We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
It seems that Proto-pasta is launching another interesting experimental filament – an electrically conductive PLA 3D printer filament. The project was made available on Kickstarter with a goal of just $2500 USD that we expect will soon be reached with the filament expected to be available in March this year. The Proto-pasta Conductive PLA filament should be similar in properties to normal PLA filament, though it is supposed to offer high electrical conductivity – better than other alternative conductive filaments according to the makers of the filament. The conductive 3D printer filament is ideally suited for DIY projects, however the problem with conductive filament that remains is that you are not able to solder components and cables to it – so not way to 3D print a PCB using it. The use of a good and highly conductive (15 ohm-cm) 3D printer filament that is PLA-based like the one coming form Proto-pasta will open the doors for some really creative projects that need electrical conductivity.
BendLay is another alternative filament from Orbi-Tech, the developers of LayBrick and Laywoo-D3 3D printer filaments. By design the BendLay is supposed to be something in between ABS and PLA in terms of properties and is intended to be used where ABS is too hard and flexible PLA is not tight enough, even though the filament is essentially a modified ABS . The BendLay is available in the form of transparent glass-like form only and according to the manufacture is: clear like Polycarbonate, bendable and resilient, high-impact resistant and unbreakable, easier to print than ABS, has no stress whitening by bending, with high interlayer adhesion and is apparently food-safe. It is supposed to be printed between 215° to 240°C and should be printable at high speed offering thermal stability the same as PLA (65 – 70°C). The most significant advantage that the BendLay has is that it is highly bendable without breaking, but is not as flexible as a flexible PLA filament, so it will not break very easy when you bend it as ABS or PLA might, but at the same time it is also not too flexible to be rubber like.
So far it all sounds good, so we have ordered a sample of BendLay filament to try it out. We tested it on out MakerBot Replicator 2 printer, but unfortunately we did not have very good success in printing with BendLay. We did not see the specific requirement for a heated build platform for using with this filament, but apparently it is required to get good printers. We have tried different extrusion temperature from 210 to 250 with both slow and fast printing speeds, but the filament was just not sticking well enough to the build plate. We have properly leveled build plate with 3D blue painters tape on it and when printing with BendLay on it we are seeing that there is slight warping at the edges of smaller objects and trouble with the printed part sticking good enough. So after a few layers we usually get the object detached form the build plate and he print failing, regardless of what settings we have used. People with heated build platform may have more success, but if you don’t have one you might want to stay away from BendLay and save yourself some trouble trying to figure out why you are getting so many failed prints.
The Orbi-Tech LayBrick is another interesting 3D filament that allows you to print models that look and feel like they are made from stone and not from plastic. This 3D printer filament is very similar to the Orbi-Tech LayWoo-d3 that we’ve recently also tested, however instead of wood we have a stone-like effect of the printed models. To be more precise the LayBrick 3D printer filament creates prints that look more like ceramic material when smoother or more like sandstone when the print is rougher, depending on the temperature you use for printing. The filament is apparently made from thermoplastic polymer combined with very fine milled chalk powder. It is apparently designed to be printed with extruder temperatures ranging from about 165°C to above 210°C, but we are going to be testing to see how the different temperature affects the result. The LayBrick filament doe snot require a heated build platform, so it should work on pretty much any standard printer made to work with PLA filament. The thermoplastic used as binding material for the chalk powder should be stable up to about 70 degrees Celsius temperature according to the specifications for the LayBrick, so pretty much the same as for most PLA filaments. Other manufacturer recommendations are to use a layer-thickness from 0.1 mm to 0.5 mm, max infill of 25%, and to wait some time for the material to harden before you remove it from the build platform after the printing is finished.
The LayBrick, similar to the LayWoo-d3 3D printer filament, should also be handled carefully when you load it and unload it to the printing head as it is easier to break than standard PLA,, but unlike the wooden-like material the stone-like one LayBrick did not cause us any jams of the extruder. The fact that we did not have trouble with the filament jamming the extruder is because it seems that the chalk powder is finer than the wood particles and higher temperature does not affect chalk like the wood. When printing our test simple house with LayBrick the temperature range and results turned out to be pretty similar to what we got when using LayWoo-d3, you can see the results from our test prints on the photo above. We have used our MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer using the Standard setting for 0.2 mm layer height and 60 mm/s speed while extruding with temperatures of 160, 180, 200, 230 and 250 degrees Celsius. As you can see on the photo with the printed examples using lower temperatures such as 160 and 180 degrees Celsius the surface looks smoother and the layers are harder to distinguish, going up to 200 degrees produces good results in terms of the look and feel of the printed model. Going for higher temperatures such as 230 (the standard we use for PLA) or even higher up to 250 degrees Celsius results in not so even layers, but that can be used as an advantage and effect should you need to have this kind of effect on purpose.
The Orbi-Tech LayBrick, much like the LayWoo-d3 3D printer filament is an interesting experimental product that when handled properly can help you make some really nice prints should you need a wood-like or stone-like look and feel. These filaments need a little more care when handling and when the print is finished you may want to wait a few minutes for them to harden before you remove them from the print bed. The ability to achieve different look of the printed part when using different temperature when printing can also be quite useful for people that want to play with these, especially for artists that want to make more original and attractive 3D printed materials. We definitely like the results we got and after testing these materials for a bit and now know how to handle then and with what settings to print. LayBrick and LayWoo-d3 filaments however do remain a more niche products that may be great to have if you need the kind of look and feel they provide, but that probably won’t be very often for most people. The price of these filaments is also a bit steep compared to more traditional and widely used materials, so doing large 3D prints may turn out to be pretty expensive, never the less if this is the kind of effect you need for a project there is not much you can do.