The second layer should be applied over the first layer perpendicular to the direction of the first layer (think crosshatching or a lattice). This will help reduce the chances of warping when printing with ABS. When printing with PLA, only use one thin layer of glue. Like preparing the bed for ABS, start by applying glue to a cool bed in the same direction and try to minimize overlap. PLA tends to not warp like ABS so it only needs one layer of glue for good bed adhesion. When printing with PETG and TPU filament, we do not recommend that you use any kind of additional bed preparation such as glue for layer adhesion. There are many factors when producing high-quality 3D prints. What we recommend may not work for every printer in every environment. Take our recommendations as a baseline and play around to figure out what will work best for your printer, material, design and environment.
MakeShaper is updating the way we label the diameter on our filament. Our 3.0 mm filament will now be labeled 2.85 mm. We’ve always manufactured our 3.0mm filament to a 2.85 mm specification, it’s just a change in the way we will label and refer to the product. So… why did we call it 3 mm if it was 2.85 and why change it now? Well, there are a lot of 3.0mm printers out there. That designation comes down to the size of their extruders and filament feeding tubes, which are exactly 3.0 mm (or the inner diameter is close to 3.0 mm). When using filament that is exactly 3.0 mm in a 3.0 mm printhead, expect some serious clogging issues, especially with a Bowden type extruder. In the industry, most filaments labeled 3.0 mm are actually just slightly less in diameter to prevent this issue. We are extremely proud of our tight tolerances and are now updating our labels to match the true diameter of 2.85 mm. There are no changes to the actual filament.
Printing with flexible filament can open up countless possibilities and opportunities for creative and functional manufacturing. Harnessing these capabilities does not come without effort. However, MakeShaper, a filament manufacturer in Sanford, North Carolina, has cracked the code for a premium, FDA-compliant, flexible filament that is also easy to use.
“We were approached by a business experiencing problems implementing flexible 3D printing into their product development environment that was also FDA-compliant for a wearable device,” said Erica Edwards, the company’s sales manager. “They had specific needs and were not able to meet product expectations. They were experienced with FDM manufacturing and were already set up with their printers of choice. However, they were unsatisfied with the results they were achieving while testing the current offering of flexible filaments.”Flexible filament has proven to be a tricky material for many. It is prone to issues related to feeding the filament through the printer. Even printer designs that overcome feed issues can oftentimes produce stringy, unusable prints depending on the specific properties of the filament in use. The MakeShaper team got to work to develop a solution that could meet the needs of the client, focused on a newly formulated TPU flexible filament. Up until that point, MakeShaper was best known for being the only manufacturer to offer alternative cartridges for Cube2, CubePro and CubeX printers, along with their line of premium ABS and PLA filaments. MakeShaper is a subsidiary of Static Control Components, the largest supplier and manufacturer for the 2D printing aftermarket industry. This connection gives the MakeShaper team a deep history of working within a market to develop timely solutions as well as access to Static Control’s expansive research and development facilities. MakeShaper engineers were eager to create a new, premium flexible filament.
“We assessed the situation and the market as a whole,” said Edwards. “We fine-tuned the material properties of our filament formulation and in the process, also upgraded the capabilities of the printers being used.” “After it passed our quality standards, we knew we had something that should be shared with others who have struggled with flexible printing,” she said. “We want to bring what we have developed to a wider audience and are releasing TPU 85A flexible filaments.”MakeShaper’s flexible filament offers some unique qualities unseen in other offerings. The filament is FDA-compliant for direct food contact, along with having Pantone-matched color selections. The colorants are UV-stable and colorfast, meaning the color will not fade from the end product over time. The Shore Hardness of the filament is 85A – roughly the flexibility of shoe soles. The rubbery filament exhibits a slight sheen, meets exacting standards for consistent diameter/ovality and builds prints that are true to design. Edwards also noted that the holistic approach to engineering a solution led to them developing a printer adaptor to help select printers to better utilize flexible filaments.
“We noticed that some printer manufacturers do not recommend using flexible filament because of the material buckling when the filament is pushed through a hot extruder,” said Edwards. “The adaptor modifies the filament feed mechanism and allows printers to easily use flexible filaments with no problems.”After the adaptor was prototyped, MakeShaper reached out to numerous 3D printer manufacturers to discuss the opportunities an adaptor could provide. With the positive response, a wave of solutions will be released soon for multiple printers.
“This adaptor makes it easier to work with flexible filament and also works with the more common harder plastic filaments, such as ABS and PLA,” said Stephen Daniels, an engineer with MakeShaper. “Before the adaptor, threading flexible filament was like trying to push a rope up a hill in a pipe with no kinks. Not an easy task!”The adaptor for Fusion F306 printers is currently available and adaptors for MakerBot Replicator/Replicator 2, Zortrax M200, Ultimaker 2+ and Cube2 will be released soon. And as for the business that sparked the move into flexible filament?
“Ultimately, the business was able to use our flexible filament and get the quality builds they had initially expected,” said a pleased Edwards.Flexible filament is available on 220g, 650g and 1kg spools in black and natural. Other colors will be released throughout the summer. Larger spools up to 30kg are available by special order.
“We are always open to working with a client to provide market solutions,” Edwards noted. “If you are seeking a filament manufacturing partner or just need some great filament – contact MakeShaper.”by Shannon Parrish