What is a filament in 3D printing?
A 3D printer filament is a type of printing material used by the FFF type 3D printer. FFF stands for fused filament fabrication. FFF 3D printing is an additive manufacturing (AM) process in which thermoplastic material is pushed through a heated nozzle to create objects layer by layer.
Thermoplastic is the most widely used raw material, and as opposed to powder and liquid resin for other 3D printing technology, the 3D printer filament is produced into one continuous slender plastic thread.
Currently, there are two standards in which filaments are manufactured, 1.75mm radius and a 3mm radius. The 1.75 mm radius filament enjoys a higher market share because of its better printing performance such as extrusion flow consistency.
Consumable FFF printers provide maximum printing temperatures of around 260 Celsius degrees. More advanced filament and printing efficiency require higher capacity from professional FFF printers whose printing temperature can reach 300 Celsius degrees.
3D Pinter filament has a wide scope of applications such as prototyping and light-duty usage. Prototyping is the most common application for which lower mechanical property is required from the material itself. Hence filament is chosen by many enterprises for manufacturing props, jigs and fixtures, toys, assemble parts, and education models. The flexible filament which is especially used in footwear industries due to its rubber-like property is an exception.
The usage of 3D printer filament is increasing significantly as it is used in many industrial applications. More sophisticated, advanced filament solutions are being added, such as composite filament consisting of carbon fiber, glass fiber , ceramic, and even metal powder.
In all 3D printing processes parts are built parts layer-by-layer. Every layer must be printed over some underlining material because new layers cannot be deposited onto thin air.
There is a limit on the angle every printer can produce without the need for support material. For example, if you are using an FDM (fused deposition modelling) and SLA (stereolithography) machine for printing, this angle is approximately 45 degrees, which is the general rule followed for printing slopes or overhangs.
Overhangs are geometric shapes in a 3D model that extend outward. Hence they do not have direct support. A common method used by designers dealing with overhangs is creating support structures.
The objective is to ensure that each successive layer has enough support to build upon. At 45 degrees, there is about 50% contact by one layer with the layer below it, and hence prints well. Having a limit to a model’s overhangs is necessary because layers printed over support structures usually have a rougher surface finish.
Quality is a very important criterion in the manufacture of 3D printer filament though based on its appearance manufacturing may seem easy. A larger variety in radius would result in poor printing performance due to a decrease in surface quality and part accuracy.
Printing performance and quality of results can be affected by various factors like batch consistency, moisture absorption, spool winding, and material purity.
To conclude, various 3D printer filaments are being used based on the types of applications, and newer developments in the field of 3D printing have resulted in wider and increased use of such filaments.