Another company I really wanted to meet with while in Buenos Aires is Printalot, possibly the largest 3D printing filament manufacturer in Argentina and Spanish-speaking South America. As with companies that I was already familiar with – such as Eumakers and TreedDFilaments in Italy – they come from decades of experience in plastic extrusion. This time Printalot’s parent company, Felrro, was founded on the extrusion of giant, copper-filled plastic cables.
This means that they have extensive experience in plastic materials and they offer great materials at very affordable prices. ABS and PLA run for as little as $14 per kilo for resellers and about $23/kg for a single spool to the public. They are available in 12 to 16 different colors and they use different colored spools to differentiate between materials. The ABS spool is black, PLA is blue, and flexible TPU, which is also available in an impressive selection of 16 colors (including several translucent ones), is red.
This characterization of the different materials is the result of a carefully planned evolution. In the beginning, the materials were available with no spool at all, then they moved on to a basic wooden spool. After that, Printalot introduced plastic spools with brown cardboard box packaging. Finally, it just moved to the new and colorful packaging – which doubles as a spool holder (with the addition of a small 3D printed piece) – with spool color differentiation. Now, Printalot units truly look like finished and professional qualitative products and they are ready to reach the global markets.
Mariano Scian and Mariano Perez are in charge of the running the Printalot division and intend to scale up production in order to meet demand in Argentina, as well as in markets in South America and beyond. In such a global industry, there is not reason why they shouldn’t. That is why they have internally developed a new, extra-large extrusion line which has the capability of producing large quantities of material.
“Right now, we have just completed the extrusion of a very large pellet shipment, so we are working on some optimization features on our extrusion line,” says Mariano Scian. “Our extrusion capabilities, however, can be easily and rapidly scaled up since we can easily adopt our advanced cable extrusion systems. Currently one machine is able to meet demand. Once we begin exporting to new markets, we can rapidly scale up production.”
Since cable extrusion is actually a more complex process than filament extrusion, as it also requires the insertion of the copper wire and the writing of code on the cable’s exterior surface, Printalot is confident that it can assure excellent consistency and dimensional stability in all its filament products. “We have a system that digitally controls the diameter’s stability continuously and regulates the speed of extrusion,” says Mariano Perez, who, as an engineer, is in charge of production processes. “The spooling process is also completely automated through a machine that we have built in-house, building on our experience in cable extrusion processes.” The actual resin mixtures of the filaments were developed in partnership with Guido Palazzo at INTI, the Industrial Technology Institute in Buenos Aires.
First markets targeted for exportation in Latin America are identified in Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico. A successive step could be further into North America and Europe, where the competition is much stronger. Even so, the prices and quality of the material are already competitive. The company is working on a consortium project with INTI and resin manufacturers to develop even more competitive products. We discussed these projects over yet another “amazing parillada”. If Printalot plastics are anywhere as good as Argentinian beef, we have a business here.