May 16, 2016 | By Alec

The majority of the 3D printing community can be roughly divided into two camps: the PLA and the ABS users. Both materials obviously come with significant advantages, but why should we have to choose? Hot-end developers E3D have just unveiled an exciting third option that combines the best of both filaments. Called Edge filament, it’s a modified PET material that is stronger, stiffer and tougher than ABS, but is also as easy to 3D print as PLA. Edge also forms excellent bonds between layers, and between layers and the printbed.

Edge is not exactly the first 3D printer filament by E3D, as they have a webstore filled with different 3D printable polymers – including a wide range of PLA and ABS options. But as the polymer specialists explain, they are working on a new brand called ‘spoolWorks’, which specializes in interesting material properties for users focused on high quality 3D printing. Edge is the first release under this brand, and originated in a need for a more reliable material when E3D was working on the BigBox 3D printer. “We needed a material that could easily be printed reliably time and time again, still achieving the required mechanical and thermal properties for end-use parts,” they explain.

While PLA is easy to 3D print, it doesn’t exactly have those material properties and thermal performance you need for end-parts. While ABS is much tougher and thermally resistant, it’s not easy to 3D print at all. “Particularly large parts will often warp, the thermal contraction of the part can cause parts to split and crack along layers. We also didn’t want to deal with the fumes that would come with printing large volumes of ABS in a print farm,” the E3D team says. Fortunately, there was a third material option. PET has a property window somewhere between PLA and ABS, but even has some other interesting properties.

The E3D team therefore set out to transform PET into a new filament: Edge. It’s most appealing feature is that Edge can be 3D printed at a wide range of temperatures (220 to 260 degrees Celsius), making it suitable for most 3D printers. However, the E3D team has found that 240 degrees (and an 80 degrees print bed) works best. But PET is also very resilient to degradation when heated – one of the reasons why it’s so widely used outside 3D printing. But it also means that keeping filament portions in small nozzles with low flow rates won’t damage the plastic. “Generally it allows for a wide process window of times and temperatures while keeping the behavior material consistent, and massively reducing the buildup of carbonized residues inside your HotEnd,” said Sanjay Mortimer, materials specialist and Commercial Director of E3D.

So why is it hardly used for 3D printing? That’s because it can be quite brittle (like PLA). But through a wealth of additives and modifiers, E3D have managed to make it far tougher than usual, giving it a higher impact strength than ABS, and even making it stiffer. In part, that is realized through excellent bonding properties. For in most cases a material’s strength is only as high as its bonds. While material specialists aren’t exactly sure yet what causes good bonding, inter-molecular attraction is definitely one important feature. PET, as a type of polyester, fortunately stands out in that category.

Density differences between ABS (above) and Edge.

Another significant factor in realizing high strength properties is layer density, and again PET does very well in that regard. As the photos above illustrate, Edge filament packs far denser than ABS, in which the layers remain very visible. “The combination of intermolecular forces creating excellent bonds, and the ability to create parts with higher density and fewer voids certainly seems to translate into a real boost in strength, and Edge forms superb bonds between layers that easily exceed ABS and come close to even rivalling Nylon in producing parts that are strong in all three directions,” said Mortimer.

What’s more, Edge filament perfectly sticks to everything – even the print bed. “This means that with some of the more aggressive bed adhesive sprays Edge can stick so well that it will actually pull off flakes of glass from beds.  Easily avoided, just use glue stick instead,’ they add. “Edge also likes to stick to nozzles a bit more than ABS or PLA, and you can get some build-up on the nozzle, this doesn’t really cause much of a problem but it’s something to be aware of.”

The filament’s viscosity and fluid behavior properties also ensure it produces fantastic overhangs and support structures. “The highly adhesive nature of Edge comes into play here too, because the extruded filament will grab immediately to the material beside it preventing it falling free. Conveniently it just so happens that Polyesters like Edge can be made to have great melt strength and form some really fantastic, tight bridges,” Mortimer adds.

Finally, Edge also looks great and holds colors very well. Being totally clear and inherently shiny, the filament can be filled with just about any type of color. Right now, six industrial colors are available, even in the classic British Racing Green. But rest assured: E3D has already promised to create a wider range of colors, including more sedate and monotone options.

All, in all, Edge seems like a very interesting filament to work with. Just be sure to store it as dry as possible, and Edge could add a whole new dimension to functional or end-product 3D printing. It has certainly changed life in the E3D studio already. “It’s now our primary material we reach for when we want to ‘just make a thing’,” Mortimer says. Being just the first release under spoolWorks, we can clearly expect a lot more from E3D in the near future. If you’re interested, you can find Edge filament in the E3D webstore here at £27.50 (or about $40 USD) per 750g spool.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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scottm wrote at 5/16/2016 1:14:58 PM:

PET, not exactly a new thing. Hatchbox has had PETG out for some time. works great.

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