Oct. 6, 2014 | By Alec

We've often wrote about the seemingly endless possibilities that 3D printing can offer to a creative mind, but we are obviously limited to the options that plastic shapes can offer us. But do we have to be? While most plastic filaments, like ABS and PLA, are excellent for printing numerous solid shapes and objects, that are also some other materials that offer more options to the creative 3D printing enthusiasts out there.

If you're one of those people looking for more freedom in printing objects, than it will be very worthwhile to check out the various printing filaments that German inventor Kai Parthy has developed. His POROLAY 3D printing materials series features four different filaments, each with very special properties and diverse applications.

However, he has recently discovered that one of these material, the Layfomm 40 filament, possesses some unique qualities that really add some diversity to any 3D printer's arsenal. Never before seen in any other materials used to 3D print objects, the Layfomm 40 is viscoelastic. While perfectly capable of being used to print solid plastic objects, this additional quality can be induced by soaking it in liquids for some time, or by leaving it in constant room temperature for several days at a time.

However, there are a number of other liquids that induce the same effects on Layfomm filament. After an initial rinising in tap water, similar viscoelastic properties can be achieved by soaking it in oil and alcohol mixtures, in a low concentration of glycerol or in a solution of different salts. All this makes it a scientifically very intriguing material.

But what is it, and how can it be used to create cool objects? We've all heard of elastic materials (like rubber), but viscoelasticity is a bit more special. It means Layfomm material can display all the flexible qualities of elastic materials – stretching or manipulating it into certain shapes – but while a rubber band will immediately revert to its original shape when you let go, this stuff won't.

Because of its viscoelastic properties, a dampening effect follows. This is a kind of 'retardation' in the elastic effect, meaning it will take quite some time (up to minutes) before the object reverts to its original shape: squish a perfect cube of this stuff together in your hand, and it will take some time before the squashed result becomes a cube again.

The new-found property of Layfomm filament only works at room temperature, which makes it a very interesting and intriguing material. A number of functions can quickly be thought of, though there must be quite a few more.

First and foremost, as Kai already did, it can be used to print your very own sponges. As can be seen in the video below, soaking a Layfomm object in water for a while results in a porous, flexible object with sponge-like qualities.

The same object as above, but then soaked in water to give it sponge-like properties

However, a variety of other functions can quickly be thought of. It could, for instance, be used to:

  • storing small amounts of mechanical energy 
  • to damp vibrations
  • it could be used to create your own custom inner shoe soles
  • print your own memory foam ( the memory effect itself is a different physical property)
  • mechanically, it could be used to damper movements. For instance, trigger a fast movement and change the movement into a slower motion.

All this makes this a very intriguing material that really adds an extra dimension to 3D printing. Creative and inventive 3D printing enthusiasts should therefore definitely look into this very useful 3D printing filament. What can you do with it?

Layfomm and the other filaments from the POROLAY series are already available on eBay and various other online stores for EUR26 / 0.25kg.

Also check out this other video on Kai's wonderful filaments:

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

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harry wrote at 10/6/2014 5:17:36 PM:

I'm sorry, but thermoplasts always have viscoelastic properties ;)

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