5 Reasons Why 3D Printing Filament is Needed For 3D Printer
If you are about to buy a 3D printer (or just got one), there is one term you need to be familiar with – a filament. And no, we are not talking about the filament present in a lightbulb.
A 3D printing filament is the most important component of any 3D print apart from the printer itself. But what exactly is a filament? How does it work? And why does a 3D printer need a filament? Here are the answers to all your questions.
What is a 3D Printing Filament?
Filaments are basically reels of 3D printing material. They are fed into an extruder, which pushes the plastic threads through a heated nozzle. The resulting ‘goop’ is put down in layers, creating your 3D print.
3D printing filaments are thus composed of materials that are solid at room temperature and melt when the heat is applied. Pure metals are seldom used, as the temperatures required to melt them are too high. Then there are materials like paper or pure wood, which start burning when heated. This makes them unusable too.
All filaments are thus essentially thermoplastics. The durability and the quality differ from polymer to polymer, ranging from the standard PLA to the super-strong Carbon Fiber. Some are even hybrids, with materials like wood or metal mixed in them.
1# To Print With An FDM Printer
If you have a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printer then filaments are the only type of material you can use. This should go without saying, but you cannot just push any material into your printer and expect it to work.
Filaments aren’t just materials arranged in thin threads. They are specially treated to have a uniform density and to melt at reasonable temperatures. Using anything else can clog up your extruder’s nozzles or even damage your printer.
And other materials like resins aren’t even solid, to begin with. No, the only materials that are usable with an FDM printer are filaments.
2# To Keep The Printing Costs Low
Of all the different types of materials out there, 3D printing filaments are the cheapest. Be it the humble PLA or the tough ABS, a filament costs much less than the resin used in an SLA printer.
This cost-saving becomes very important if you need to print objects in bulk. When you are printing dozens of copies of a product to sell online, using filaments is the most economical option.
Even if you are not a businessman, a filament might be your best bet. Especially for beginners, the costs of 3D printing can start racking up quickly on experiments and test prints. Filaments offer a range of options, letting you use cheap materials for prototypes and switch to something better for end products.
3# To Print With a Wide Variety Of Materials
No other 3D printing material has as many options as filaments. Where resins come in just two main categories (standard resins and tough resins), there are dozens of filaments in the market. Each filament has its own advantages, allowing you to choose the best material for each task.
PLA, for example, is the easiest-to-use material, and also the cheapest. It is thus perfect for messing around with or creating prototypes.
Then there are filaments like ABS or PETG, which are known for their durability and strength. When you are looking for a material to print long-lasting objects, these are the filaments for you.
Some filaments even blend unusual materials like wood or metal, which cannot be used otherwise. Carbon fiber composites are often used for creating industrial-strength machinery parts.
Thus if you are looking for versatility, filaments are the way to go.
4# For Creating Colorful Prints
Pigmented resins are rare and expensive. For the most part, the resins used in SLA printers churn out grey or white products. While you can always paint over the objects, wouldn’t it be better if you could just use colored materials instead?
That is where filaments come in. Most filament materials are just plastics and thus come in many different colors. Red, yellow, green, blue – you can create prints in every color you want, not just greys and whites.
As switching filaments is quite easy, you can use different colors for printing different objects. And the pigments used to go beyond the surface, so don’t worry about the color ‘chipping away’ with age, either.
But what if you want to use multiple colors in the same print? Is that possible?
In short, yes. More on that in the next section.
5# To Use Multiple Materials
A common question asked by 3D printing beginners is how to use multiple materials in the same print. Normally this is not possible. The process used in SLA or SLS printers cannot accommodate multiple materials at once.
FDM printers, on the other hand, do have that option. A single extruder can only use one filament at a time, but with multiple extruders, more filaments can be used.
While entry-level models seldom sport more than one extruder, some of the better models have two extruders working in tandem. This lets you print with two filaments at once, assigning different parts of the model to each material.
A common use case of this technique is to create multicolor prints. Normally, this would require you to paint the final product. But by utilizing multiple materials simultaneously, you can create multicolor prints directly.
3D printing filaments are the most versatile printing materials out there. The sheer variety of options available to you make filaments suitable for every use case.
While resins are limited to degrees of toughness, filaments offer far more advantages. Electrical insulation, heat resistance, chemical resistance, whatever type of toughness you are looking for there is a filament for it.
On top of that, you get more aesthetic options too. From the same material in different colors to substances that print to a smooth finish (PETG), filaments can create some great-looking prints with little effort.
So what are you waiting for? Grab some good filaments and start printing your ideas today.