Feb 29, 2016 | By Alec

It’s always fantastic to see 3D printing projects that achieve new effects and results by cleverly using more unusual filaments. Most of all, it emphasizes the fact that so much is possible when you explore the limits of your desktop FDM 3D printer, without spending thousands on an upgrade. And you’d be surprised to learn how many of these alternative filaments have come out of the mind and hands of German inventor and filament specialist Kai Parthy. Though his repertoire is extensive by now, Kai is showing no signs of stopping down and has just revealed REFLECT-o-LAY filament, that essentially mimics the reflective properties of traffic signs, safety jackets and bike reflectors.

Kai Parthy, of course, knows his filaments. Among the vast range of filaments to come from his workshop, you can find materials such as the LayWoo-D3 wood filament (and recently the LAYWOOD-FLEX version), the flexible BENDLAY flex filament, the wax-like MOLDLAY and even the sponge-like LAYFOMM. Just in December 2015, he even revealed the shoe sole mimicking SOLAY filament. In short, if you are in need of materials with unusual properties, there’s a serious chance you can find it in Kai’s repertoire.

But his latest creation, which has just left the laboratory stage, is no less remarkable than its predecessors. It is perhaps best illustrated by Kai’s reproduction of the Beatles’ iconic silhouette of their Abbey Road album cover. Just a regular gray when seen in normal light, they suddenly become bright white when another light shines on them. Perfect for fun 3D printing projects like sunglasses, but also for functional fashion accessories like sewn-on patches, safety gadgets for bikers or joggers – even for laser reflective position or marking points for big distances.

As Kai explains, it actually relies on the retro-reflection principle. “The filament is flexible and filled with millions of reflective pigments. This pigments occur as little dots out of the outer face of filament and of course after printing. They send incoming light back,” he explains. “In a darkened room you will be totally surprised by this effect. This retro-reflective effect you known from traffic sign foils, reflective vests, screen printing colors or reflective spray-paints.”

As you can see in the clip below, this is actually brilliantly shown by his Beatles tribute (now with the cyclist who was removed from the original picture), but Kai also sees it as a brilliant experimental material for new cars, for instance. “they will ‘glow’ when lighted up by other light beams at road or highways,” he speculates. Interestingly enough, he even turned the material into a spray that you can use to paint your bike or clothing. If you happen to be interested in his Abbey Road tribute, you can find the STL files on Thingiverse here.

The only downside is that the filament is not available yet: it is patent pending, with licenses for other manufacturing forthcoming. “[In] small amounts I will make it available for fashion and mobility designers also to other researchers,” he says. The initial version is a 3.0 mm flexible filament, that is very easy to 3D print at 200 degrees. “[I’m] not sure if a 1.7 mm will come later – but you know, that flexible filaments with 1.75mms are not as easy to feed into a hotend,” he adds. In the meantime, why not try one of his other amazing filaments?

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

 

 

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