3D printer manufacturer Flashforge has announced the launch of its first-ever Filament Drying Station.
Designed to help unlock ‘guaranteed’ part quality, the new unit allows users to easily store moisture-sensitive materials, in a way that protects them from humidity and degradation. When used with the firm’s Creator 4 3D printer, the station is said to ensure the stability of any filaments used throughout the entire workflow, thus allowing manufacturers to avoid product defects and maximize their uptime.
Moving into the professional space
Since it was founded in 2011, Flashforge has established a strong system portfolio, packed with features designed to meet the varying needs of its different users. While its lineup started with maker-friendly machines like the Adventurer 3 and Adventurer 4, the firm has steadily built out its offering to include more capable 3D printers, including the dual-extrusion Creator Max 2 and Creator Pro 2.
As of 2021, the company has also begun to address the professional market with higher-end systems such as the Creator 3, Creator 3 Pro and Creator 4. The nozzles on each of these units feature a sensor which allows for automatic bed leveling, and some are even able to process materials at temperatures of up to 360℃. That being said, the latter is available in the Creator 4-F, Creator 4-A and Creator 4-S iterations, with each boasting their own set of extruders and individual material compatibility.
The base model features a 265℃ nozzle temperature, enabling it to process filaments like TPU and TPE, while the 4-A offers support for more engineering-grade materials such as PC, PA and PP, and the 4-S can print carbon fiber composites.
However, despite their different setups, each version of the system is fitted with the same 400mm x 350mm x 500mm build volume and gantry-style layout. As a result, all the Creator 4s allow for part production using two printheads simultaneously, effectively doubling their throughput potential, and providing them with series manufacturing capabilities.
In the spirit of meeting the more demanding needs of its professional users, the firm has now also launched a Filament Drying Station, that’s said to turn the Creator 4 into a ‘one-stop solution’ for 3D printing workshops and enterprises everywhere.
The necessity of filament storage
As anyone with a working knowledge of Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printing will tell you, most plastic filaments are highly-hygroscopic, meaning that they’re prone to absorbing ambient moisture. When this happens, even if only a small amount of moisture sets into the material, the impact on the characteristics of resulting parts can be significant.
Not only can printing damp filament cause surface quality defects to appear, but it can also interfere with the material’s properties, potentially making resulting parts unfit for end-usage. In an effort to demonstrate just how problematic filament humidity is, Flashforge recently conducted a study comparing the performance of components produced via wet, dry, annealed and unannealed materials.
During the evaluation, the firm exposed PVA, PA, PACF and TPU filaments to an environmental humidity level of 25%, causing them to result in poor-surface quality prints, while those stored at levels of 10% or less performed perfectly well.
Likewise, Flashforge found that by annealing PA-based materials such as PA, PAHT and PA-CF, it was able significantly improve their strength, and help them maintain a high level of toughness. Later, the study also revealed that drying PAHT and PACF raised their impact resistance and tensile strength by as much as 100% and 44% respectively, proving the benefits of filament heating definitively.
Flashforge’s first drying station
The Flashforge solution to this moisture problem, which it calls “the great enemy of 3D printing,” comes in the shape of its new Filament Drying Station. Built to fit seamlessly with the Creator 4, the multifunctional unit features a movable draw, in which users can store their filament, safe in the knowledge that it’ll be in optimal condition once needed.
Powered by the firm’s Intelligent Drying Technology, the station is capable of heating materials to temperatures of up to 120℃, making it ideal for drying those that have absorbed moisture, and restoring their properties. The unit also features a silica gel desiccant, which when discharged through hot air circulation around the shelf, works to ensure that filaments remain dry even during long-term storage.
Weighing in at 120 kilograms, the system itself is substantial enough to hold the weight of the Creator 4, and can comfortably be used as a base for the 3D printer. In terms of capacity, the unit’s drawer is large enough to hold six one-kilo rolls or two 2.5-kilo rolls of filament as well, and boasts compatibility with a variety of moisture-sensitive materials.
Finally, when it comes to usability, the drying station comes fitted with a 4.3-inch touch screen that’s programmable in six different languages, which should be more than sufficient for everyday use. The system also ships with preset drying parameters for several different material types, thus according to Flashforge, it allows adopters “not to worry about filament drying, and let the station do the work.”
Technical specifications and pricing
Below are the technical specifications for the Flashforge Filament Drying Station. Those interested in purchasing the system can find out more and request a quote directly via the company’s website.
|840 (X) x 675 (Y) x 600 (Z) mm（with casters）
|4.3-inch touch screen
|Maximum drying temperature
|Internal storage size
|500 x 375 x 200 (W x D x H)
|980 x 780 x 830cm
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Featured image shows Flashforge’s Creator 4 sitting on its new Filament Drying Station. Image via Flashforge.