Lessons learned making premium 3D printer material at A1 Filament

As previously reported on 3D Printing Industry, A1 Filament has launched a Kickstarter to provide premium feedstock for FDM/FFF 3D printers around the globe. Material consistency is the company’s USP, for which A1 promises to deliver quality, diameter and color that stays the same from one batch to another.

Speaking with the company’s co-founder Bennett Little, we hear about the lessons learned in the 6 year journey taken to make “100% guaranteed” spools tipped to be “50% better than the best precision filament available in PLA or ABS today.”

Qualities of A1 Filament as listed on company's Kickstarter. Screenshot via  Ken Aiken
Qualities of A1 Filament as listed on company’s Kickstarter. Screenshot via Ken Aiken

Mass production of ABS and PLA

Development of premium A1 Filament started in 2011 with an assessment of 3D printer materials available on the market. As a tough, easily machinable plastic, ABS was the standard material, but as Little explains,

…printing with ABS is not easy – the printer has to be capable of achieving the higher and non-fluctuating temperature required for ABS and the user also needs a stable work area vis-à-vis temperature, airflow, and moisture, otherwise the produced prints are going to warp, as well as have inherent weakness in the layering.

After this, manufacturers started looking to PLA. As a material based in corn starch exhibiting a lower melting point than ABS, PLA was much easier to use in a 3D printer. For Little this is when the “dam was opened” for manufacturers, leading to a range of cheap materials on the market.

A higher standard

In testing the range of materials that became available to consumers, Little and his team found that “no one was making a ‘constant’ product,”

3D printed objects made using A1 Filament prototype material. Photo via A1 Filament on Kickstarter
3D printed objects made using A1 Filament prototype material. Photo via A1 Filament on Kickstarter

Little continues,

no one had acceptable fabricating control regarding the mean deviation of diameters (so as to prevent clogging of the nozzle and ‘blotching’), very few had anything even remotely resembling a professional production facility, and no one was even attempting to address the issue of constancy in colours.

The solution now promised by A1 Filament is a range of PLA and ABS available as 1.75mm and 3.0mm sizes, in 12 colors faithful to the Pantone spectrum. The materials have been designed to reduce clogging that causes when hot plastic is extruded through the nozzle, and claims to be smoother than others on the market.

PLA and ABS from A1 Filament is available here on Kickstarter.

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Featured image: Making of A1 Filament. Via A1 Filament on Kickstarter.