Mar. 16, 2015 | By Kira

The options for 3D printing materials seem to be expanding everyday, from 3D printing with chocolate and other foods to realistic-looking wood and rubber-like filaments. Flexible filament is one of the latest innovations to enter the market, allowing makers to twist, bend and stretch their 3D printed objects knowing they will eventually return to their original shapes.

Filiprimante3D, the largest French webstore dedicated to consumables for 3D printers, took note of the ‘small revolution’ made possible by flexible filaments, which so far have primarily been applied to create semi-flexible objects such as tires and shoe soles. Their goal, however was to come up with a new way to use flexible filament that would take advantage of the material’s properties and make modular objects that actually retain the shape you choose to bend/twist/mold them into. Their solution? They had the brilliantly simple idea of inserting a thin metal rod along the length of the 3D print that is supple enough to bend, but strong enough to stay in place.

According to Makezine, the primary requirement for printing with flexibles is an extruder with a direct path that keeps the filament firmly in place from the time it leaves the drive gear until it enters the barrel of the hot end. Otherwise, the 3D printing process is more or less the same as using regular filaments (although the print speed and temperature settings should remain low).

The Filimprimante team thus created their design with a ‘central furrow’ that runs across the entire length of the object, stopping before reaching each end. When it came time to 3D print the model on a standard FFF printer, they stopped the print process right in the middle, inserted the metal rod, and then resumed the print, enclosing the rod once and for all. The end result is a modular object that is at once strong and flexible, with enough give to be reconfigured several times, and just enough structure to hold its shape. In fact, you could think of it as a kind of rubbery, 3D printed pipe cleaner.

The object created by Filimprimante3D was consciously very simple, nothing more than a linear block, however they purposefully designed it as a “proof of concept” that shows a truly new way of using flexible filament. Now, they’ve extended their challenge to the maker community, providing the STL file as a downlaod on Thingiverse in order to see the different kinds of flexible, modular 3D printed objects can be created using their innovative and beautifully simple method.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology


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MarcC wrote at 3/16/2015 4:42:15 PM:

Ever seen a flexicurve ruler?

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