Aug 11, 2016 | By Andre
There are a lot of things that have to be considered when going for the perfect 3D print. You need a finely tuned 3D printer on the hardware side and a properly designed 3D model along with slicing software on the digital side. One of the parts of the puzzle that can easily be forgotten, however, is how important the material that is being fed through the 3D printer is.
When it comes to consumer grade FDM 3D printers the most popular materials are PLA and ABS thermoplastics. They are such because, under the proper print conditions, they are reliable, deal well with support structures and are typically resistant to warping while cooling.
This being said, there is always room for new materials that satisfy the needs of different material requirements. So when Japanese materials company Nanodax informed me they were sending over a glasswool reinfornced 3D printer filament that is flexible, reliable and polypropylene-like (important for the production of living hinges), I was eager to give the stuff a go on one of my Replicator 2s.
Officially called GWPP (glass wool filled low CTE PP filament), it was advertised to me as being very reliable (no heated bed necessary), created using a patented low-shrinkage formula and safe to use on any 3D printer that accepts 1.75mm thick filament.
As someone that has experimented with many types of filaments over the years, I can assure you that finding a consistently reliable one that does what it promises without needing to slow the 3D printer to a crawl can be difficult at times. So when I finally unboxed the hand-spooled filament, fed it through my Replicator 2 3D printer, pressed print and noticed immediate peeling from the standard blue painter’s tape surface I thought to myself “here we go again.”
But after a quick email exchange with Nanodax, I quickly learned that I should have been printing directly onto packing tape instead of the blue stuff. So after a quick application of soem clear packing tape I had lying around, I gave it another shot.
With a recommended 3D print temperature of 200 to 270°C, I pretty well just stuck with all the default settings used with PLA plastic printing to start and in no time the filament was sticking firm onto the platform with no observable peeling whatsoever. My enthusiasm for the filament was suddenly on the up and up as I watched layer after layer print with no problems at all.
There was no upward warping on any of the smaller regions of the print which can sometimes occur with materials like ABS (or even PLA when no filament fan is present). There were no harsh smells and all in all everything worked out as advertised. And after over 24 hours worth of printing over the span of my test period, I had no failed prints in any of the conditions I put the material through.
I tried a tricky print that needed support materials to be turned on and it worked flawlessly. As you can see in the photo above, it built and was peeled off incredibly easy. A 10 hour print using the high resolution 100 micron setting finished without a hitch and my living hinge test file printed and indeed was able to open and close easily and repeatedly without any obvious sign of material strain or deterioration (as seen in the below video).
Getting a little bit into the technical elements here, a 0.5mm nozzle is recommended (mine was 0.4mm) because it is said the smaller nozzle size would have a higher chance of clogging. I took my chance and didn’t see any evidence of particles getting stuck anywhere. Additionally, the GWPP filament isn’t likely to enlarge the nozzle with extended use which can happen with some carbon fibre filaments so that’s certainly a plus.
From a finishing perspective, the little information pamphlet I received suggested an extruder fan wasn’t needed (I had one) and that chemicals for smoothing purposes (such as acetone) won’t work. This being said, polypropylene surfacer and glue work well if you require either for completing your 3D printed parts.
In the end, I am very impressed with the reliability and results of the 3D printed pieces. The little bit of flex reminds me of what slightly flexible filaments in the past (such as Makerbot’s Flexible and Taulman’s T-Lyne for example) promised but never fully delivered on. I feel a little strange by recommending the material so favorably considering this is my very first filament review but it’s true and I do.
If you're looking for a new material to add to your collection I’d keep an eye on Nanodax’s glass wool filament. While still not available for purchase, the company is making the rounds at conferences and is expecting to sell the material to consumers in late 2016.
Posted in 3D Printing Materials
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