3D Platform (3DP), a global leader in manufacturing large-format, industrial-strength 3D machines, announced the first of its kind collaboration between several industry leading producers of FFF equipment and filament.
The FFF industry has settled on two standard filament sizes, a small size of 1.75 mm and a larger size of 2.85 mm. Virtually all ‘open-market’ filament extruders and machines are designed around these two diameters. There was a period where some companies worked with a different definition of 2.85 mm (e.g. 3.00 mm versus 2.85 mm). This caused problems for consumers because there was not universal compatibility between material and equipment.
End users desire the ability to make larger parts and to do so in a cost effective and timely manner. Some research has been done to allow pellet-fed extruders to be used on FFF machines. To date, the only production machines available with pellet-to-part extruders have print volumes in excess of one cubic meter. The pellet-to-part production process adds many additional process variables that need to be controlled to produce parts with consistent quality.
Also, pellet-fed extruders require additional upstream processing equipment (inspection equipment, material driers, volumetric feeding, etc.) and have higher change-over times than spool-fed extruders. To overcome these obstacles and serve the needs of the market that are best met by spool-fed extruders, the logical next step is to produce spool-fed extruders that use larger diameter filament than what is commercially available today.
In September 2016, 3DP announced the first ‘larger’ diameter spool fed extruder (the HFE900) and displayed a functioning alpha-level unit at IMTS in Chicago, Illinois, USA. This initial extruder was designed around ̃6 mm filament. As 3DP experimented with these larger diameter materials, we discovered that stiffer materials are difficult to manage at 6 mm. For a solution, we developed an extruder that uses an in-between material size of 4.5 mm filament and quietly announced it to select customers at AMUG in March 2017.
As other companies begin to enter the larger diameter filament market, we foresee the possibility of issues for customers and the possibility of history repeating itself as everyone races to develop and announce their own material and extruders. 3D Platform is committed to providing our customers with ‘open-market’ solutions.
In the interest of the FFF customers and industry, we would like to work with other equipment and material manufacturers to develop standards around these larger materials. Since there is no ISO, ASTM, etc. committee that covers these topics, it is up to us to develop the standards ourselves.
As of May 8th, 2017, the following companies have expressed interest in participating in this collaboration project:
Equipment manufacturers, filament producers, standards organizations, universities, or individual experts within this specific sub-set of the Additive Industry are welcome to join this collaborative effort.
3D Platform (3DP)