Getting started with extruding your material
Are you in the mood to extrude? The following steps will take you through the whole extrusion journey, with crucial tips and warnings, so that you can use your Filament Maker to produce good quality filament of your own materials.
🚀 Ready to start extruding custom materials?
Each of the following steps is crucial when experimenting with any new material.
✉️ If you need any assistance, please reach out to the firstname.lastname@example.org. Our material specialists will guide you on your materials journey!
1. Select your custom material
Check out this page for more tips: Material selection guide
- It is essential to know if the material you chose is suitable for processing on the Filament Maker. For example, it can be quite tricky to extrude filament using a material with a very low viscosity. Very often, the only way to find out whether a material can be processed into filament is to try out. Of course, you also want the right material properties suitable for your application, but keeping track of these properties after extrusion and printing is a whole other complex and interesting topic.
- Here, as always, it is wiser to start small. For example, if you want to process ABS, filled with as much steel powder as possible, then it is a good idea to master that virgin grade of ABS first, and really understand its behavior, then add 2% of steel, then 5%, 10%, 20%,… Feeding a 70%-filled blend straight away in the Filament Maker with random settings is a guaranteed (maybe irreversible) clog.
- Please, contact our material experts at email@example.com, for any questions about your materials or process. They have worked with many polymers such as: PLA, ABS, PC, PCL, PA6, PA12, PA66, PET, PETG, PEEK, PEKK, PAEK, PEI, PPS, PPSU, PP, PET, PET-G, HDPE, LDPE, TPU, TPE, PVA, TPV, PS and a lot more. They are, of course, more than happy to share their insights with you.
2. Pre-processing: Drying
- If a material is not handled well before extrusion, you might not be able to achieve the desired results. Most polymers are hygroscopic, which means that they absorb moisture from the air. It is necessary to remove moisture from your materials before you start extruding, as moisture degrades the quality of your filament.
- Most materials should be pre-dried. Drying can be done using our AIRID Polymer Dryer or your own drying solution.
3. Preparing the extrusion test
- Having a plan of approach before even putting the material inside your extruder, is key. Applying a structured approach to your material experiments can significantly increase the chance of success. By performing a bit of research or just simply asking for some tips, can prevent many complications.
- Usually, all necessary data is on the materials’ technical datasheet. E.g. to find out if you need a transition material to reach above your materials’ melting point as mentioned in the datasheet.
- Read as many articles as possible on our support platform, or ask our materials team at firstname.lastname@example.org for tips and tricks on your material.
4. Transitioning material
- It is necessary to use transition material to start extruding high-temperature material. This is because impossible to directly extrude a high-temperature material if a low-temperature material is still inside the extruder. This is because as soon as you reach the high temperatures, the low-temperature material has already burnt. It is also impossible to completely empty the extruder, and there always is material left unless you push it out with new material. This is why you need a transitioning material, to be able to transition between materials that have very different processing temperatures as illustrated below:
- The transition above from material A to B is done with a transition material that overlaps with the processing temperatures of material A and B. In some cases where you cannot find a material that overlaps with both material A and B, you might even need to use two transitioning steps with two different materials. Suitable transitioning materials are HDPE, Devoclean Mid Temp, and Devoclean High Temp.
5. Starting temperature
- Do not use the presets that are included in the firmware !
- Getting the right starting temperature is essential to avoid time-consuming experiments and complications with the machine. For example, if the material is introduced at too low temperatures, there might be unmelted particles in the filament. The high pressure might even push out the nozzle, which means more down-time because then the nozzle has to be replaced.
- The right way to set the temperatures for a newly introduced material is by setting all heaters 10% above the materials’ melting temperature (as mentioned in the datasheet). This way, you will often guarantee a proper output flow of material from the extruder. From this point, you can gradually decrease temperatures until you find the right temperature range.
6. Finding the optimal settings
This process can be time-consuming, but we are here to help.
Just like with any 3D-printer, you have to find the right settings for your material before you can get started making the desired product with it. The Filament Maker is a bit more complicated since more parameters influence the outcome. Every material, every specific grade, behaves differently and needs different machine settings.
Melting the material is often easy, but it is only the firt step! In order to achieve the desired quality, the pressure inside the barrel has to be controlled.
- Log the machine during the experiment with our new DevoVision application.
The best method to find the right settings is to experiment following a proper procedure:
- Start about 10-20% (all four heaters) above the melting point of the material, or at the maximum recommended typical processing temperature.
- 5.0RPM is a good speed by default.
- As soon as you get a flow, add some cooling (the goal is to solidify the material enough and place it in the puller, so the sensor can start reading the thickness).
- Wait until the puller stabilizes around the target diameter for at least 10-20min, adjust the temperatures (decrease them by 5°C), and iterate.
- In a nutshell, you should decrease by 5°C, wait, decrease, wait,… until you find a ‘sweet spot’, where the diameter is quite consistent.
- Adjust the RPM (usually between 3.0 and 6.0). Find what RPM gives a more stable flow.
- During the whole experiment, feel free to adjust the fan cooling (usually between 10% and 80%).
- The final step is the fine-tuning: start changing the temperature of each heater individually (5°C by 5°C, wait,…).
- Document and keep track of all your attempts, so if they worked out well, you could apply the same techniques for other materials.
- If you would like to learn the extrusion process hands-on, you can always book our extrusion training!
7. Spooling the filament
- Spooling is an essential part because if a spool is not neat, this can cause entanglements and issues during 3D-printing of the filament. Also, if the spooling mechanism is not set right, it can influence the filament quality. If for example, the winder is set too tight, this can overstretch the filament.
- Enter the dimensions of your spool in the machine’s settings menu (by default, the set dimensions correspond to our spools from 3devo.
- Go to Main menu > Spooling > Start spooling ; then the spooling wizard will guide you through the manual steps.
8. Clean the machine
- Most materials need to be purged out of the extruder after every test run. This is because many materials degrade and harden in the system. This makes it very difficult to use the machine the next time. Also, there always is some residue/ agglomeration inside the machine, which degrades the machines’ performances.
- Purge the machine after every use to maintain good extrusion performances. This is extruding a sort of cleaning material, to get rid of all of the previous material. This can be done using purging compounds such as Devoclean (Mid and High Temp), HDPE, or other materials that are suitable for purging.
- Read our filament maker cleaning guide.
“If you want to keep your machine functional, clean, clean, clean!”
9. Practice makes perfect!
- As with anything in life, practice makes perfect (or at least better). Also, for filament extrusion, the same logic applies. Conducting experiments takes time and effort. It is an everlasting educational journey to understand the behavior of your material. As even insignificant aspects have a profound impact on your end result.
- We encourage you to keep exploring! You can start by viewing other articles on our Support Platform, e.g. on how to improve your filament deviation.