When 3D printing objects with a particular focus, one may think long and hard about which printer and filament would be ideal for their project. Higher quality 3D printers and sturdier print material can readily be invested in, but we still know very little about how external factors such as color, print speed, extrusion temperature, and even age effect the outcome of these additively manufactured objects. Thanks to the latest experiments conducted by print material specialists 3D Matter, we now have a much better idea of how these factors of function and environment can be altered to make for a more high-quality print. Studying the four aforementioned influences of FDM 3D printing with PLA material, 3D Matter is figuring out how each of these factors influence the max stress, elongation at break, and rigidity of manufactured parts.
The experimentation was started by testing the influence that filament color has on these various mechanical properties. 3D Matter used a Colido v2.0 printer to print in seven different colored PLA/PHA blended materials made by Colorfabb. The results showed that, although the gray filament could handle slightly more max stress than the others, the difference is so minuscule that it can be inferred that the pigment of the material doesn’t influence these results. Rather it is likely due to the sample size of the tested specimen, a standard traction specimen. 3D Matter has decidedly stated that the minor differences between colors can be attributed to the presence of recycled material in the filament, the discrepancy between batches, and the specific PLA/PHA blend that can vary in Colorfabb’s print material. This ultimately proves that the color of the print material has little to no effect of either the mechanical or visual aspects of the specimen.
Similar to the color experiment, 3D Matter also found that the extrusion temperature has little influence on the mechanical performance of the specimen as well. They tested three of these specimens at an extrusion temperature of 200, 210, 220, and 240 degrees Celsius, and came to find that these differences in temperature did not truly effect the mechanical quality of what was printed. In regards to visual quality however, it was found that the ‘sweet spot’ for temperature extrusion seems to rest right around the 220 mark, at least for the filament used. The quality of the specimen hits right around 100% when the extrusion temperature is set at 220, about 15% higher quality than when it’s printed at the low of 200 degrees or the high of 250 degrees, showing that the specimens extrusion temperature does, in fact, affect the visual outcome even though it has little influence on mechanics. This, 3D Matter points out, is dependent on the specific filament being used. In this case, the sweet spot was found for ColorFabb filaments, but the temperature might different for other brands.
The next factor tested was the various print speeds used in typical desktop printing, which was performed by printing four specimens at 30, 60, 90, and 120 mm/s on the Colido v2.0. Mechanically, it was discovered that, by increasing the print speed, it seemed that the max stress that the specimen could handle was increased. 3D Matter hypothesized that this was likely the case due to the faster print speed giving the specimen less time to cool down, in turn improving the bond and strength in between the layers of the 3D printed specimen. Visually, however, slower print speed encouraged a higher quality outcome, although the time saved by printing at higher speeds may be worth the sacrifice for some makers. It can be said with confidence that a slower print speed is necessary when dealing with attempting a high-quality production.
Lastly, 3D Matter tested the effects that aging has on their PLA owl specimen. PLA is already a biodegradable material, so it was assumed that the specimen would likely lose some mechanical strength as time went on. By performing a short-term and mid-term aging experiment, 3D Matter was able to find that the material becomes more bonded together and stronger over the first few days, and, as the specimen sat in room temperature for two months, it surprisingly remained mechanically sturdy and sound. Yet, it is still believed that the durability of these aged specimens would inevitably lessen over a longer time period then two months, stating that longer term experimentation must be done to find out when the aging process begins to effect the specimen’s quality.
All in all, 3D Matter has come to find that these external influences force little change upon 3D printing parameters of visual quality and mechanics. Like the color of the material, they either have no impact at all, or like printing speed, there is a minor influence on the performance and outcome of the specimen. Although there are more and more parameters to be tested over time, 3D Matter is doing a splendid job informing an increasingly 3D printing friendly world about how each factor of the process will (or won’t) effect the outcome of what you are printing. You can read 3D Matter’s complete report here.