Here is a good overview by Tom Larkin of 3D Lab’s work in achieving 3D printing quality. It’s a very good document and should be worth your time to review it. What you are going to be working with is a high-resolution plastic model you will design on your own, but what you’ll be printing is a plastic filament that is very hard to detect during printing due to the way the printer works. The filament comes from a very soft and smooth plastic and comes with a very high shrinkage rate – a very important quality.
How is the filament manufactured?
Each filament goes from the manufacturer to the printer via a very fast and reliable pipeline, which will have very little variation over the years. As an example, from our 3D printing partners in Germany, there is one filament from their company known as ABS which is typically produced in about five and a half days from batch to batch, and this can be checked with a temperature gauge. Other examples of 3D filament such as PLA are produced in much slower and more variable processes with lots of variability over the years. Most 3D printing suppliers will use the more standardized and more consistent process from one manufacturer to the next.
The filament will be heated into solid phase via a heat source and then cooled using an air source via a cooling fan. While this process might seem like very fast, this is a very slow process which only takes around an hour to complete.
We will then apply a chemical lubricant, an epoxy resin that will adhere to the filament, or a thermoplastic that adheres onto the filament to help hold it in place with the high shrinkage. The whole process of printing a 3D model over the years is very complicated and takes a great deal of coordination among many different people and companies, but we hope that through this process we will provide you with a high quality and durable filament that will fit well in any 3D printer system from very expensive (expensive plastic resin like polyamide, etc) to less expensive options such as ABS, with little variation in quality at all over the years.
We have spent the last several years working with over a dozen companies and many of those companies produce both ABS and PLA filament. We are working closely with all of our suppliers to ensure that all of the quality processes that we have described are the same for every single filament that they manufacture that supports our goal of 3D printed prints.
Why is there such a need for a quality filament?
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