Would be interesting to get a little dialog going on thoughts about filaments being offered and/or in the works, utilizing more “alternative” / non plastic / ABS choices and solutions. So please chime in if you have any opinions and/or experiences with such materials; and perhaps predictions or any pros
vs cons of subsequent future “alternative” offerings?
i.e., the like of choices featured in this recent article:
I’m going to kick the discussion off, by weighing in with a few perspectives I currently lean towards on the matter. Keeping in mind, I like to remain open minded; therefore, I’m always eager for expanded, even contrary opinions.
Personally, I get real curious at the opportunities and possibilities of new innovative materials… However, I’m not sure how innovative some of these filament material alternatives truly are?
When it comes to dreaming up a new, possibly more organic choice, It seems super tiny particles or fibers of just about anything will due; as long as a proper ratio of (a melt-able/mold-able) “binder” is included. Almost as if the “alternative” material is simply becoming the pigment and a bit of bulk for what is essentially extruded “binder”. The binder then becomes the true key ingredient, and in essence provides the properties necessary for the build process to be successful. True? …or False?
It seems the key is to pulverize the new materials being combined with the binder to the point that it’s origins have as little impact on the results as possible. With this in mind you could layer & cure some carbon fiber; then pulverize it into dust, mix it with some binder; melt that into the right diameter, spool it up, and sell it as “carbon fiber filament”. However, it wouldn’t look like carbon fiber, act like carbon fiber, or really any longer serve in any way as carbon fiber; other than it would be black, and some of the volume of the filament would be comprised of the powdered remains of a once useful material.
(And in the case of this “wood” filament mentioned in the linked article: It isn’t really the wood particles inclusion which allow you to be able, “After printing… cut, grind and paint your creations similar as you can do with wooden objects.” After all, this is really true of any 3D printed, final product, if it was printed with a source of good rigid material.)
With this in mind I tend to feel it’s best to stick with materials which inherently require as little “binder” as possible in order to provide a cohesive end result. In other words, substances which by their very nature (when sourced from their most recent state) offer the properties (melting temps, rigidity, translucency, etc.) which already serve viably in the 3D Printing process.
I know it is funny to say anything as artificial as plastic would offer a “natural” property. The point is, such readily available, recycled resource, have already been manufactured with natural properties which serve Fused Deposition Modeling (or FDM) applications quite well. And we throw tons of it away every day!
As a result, it just seems it would always serve as a “best practice” in filament development to utilize readily available, recycled, non-binder dependent materials, which would otherwise have a rather useless application in any other markets. (Such as avoiding the utilization of products which could instead be burned as a non-toxic fuel; or materials which have natural aesthetic and structural values or strengths outside of being turned to powder and/or melted down and reconstituted.)
I love the idea of prototyping products that have the look of wood. But in all honesty, just being brown, and perhaps smelling like it, doesn’t really hit that nail on the head. Seems, mixing a brown and black via a dual print head, might serve to create some overall grain effects which would get much MUCH closer to the goal. I’m sure I’m missing the mark, on many potential advantages of pulverized alternatives codependent on binders for FDM applications. So let me have it…
(For instance, perhaps a Metal, Selective Laser Sintering (or SLS) solution, would actually carry a similar weight to a metal print. But I highly doubt it could be polished to resemble the same finish, if it were in turn “bound” with something able to melt at a temp similar to plastic or ABS.)
What are your thoughts?