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3D Printing: Understanding more about ASA filament applications

Today 3D printing isn’t simply a trend, but the need for the hour. After years of experimentations and tests, the market is now flowing with different types of 3D printing machines and filaments. One such popular 3D printing option is the ASA filament.

What is an ASA filament?

Also known as Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate, the ASA filament is your go-to amorphous variant of thermoplastic terpolymer that shares several similarities to the ABS filament. The structural difference between these two is the fact that the ASA makes use of acrylic elastomer while the ABS makes use of butadiene elastomer.

ASA is popular as the engineering plastic given its property to maintain appearance & impact resistance. Even after the filament is exposed to prolonged periods of rain, air, cold, as well as salty seawater, it retains its make and looks for long.

This is the reason it can be used for the creation of several products that we use and see on a daily basis.

But, before we go into the uses and applications of the ASA filament, let us take a look into the advantages and disadvantages of using it.

ASA: Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Highly resistant to the UV rays
  • Resistant to impact or wear and tear
  • The high temperature for glass transition

Cons:

  • Exceptional ventilation required to avoid the potentially toxic fumes
  • Extruder temperature very high
  • High price tag

Uses/Applications of ASA Filament

While the ASA filament is near-perfect in all sense, it has just ventured into the application market. With time, the ASA filament will surely see large scale applications. However, this doesn’t mean that the ASA filament isn’t just as popular now.

Its popularity can be known through its wide range of applications. Let us take a look at some of them in brief.

1-Automotive Exterior Parts:

As compared to other materials available in the market for the creation of automotive exterior parts, the ASA is relatively cheaper with a plethora of features. With regards to automotive applications, the ASA filament can be easily used for creating a prototype of parts such as bumper covers, housing for side view mirrors, dashboard holders, or grilles.

2-Tooling:

Printing with the ASA filament results in the production of sturdy yet lightweight parts. So, if you are in need of tools, ASA filament can be used for such 3D printing requirements. With this filament, you can print yourself ergonomic grips/handles, assembly jigs & fixtures, tool caddies, dunnage, and so much more.

3-Outdoor Applications:

Apart from the applications mentioned above, the ASA filament is something that can be used outdoors without any probable issue. Given its resistance to the Sun’s UV rays, it is optimally suited to be used for outdoor needs. If you are someone who wants to build their very own garden from scratch, you can build some cute and exclusively customized flower pots with the ASA filament.

Why just stop there?

You can also print some gnomes to take care of your garden with the ASA filament. Additionally, ASA filament can also be used to create signage. Other items you can print with the ASA filament include roof coverings, junction boxes for electrical installations, toys, pipes or construction profiles, and so many more!

Read: Comparing 3D Printing Filament Features: ABS vs. ASA Filament

ASA Filament Use: Recommendations

For 3D printing enthusiasts that generally use the ABS filament, the use of ASA will be just as easy. With ASA filament, you get access to a piece that is highly resistant to any damage caused by water and sun. For ones with no training or any experience in dealing with the ASA filament, here are some recommendations you can follow:

  • Avoid Drafts:

Just like several other 3D printing materials, the ASA filament is highly sensitive to abrupt temperature changes during the 3D printing process. When printing with the ASA filament, it can be beneficial if you print with a device that has closed printer casing or room that is free of any drafts.

  • Use the Kapton Tape:

In order to improve the adhesion of the object being printed with the device’s printing base, you need to use the BuildTak or Kapton Tape. You can also increase the adhesion further with the use of the DimaFix.

  • Minimize the layer fan:

Once you have achieved the right adhesion, you can focus on printing quality to avoid issues such as overheating or cracking. In order to avoid these issues, it is highly recommended that you use your layer fan with the minimum setting on. Keep in mind that you should decrease the overall power by 10 to 25 percent, depending on the item being printing with the ASA filament.

This allows proper solidification of your print while avoiding the overheated areas. Low layer fan speed ensures that there is no abrupt temperature change that might cause cracking to your printed item.

  • HIPS Support Material:

Given the fact that ASA filament works as a versatile filament, you might have to incorporate it with a sturdy support material such as HIPS. Talking about this support material, it is a D-Limonene used widely in conjunction with the ABS filament.

Given its similarities shared with ABS, it can be incorporated with the use of the simplest and highly-used method for post-processing which is acetone smoothing. In this process, you introduce the piece to a steam bath consisting of acetone. This brightens and softens the item’s surface layer.

You can also opt for machining of the part at low/medium speeds, which can later be glued & painted directly. There is no need for any previous primers.

ASA Filament Caution: Fumes

When printing with the ASA filament, you need to print in a room that comes with high-quality ventilation. The fumes emitted by the ASA filament can be potentially dangerous when inhaled. It emits a smelly & intense smoke that comes from Styrene present in this plastic compound. This fume can cause health issues such as headaches, irritation, and so much more.

When printing with the ASA filament, make sure you wear the right kind of mask to avoid breathing in the smoke. Further, make sure your exhaust comes with a filter or fan for the extraction of these fumes.

Conclusion

The ASA filament might be prone to water absorption. So, if you have plans to print with this filament, make sure you dry it properly before the same can be used for printing purposes. You can use your regular oven to dry out the filament. However, make sure that the oven temperature is set below the ASA filament’s glass transition temperature for perfect drying.

Looking for a top-quality seller for ASA filament? At MakeShaper, we house some of the best and quality-tested filaments ranging from the classic ABS to PETG filament. Our prices are highly affordable and available in a wide range of colors and sizes as per requirement. If you shop today, you can get amazing deals on some of our filaments. So, choose what you need from our high-quality 3D filament inventory today!

Comparing 3D Printing Filament Features: ABS vs. ASA Filament

For most 3D printing enthusiasts, the introduction of ASA filament in the market is relatively new. While it might not be as common as other filament types, it serves as an excellent 3D printing filament for items that are to be kept outdoors, such as a garden gnome, planter, or any outdoor fixture. The ASA filament is relatively similar to the ABS filament with similar print output.

However, there is one thing about ASA that makes it rank over ABS is the fact that the former can stand longer under the sun without yellowing, deteriorating, or losing strength. If you have never ever printed with the ASA or ABS filament, here is a guide to help you out.

What is ASA Filament?

ASA filament functions as an amorphous variant of thermoplastic polymer that stands for Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate. It is generally used as the substitute filament for ABS. The ASA filament has so many advantages in terms of application that it is being used by the topmanufacturers of the automotive industry. The most prominent feature of ASA is the fact that it doesn’t yellow easily.

Buy Here: Black ASA Filament -1.75 mm
Buy Here: Black ABS Filament – 1.75 mm

Why & when should you use the ASA filament?

Before we start comparing the features of ASA and ABS, we need to understand what makes it stand out in the crowd. Here are some of the use cases for the ASA filament.

  • It’s mechanically robust feature makes it perfect in terms of applications that require high resistance
  • It is resistant to the U.V. rays which explain its non-yellowing property
  • ASA filament also finds application in the underwater usage or the pump junctions given the fact that it is highly water-resistant
  • It can also generate a good finish for different parts without any kind of deformation
  • It also provides superb dimensional stability with no warping and high tolerance
  • The ASA filament also works well as an element that is resistant to chemicals treatments
  • It also flaunts a higher thermal resistance as compared to ABS
  • Its matte finish towards the surface of the 3D print is something similar to ABS.

ABS vs. ASA filament: Pros and Cons Compared

In general, most of the properties flaunted by ASA are similar to that of ABS. However, the features such as U.V. resistance is exclusively flaunted by ASA filament.

So, what makes these two filaments different from each other? Well, let’s talk about the finishing of the 3D prints with both. Here warping is the issue that makes the two different. If you are unaware of what warping defines, let us explain it to you.

What is warping?

The warping or curling issue occurs when the 3D printed item doesn’t cool down in an even manner. As we all know, cooling leads to contraction & this particular process causes stress on the lateral surfaces of the object. The quicker your 3D printed item cools down, the higher the stress over its lateral surfaces. This stress is maximum towards the corner where two of the sides from your 3D print meet. This hence leads to deformation or a pull-up shape. The eventual result might seem displeasing to you.

Unless you use a closed printer, this could be a major issue with the ABS filament prints.

Apart from this, there is one more issue that dims down the quality of ABS filament. It is a phenomenon similar to warping, known as cracking. This issue occurs towards the upper section of the print. You need to keep in mind that both cracking and warping can affect the quality of your 3D print. It isn’t just about the aesthetics; the warped or cracked pieces have mechanical features that are comparatively inferior to that of perfectly welded layers.

So, to sum it up,

  • ABS and ASA filament both have similar properties in terms of mechanics
  • ASA is resistant to UV while ABS isn’t
  • ASA has better temperature resistant as compared to ABS (ABS- 81ºC vs. ASA- 95ºC)
  • Both these filaments produce items with matte finishing

ASA Technical Properties

  • Density: 1.07 [g/cm3]
  • Elongation at Break: 35 percent
  • Tolerance: +/- 0.05 mm
  • Flexural Strength: 660 kg/cm2
  • Max. Printing Temperature: 80 to 90 mm/s
  • Melting Temperature: 250 to 260ºC
  • Solubility:dichloro-ethylene, methylacetone, &cyclohexanone

Pros of Using ASA Filament:

  • It is a great alternative to ABS as it doesn’t show the same degradation during cooling, as is seen with ABS.
  • It flaunts a combination of UV resistance with mechanical strength making it perfect for use in the outdoors.
  • ASA filament portrays a higher degree of resistance to prolonged sunlight exposure.
  • It also comes with exceptional resistance to chemical or harsh weather with higher durability as compared to ABS.

Cons of Using ASA Filament:

  • One downside to using ASA filament is the fact that it tends to release fumes that might be potentially toxic during printing. It is critical for printing enthusiasts to opt for the use of high-quality masks during the process and get the printing in a room that is well ventilated.
  • It tends to be a bit expensive as compared to other filaments available in the market. Plus, its low market availability further increases its pricing factor.
  • Its high melting temperature is surely a boon for 3D printing enthusiasts. However, it also requires to have a higher temperature for the extruder to facilitate proper printing. This leads to more energy utilization and hence higher bills.

Tips to get the best prints with ASA filament

  • Get the first layer correct:

Even though ASA filament has minimal warping as compared to ABS, it isn’t completely free of this issue. In order to ensure there are zero warping problems, make sure you have calibrated the printer properly to get the base layer right. You need to level your print bed correctly. Plus, you need to assure that the distance starting from your printer’s hot-end to its bed is leveled.

  • Print with high-adhesion hotbed:

If your printer lacks a high-quality hotbed, the idea of printing with the ASA filament is eons away for you. This is due to the fact that ASA requires high temperatures to refrain from cracking as a result of thermal deformation. You have to keep the hotbed within a temperature range of 80 to 100 ºC. Plus, you should also work on improving the adhesion by using some kind of stick glue or lacquer for 3D printing needs.

  • Calibrate the Temperature Properly:

ASA has its melting temperature that ranges between 250 to 260ºC. This is why the printer hot end should be adjusted to keep within this temperature.

Conclusion

ASA is slowly gaining popularity among its users, given its range of benefits over the alternative ABS filament. So, if you are planning to create some exterior signage, garden equipment, sporting goods, housing components, or exterior parts for automotive needs, picking the ASA filament could be just right for you. However, keep in mind that printing with ASA requires a high-quality 3D printer that can maintain such high temperatures.

Looking for the best seller for high-quality ASA filament? Stop at MakeShaper and shop for your favorite ASA filament at pocket-friendly prices. Our range of collection for ASA filaments includes different colors such as red, yellow, pink, blue, cool gray, and so much more! Shop today to get access to this warp-resistant filament at MakeShaper.

An Insight into Post-Processing ABS and PLA 3D prints

If you are a 3D printing enthusiast, you must be aware of the fact that 3D prints aren’t ready-to-go. They need some time to set in the shape. In most cases, if you are too eager to remove the final print from the platform, you might end up leaving uneven dents on the print. This occurs due to the fact that the filament hasn’t yet settled into its form. Today, some of the most popular 3D printing filaments include ABS and PLA. Given their versatility and unique printing features, both ABS filament as well as PLA filament are popular among 3D print enthusiasts as well as commercial crafters.

To help you avoid any uneven dents on the surface, in this blog post, we will share some amazing tips. These tips will help you avoid the struggles of removing the support or fly-away objects. So, without any delay, let’s jump into it.

Quick Post-Processing Tips for ABS and PLA Filament

1-Minimize the Supports:

The very first step when it comes to handling the supports actually begins way before the start of the printing process. These changes need to be done within the slicer software. How can we do that? Whenever you are setting the slicer as per your requirement for print orientation, pay proper attention to the parts that need maximum support. Now, try and include minimal support for the same. Your prime goal is the minimization of supports added to the print.

However, you need to be sure that these additional supports in no way affect your print or distort them. Find the perfect balance for the support that can be removed safely. This will help reduce the amount of work you have to do after the post-processing is done with the ABS filament or the PLA one.

2-Assess the Material:

The entire post-processing method depends majorly on the material being used for the 3D print. So, the next step in easing the after-print process is to determine the quality of the material you have chosen. This particular thing helps you assess the overall time required to help the 3D print set in its form properly. Now, you have purchased an ABS filament from one place that doesn’t mean that the one you bought from the store next to it will be the same. Even if they fall under the same category, the quality can drastically differ.

In such cases, it is advised that after you have tried out various shops, you should stick to the one that provides you the highest quality at affordable prices. This will help you maintain a single time-frame for all your prints.

3-Keep in Mind the Safety Precautions:

Even though the filaments are rendered safe for use in the home environment, it certainly houses chemicals that make the prints smooth and shiny. This is why you need to be careful when working with the chemical-based filaments for 3D printing. Regardless of whether you use ABS filament, PLA filament, or any other variant, there will be a certain amount of chemical present within. Whenever using the filaments, you need to use a durable glove and get the printing done in an area that is well-ventilated.

Additionally, you need to ensure that the gloves you use are non-latex as the THF can eat through the latex gloves. You can replace your latex gloves with neoprene or nitrile gloves.

4-Post Processing with ABS Filament:

The best and the most effective way to smoothen the ABS filament is to use the same with the acetone vapor.

You will need:

  • Acetone
  • Paper Towels
  • Sealable Container
  • Tin Foil

How to smoothen/polish your prints with ABS filament?

  • Remove any of the excess material left off after the 3D printing is done
  • Place some paper towels on all 4 sides of the plastic container
  • Remember to get this task done in an area that is well-ventilated
  • Sprinkle some acetone towards the bottom half of the container
  • Now, cover the container’s bottom part with a tin foil
  • Place the 3D print inside the container & allow the same to settle for hours
  • Remove the print from the container and let the acetone to vaporize off the final object
  • Now, put up the 3D print in a place you desire

5-Post Processing with PLA Filament:

For the PLA filament 3D prints, hand polishing done with the help of THF or Tetrahydrofuran is the best option. While the acetone option works perfectly with ABS filament, the THF works amazingly with the PLA filament-based prints.

You will need:

  • Non-Latex Gloves
  • THF or Tetrahydrofuran
  • A non-dyed, lint-free polishing cloth

How to polish/smoothen the prints with PLA filament?

  • Remove the excess material from the 3D print created from PLA filament
  • Put on the non-latex hand gloves & bring the polishing cloth
  • Be in an area that is well-ventilated
  • Dip the polishing cloth in the THF & polish the print just as you would a shoe
  • Use a circular motion for the best results
  • Let the print sit at a place and allow the extra THF to evaporate
  • Put up the final smoothened piece in an area of your choice

Conclusion

Whether you choose the ABS filament or the PLA option, both come with their own set of pros and cons. However, if you consider the factors such as biodegradability, printed prototypes, material properties, toxicity, and so on, you can surely land on the perfect 3D print. Use it for commercial or personal use; these materials surely help you acquire the best and smooth 3D print. Looking for the best quality 3D printing filaments for your commercial or crafting needs? Try out the range of filaments provided at MakeShaper. We house everything from ABS filament to NYLON filaments for your unique printing needs. All our filaments have been affordably priced without any quality compromise. So, scroll through our collection and purchase your filament today!

New Year 3D Printing Ideas Using PETG Filament

The New Year 2020 is just a few days away and everyone is gearing up for it. For the 3D printing geeks, it is another great opportunity to try something new. Whether you are a creative person, professional printing company or a home décor enthusiast, 3D printing is for everyone. You can do so many things with it and create something unique and mind-blowing for the New Year Eve. It is time to impress your family and friends with some New Year 3D printing ideas.

PETG filament is one of the most popular 3D printing filaments that can be used to create various attractive pieces. It is superior to other types of 3D printing filaments for various reasons. You can create some amazing designs using the PETG filament with excellent results.

Here are some of the best New Year 3D printing ideas using the PETG filament:

Why PETG Filament are Best for 3D Printing?

PETG filaments is an excellent material for 3D printing because of its extraordinary strength, toughness, sturdiness and offers strong prints. With features like low shrinkage, it is perfect for printing objects of larger surface. Compered to other materials like the ABS and PLA, the PETG filament has higher strength, and much smoother finish.

PETG stands for polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified, and is known for its perfect combination of strength and ductility. Because of these popular features, PETG is widely used for making mechanical parts and robotics. Some of its other features include being high chemical resistance, acidic and alkalic resistance. If you are into creative projects like rings, collars and bracelets, then the PETG is one of the best options out there.

These are some of the reasons why PETG if perfect for 3D printing and you should be using it for 2020 New Year printing ideas.

2020 New Year 3D Printing Ideas using the PETG Filament

If you want to make the New Year extra special, create something fun, original and colorful to enjoy. Here are some of the best ideas for 2020 New Year 3D printing ideas:

  • 2020 New Year's Shades

This is one of the most popular themes for 3D printing. Every year you get to see the large glasses with the New Year design on it. Be creative this time and use a different design to create a 2020 New Year Shades.You can add accessories as well. Browse the internet for the ideas or create your own and make a history this New Year eve with an amazing 2020 Shades for the New Year. Make for the family and for friends and wear them to the party and show off your creative skills. PETG filament can be used to create high-quality sturdy pieces.

  • 2020 Key Ring

Key rings are the most popular themes for 3D printing. You can gift the key rings to friends and family. The best thing about them is that you can customize it to make it extra special for the New Year occasion. A New Year key ring will not only keep your keys together, it will also give it a festive look. And, it will also remind everyone of the great time you had together in the New Year Eve. You can use many designs and colors to create that special key ring for the group. With a flexible 3D printer filament like PETG, you can create any kind of design and it will last for a lifetime.

  • 2020 Decoration

The next best idea is creating 2020 theme decorations. You can link the four numbers together to create unique patterns and in different bright colors. These nicely printed 3D décor items can be used for gift wraps, decorating the room, or cake. If you are looking for some unique décor ideas for the New Year for general purpose, this is one of the best ones. You can easily create a theme decoration and make the evening special. Likewise, you can use any other theme as well for creating décor items. PETG filament is a flexible material that makes 3D printing easy and effortless. Choose the design, set the printer and let the magic begin. You will not be disappointed with the end results.

  • 2020 Earrings

If you want to show the world your festive mood, add a pair of 2020 earrings and your ensemble for the evening is complete. Wear them or gift them to a loved one and see the buzz they create in the party. Everyone will be asking where did you get it from. You can create some amazing 2020 earring designs using the PETG material. They are widely used for creating jewelry pieces as the PETG materials are strong and sturdy. Add 2020 earring to your creative list and customize it to make your New Year celebrations memorable. If you are thinking of a gifting idea for someone special, this earning can become that special gift. A customized earring for the New Year party will make all the difference in the world.

  • 2020 Wine Bottle Topper

Cracking open the wine or champagne when the clock strike 12 on the New Year’s Eve is the classic way to welcome the new year. You can make the occasion even more special with a 2020 wine bottle topper. Show the guests how festive your wine bottle is with a customized wine bottle topper. After popping the bottle open, put the topper back on and take that picture that will remind of the special day. You can use the topper for various occasions as well.

The Bottom-Line

These are some of the creative 3D printing ideas for the New Year Eve that you can use throughout the year. These 3D prints will help you bring out the festive mood and help you create a great impression on your guests. MakeShaper offers high-quality 3D printing filaments. We have a wide range of filaments for various 3D printing purposes like PLA, ABS, ASA, HIPS, PVA, PETG and more.

How PETG Filament Make 3D Printing Great

When it comes to getting the best 3D printing the PETG filament is the top choices. No matter what printing skill level you have, PETG makes 3D printing easy and effortless. It stands for Polyethylene Terephthalate and is the most common type of polymers used today. It is widely used for making water bottles, food packaging and various other plastic items. But, its most popular achievement is being the number one choice for 3D printing. Soon PETG is going to be the preferred 3D printing filament and for all the right reasons.

The popularity of the PETG lies in its various features and advantages that combines the characteristics of ABS filament and PLA filament’s ease of printing. With PETG, you get the best of both the worlds.

Even buying PETG filament online is so easy and convenient. If you are looking for a quality 3D printing filament, then PETG is the best option. It makes 3D printing great in many ways.

Knowing PETG Filament

If you are new to PETG then you definitely want to know what it is. It is a filament created from a mixture of polyesters and has the same kind of plastic used for manufacturing plastic bottles. The only difference is the presence of extra glycol, which make it such a strong material.  in order to make it a stronger material. The reason why it is considered as one of the best filaments for 3D printing is that it has great strength, temperature resistance, quality and durability. You can rely on its various features for better quality 3D printing. It is better than ABS or PLA because of the quality and efficiency difference between them. The PETG is definitely greater than the other two.

PETG Filament Meets Practicality Needs Easily

The PETG filament has many practical properties which makes it an ideal option for 3D printing. It can meet the quality and efficiency needs easily. It is stronger than the other materials and can withstand the demand of high-quality printing needs.

Here are some of the features that make PETG so great:

  • It does not create any odor during printing. Strong odor is one of the most unwanted things for 3D printing, Thankfully, the PETG filament does not create string smell when printing.
  • It offers greater printing results, better than any other printing filaments. With the regular PETG filaments, the heating can result in hazy prints as overheating can may cause it to be brittle. The Glycol present in the PETG is a helpful material that does not get affected from the heat and provides a high-quality result.
  • Most of the printing filaments may buckle under the impact, but not the PETG. PETG filament is known for its strength and has high resistance to damage from impact.
  • Another great thing about the PETG filament is that they can be sterilized easily. This is helpful in keeping the PETG strong and it offers greater resistance.
  • Layer adhesion is another desirable trait that filament should have. PETG filament offers a great layer adhesion.
  • PETG is a material that does not shrink or warp under pressure and provides great end results, which make them a great option for 3D printing needs.
  • PETG can be recycled as well. This feature makes it a cost-effective option as well. It does not matter whether it had been printed or not, you can still recycle them. The only thing you need to take care of is to recycle them as per the industry standard for quality and safety reasons.

PETG filament had any practical properties, which makes them such a great option for high-quality 3D printing results.

When to Use PETG Filament?

Is it PETG filament right for you? If you want high-quality print, reliable filament and save time and money then the answer is yes. Many people who prefer PETG over ABS or PLA, do so because it is very flexible.  If flexibility is something you are looking for then the PETG is the perfect option.

Strength wise, the PETG is the hardest filament to break. They are ideal for printing jobs that needs a very strong filament that is highly resistant to damage. If you have to print a large number of photos or documents the PETG can meet your specific needs easily. PETG has low shrinkage properties, which makes them such a great option for people who need large number of prints without losing quality. Likewise, you can use the PETG filament for printing larger items without worrying about the quality. The PETG is very strong and highly resistant to elements like chemicals, acids, water and even alkali.

Quality of the Printer Matters

While the PETG filament is strong and can withstand a lot of things, you need a quality printer for the best results. When it comes to 3D printer, you must have the best one to get the best results. There are so many options for 3D printers, but not all printers are of high-quality or can give you the same results you want. PETG comes with specific requirements to get the best result. It must have some important features like it must be equipped with a hot end capable of reaching a temperature of at least 235°C.While the ideal temperature is 265°C, but 235°C is quite sufficient for some PETG filament.

The Bottom-Line

The PETG filament is one of the best options for getting high-quality 3D printing results. The filament comes with many features that allows for high-quality results in a cost-effective manner.

MakeShaper Filament Factory Tour!

We try and accommodate customer visits and plant tours as often as time permits. A while back we had Ben visit and pick up some filament (he was a local), and he was nice enough to chronicle his experience you see below.

A few months ago, I went to a 3d Hubs meetup and found out there is a filament company called MakeShaper that's located in Sanford NC, just a few towns over from where I live. Naturally, I was interested - I've been on the hunt on-and-off for a quality American-made filament source, and if that place happens to be right next door - that's a bonus!

One of the gentlemen I met at the meetup who worked for MakeShaper provided me a filament sample and was also kind enough to offer me a tour of the facility (his name is Bob). I definitely wanted to take him up on that, but to be honest, I wasn't expecting much. My inner skeptic was saying loudly that "this is just going to be ten guys renting space in some dirty warehouse with an oversized Filastruder, don't get your hopes up."

...Little did I know.

As it turns out, MakeShaper's parent company is Static Control Components and they are, for lack of more precise details, a pretty big deal. From what I understand, they're one of the biggest companies making aftermarket laser and inkjet printer parts and toners in the world. I'm skipping ahead a bit, but I learned on the tour that they were involved in a precedent-setting lawsuit against Lexmark whose outcome determined that manufacturing printer cartridges with an aftermarket DRM chip was not a violation of the DMCA. There's even a Wikipedia article on it! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexmark_I ... nents,_Inc.) So, definitely not the small fries I was expecting.

Back to my story, my wife and I are driving along and the GPS tells us we're getting close and I'm still expecting ten guys in a dirty warehouse. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for a sign that's obscured by some overgrown bushes or something when suddenly, we realize we're driving toward this huge industrial campus. My wife and I both say, no way can this place be the place we're looking for, but yep! It wound up that that's the place!

Here's what it looked like when they GPS says we're close - definitely "sign behind an overgrown bush" territory:
https://www.google.com/maps/@35.444085, ... 312!8i6656
And then suddenly we burst onto this - quite a difference!
https://www.google.com/maps/@35.44712,- ... 312!8i6656

We go inside after having picked the most likely-looking parking lot - we had at least 5 to choose from and I'm sure more if we kept driving - and get signed in and we meet Bob and a lovely lady from Sales named Erica. Bob asks us "did you have any trouble finding the place?" with a poorly-masked grin. Har har, Bob! I learned that SCC has 12 factories on that campus and employs 800 people. I realize very quickly that I'm totally out of my league, but darn it I'm going to make the best of things anyway while I try not to sound like a complete dunce.

Bob also tells me that they're still in the middle of moving their filament-making equipment into a different building, so we won't get a chance to see any of that today - BUMMER - but we can come back later after they're finished! (You bet your behind I'm taking him up on that offer at the next opportunity.)

They specialize in all sorts of filaments like ABS Filament, ASA Filament, PLA Filament, Elite PLA Filament, PVA Filament, PETG Filament, Nylon Filament, HIPS Filament. For anyone looking for the best filament for 3D printing these are some of the best. The PETG filament is actually getting more popular than the others though.

before_after_tornado

The first stop on the tour is something of a memorial. About five years back, some severe tornadoes came through the area and caused a lot of damage, *especially* in Sanford. A few of SCC's buildings were heavily damaged, and a couple were completely destroyed. They got a call from someone who lived 50 miles away because they found some SCC-labeled microprocessors on their front lawn! Fifty miles! Luckily, since the storms came on the weekend, no one was working and no one was injured. The scrap metal sculpture was a tribute to their employees' dedication to rebuilding, and I'm sure glad they did rebuild, because otherwise I wouldn't have been on that awesome tour! scc_memorial_sculpture

Next was their R&D area. Essentially, it was a cubicle farm with one or two 3d printers on each person's desk - and they were tasked with running OEM and competitors' filaments through each machine and making observations on print quality. They had a pretty good representation there - I saw machines ranging from a low-end Da Vinci machine to a big Stratasys uPrint. I met another gentleman named Stephen (who was also at the 3d Hubs meetup I mentioned earlier) who showed me a Marvin printed on the Da Vinci with some XYZprinting PLA. It was a neat print because it was pretty clear - but it also had some stringing, which honestly I was glad to see, because it made me feel pretty good knowing my printer could do a better job.

us manufacturing, usa filament, american made filament(Side note: I asked Bob if I could take a picture of the R&D area, because I didn't want to accidentally capture something sensitive on someone's desk. We decided to play it safe and not take a picture, but then I found that one in MakeShaper's own twitter feed! Ha! So now Wake Tech is on the hook instead of me!)

One of the things Bob mentioned while on the tour was that they have researchers responsible for reverse-engineering OEM lockout chips. In my head I'm thinking, how on earth do you reverse engineer something that's made up of about a billion tiny transistors? So I try to ask an intelligent-sounding question to that effect, figuring that if I use the words "electron microscope," I might sound at least a little bit informed. Bob tells me that the traditional method was to peel back the chips layer by layer and just examine the traces that you found, but nowadays you'll often see protective measures like specially-designed structures that effectively self-destruct the chip if you try and peel them apart. That was news to me! I figured that reverse-engineering a chip like that would be hard enough by itself, but no, apparently you need physical countermeasures to make it even harder. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised in retrospect, but at the time it blew my mind. Oh and yes, to my question, they also do have their own electron microscope on site. (Bob told me that so casually that I was wondering if that was actually as big of a deal as I thought it was...)

While we were on the topic of chips, Bob mentioned that he sees the 3d printing industry today looking a lot like what the paper printing industry looked like 25-30 years ago. Lots of new players entering the market, and some manufacturers responding by trying to lock down their machines. I think this is the point in the tour where I learned about the DMCA decision, and Bob mentioned that since MakeShaper has the full resources of SCC behind them, they are uniquely positioned to become a significant player in the 3d print market. I hope they succeed - my thoughts at the time wandered to the Da Vinci machines. I didn't bring it up, but I remember reading that if you want to use aftermarket filament in a Da Vinci machine, you have to reflash its firmware - but that also voids the warranty of the machine. It would be great to have a third option; a third party chipped filament cartridge that was compatible would be a welcome offering to those customers, I'm sure.

Some of the best printing filaments are the ABS Filament, ASA Filament, PLA Filament, Elite PLA Filament, PVA Filament, PETG Filament, Nylon Filament, HIPS Filament. Based on what you actually want, you can choose the one that matches your need. There is no doubt that these printing filaments have changed the printing methods and made it better.

Anyway after that, we walked to an area of their testing facility. I can only describe it as an inkjet/laserjet printer farm - rows and rows of desks upon which sat as many printers as would fit, and as we walked among them I caught some more 3d printers sprinkled in as well. We learned that in that building, there were around 2000 printers available for immediate testing, and about 7500 us manufacturing, usa filament, american made filamentmore in storage "just in case." Basically any printer that was marketed in a significant quantity, SCC picked up at least one of them to test with.

While we were talking numbers, Bob also mentioned that they go through an enormous amount of paper - I forgot the exact number, but I want to say it was 1,000,000 sheets per week? A MILLION! (per WEEK!!) - so recycling is very important to them. (This also won a huge amount of brownie points with me)! They print on both sides of every sheet, BUT of course it's not such a simple matter as I would naively assume. After a sheet of paper has been printed on, Bob explains, its properties have changed - it's dirtier, its moisture content is different, for example - and it needs to be reconditioned before its other side can be used for a second test. My take on that is that I'd hate to be the guy whose job it was to clean an endless mountain of paper, but on the other hand they're clearly serious about making sure their products work as advertised, and I'll buy the heck out of their filament based on that alone eight days a week.

We continue on and before long we pass by some windows that look into what resembles (to me) a clean room you might see at a hospital. Bob points at the labels in the corner of the windows and tells us that they're environmentally-controlled rooms - both temperature and humidity. One is set up at around 60F and 15% humidity; the other is at 85F and 80% humidity - I might've gotten the numbers a bit off, but one was supposed to be winter conditions (indoors, obviously) while the other was supposed to emulate the tropics. Anyway I'm sure you can guess, they had printers set up in those rooms too making sure that everything still worked to spec under non-ideal conditions.

As if that weren't enough, the next thing we saw as we walked by were some big electrical panels. They weren't too visually engaging - just some metal boxes with conduit coming out of them - but Bob shared that their function was to generate 220v power, and that each desk in the testing lab had both 120v and 220v outlets. They would test all their printers on both, because it exposes quirks in the internal mechanics - the difference in voltage and frequency has an impact on the behavior of the corona wire, the fuser, the drum, as well as a bunch of other parts that I hadn't heard of before. I did my best to keep everything straight, but the entire tour was filled with so much information that it was like drinking from a firehose, and this was certainly no exception!

My mind wandered back to the paper recycling Bob mentioned earlier and I asked whether or not they did the same sort of recycling/reconditioning with their plastic filaments - and since I was trying to sound smart, I mentioned that I'd heard mixed opinions on filament recyclers because of the extra "stress" the process puts on the filament's "polymers." I don't know if I used all the right words there, but hey! Even if I completely messed it up, I got the spirit of the question across successfully, so score one for me! Bob said I was basically on the right track and took the opportunity to teach us a bit about "heats and heat signature." He said if you get material from a quality supplier, that filament has only been through 2 heats. You then print with the material and your printer counts as another heat, so that's 3 heats total. That's generally the ideal case. If you buy pellets and extrude them yourself, you also wind up with 3 heats in the end - one heat from the supplier to turn the material into pellets, once through your extrusion machine, and then lastly through the printer. And if you're into recycling prints, then you can mix recycled material with virgin material and wind up with fractional heats for the overall blend. MakeShaper, for one, avoids the issue entirely by only testing with virgin material - afterward, the prints are recycled into bottles for the toner part of their business. Smart, I like it!

If you have to choose from the various filaments - ABS Filament, ASA Filament, PLA Filament, Elite PLA Filament, PVA Filament, PETG Filament, Nylon Filament, HIPS Filament – the PETG filament will standout as they are growing very popular with 3D printing business.

We'd been walking while we were chatting and right around this point, we wandered up to another of their Stratasys machines. Bob said he's been noticing a trend where more and more industrial machines like the Stratasys in front of us were starting to show up on 3d Hubs - and I might be fuzzing on the details here, (drinking from a firehose, remember!) but what basically happens is the lease on the machine expires, and the leasing company then sells the machine, where naturally the employees get first dibs. I thought to myself, hmm, might it be neat to own a Stratasys machine? I wonder how much they cost in that scenario... but before I had a chance to ask, Bob shows me a spool of Stratasys filament. It looked like a half kg maybe, and it's then I learn that the cartridge costs A HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! And I know those machines aren't cheap to begin with either, but then they get you on the filament too?! I swear, if those guys at Stratasys aren't swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck and lighting their cigars with hundred dollar bills like in the movies, they are doing something seriously wrong.

So I don't think I'm interested in owning a Stratasys machine anymore. Then again, MakeShaper IS working on coming up with their own compatible filament, so maybe it wouldn't be that bad after all...

Afterward, we headed down to the shipping area. It was neat-looking to me, someone who doesn't get to see that kind of thing every day, but I would imagine it looks like your typical warehouse operation (although probably a lot cleaner). Lots of boxes stacked on lots of forklift shelving units. Bob told us that the forklifts were semi-automated - I didn't fully understand, but he said there us manufacturing, usa filament, american made filamentwere wires run through the floor and somehow the forklift operator has to only do half the work. I think he said that they just drive it to the right aisle and then the system automatically gets the right box from the right shelf location? And I think each space on each shelf was labeled with a barcode so the machine could make sure it was picking from the correct spot. That was definitely something that scratched my high-tech itch, so that's a gold star in my book!

That just about wrapped up the tour. We walked past a photo studio where they had a bunch of professional-looking lighting and equipment and a green screen, but I know nothing about photography at all so it was all lost on me. But I sure did notice the filament sitting in the middle of the room! (They had just taken some pictures of it in preparation for their web store). Bob told us that they do all their own product photos, instructional materials and video editing in-house. It seemed like a small detail, but I think having such a nice studio is one more thing that goes to show these guys are really invested in their work.

After that, we sat down in a conference room where we chit-chatted for a bit and I finally bought the spools I had came for! What really struck me though was the labeling on the filament boxes. I us manufacturing, usa filament, american made filamentimmediately noticed that A.) the label sealed the box, so it would be tamper-evident, and B.) there's a field for Pantone color. Maybe I just haven't bought filament from the right places yet, but I hadn't yet seen anything similar until then. Even before you open the box, the filament feels like a premium product. And then on the backside of the package, the MakeShaper logo is watermarked (maybe that's not the right term... inlaid maybe?) into the cardboard - a nice touch.

Afterward, we said our goodbyes, and my wife and I thanked Bob and Erica for taking time out of their day to show us around. I realized after we left and got into the car that we'd spent an hour and a half walking around their facilities, and that was without even seeing the actual extrusion machines! Time flies when you're having fun I guess! Before we arrived, I was expecting the tour to take 30 minutes, tops. After all, how much can you possibly expect to see from 10 guys in the corner of a dirty old warehouse...

My closing thoughts are that I was completely blown away by the experience (at least that much should be obvious by now). Even my wife, whose involvement with 3d printing extends only to tolerating my addiction to it, really enjoyed seeing all the equipment and learning about the business! My only criticism is that for now, MakeShaper's color selection is very basic - red, green, blue, white, black, and natural are the only colors on offer at the moment. (Although if you've got deep pockets and want to order 18kg of filament, they'll make any color you want!) Otherwise, their filament prints extremely well and is reasonably priced, and I've seen first-hand how dedicated and enthusiastic they are about their product. It's one thing to put a blurb on a website about quality, it's another thing entirely to invite your customers in and bathe them in it.

I know I've probably come across as a cheerleader in this review but I swear I'm not affiliated with them and they didn't pay me to write this. I just had a really fantastic experience, and from now on I'm going to satisfy my filament needs with MakeShaper plastic whenever possible. I think everyone should try at least one of their spools, you won't be disappointed.