It’s no news that nowadays 3D printers have a wide range of uses: from different industry sectors to everyday household use. 3D printing is a complex process and takes time, it’s not a device which you can play and go, however the investment is quite worthy. The maintenance of 3D printers should be carried out carefully in order to not only ensure the printer’s longevity, but also to get the desired results.
Whether you are looking to buy a 3D printer, or are already an owner of one, this guide will come in handy for you when it comes to the filament storage of your printer. 3D printers UK represent a complex technology which comes with a jargon that you might be unfamiliar with as a newbie. So, let’s first discuss some 3D printing terminology to make things clearer and more comprehensible for you:
- Filament: A very important part of 3D printers, which is also the topic of discussion today, filament is a type of material, usually plastic, manufactured into a long strand resembling a cable. In other words, it is a thermoplastic feedstock for 3D printers with fused deposition modelling.
- Extruder: This is where the material is melted.
- Nozzle: Nozzle refers to the hole from where the melted filament comes out.
- Bed: The 3D printed object is produced on the surface of the bed.
- Heated Bed: This component provides better adhesion through heating.
- Stepper Motor: The motor moves the different parts of the 3D printer.
- RepRap: Refers to an open source 3D printer movement.
- G-code: An instruction guide for a machine (not only 3D printers) explaining every movement needed to manufacture a part.
- Carriage: The part where the extruder is placed.
Now that we talked you through the basic terms of 3D printing, let’s move on to discussing the filament storage options.
Why Should You Care about Filament Storing?
Incorrect or poor filament storage can cause a number of issues in the performance of your 3D printer. As a common rule, 3D printing filaments are polymers which means they can be broken down during hydrolysis. The latter refers to the process where a water molecule breaks one or more chemical bonds. When moisture from the air touches your filaments as a result of poor storage, the polymer breaks down as it’s heated during extrusion, thus weakening the filament.
Objects printed with this wet filament will surely not look as polished and nice as you expect them to. Moreover, wet filament requires a higher temperature for extrusion. Such filament materials as nylon, polycarbonate and copolyester are prone to undergoing hydrolysis when moisture gets in contact with them followed by heating.
Keep in mind that filaments can absorb moisture very easily, so your goal with proper storage is to help them avoid contact with humidity. This said, it’s high time to have a look at the many different ways we suggest using to enable a dry environment for your 3D printing filaments. We have chosen the most practical, inexpensive and easy-to-use options.
Simple as that, buying high-quality vacuum bags to store your filaments in will guarantee an air-free and dry environment for them. Keep in mind to acquire bags that come with:
- A vacuum valve which will suck the air out.
- A double-zipper mechanism to achieve maximum protection from humid air.
A single vacuum bag can fit nearly four filament spools. Additionally, a 20-dollar budget is all you need to buy a packet of six vacuum bags.
Note: Vacuum bags can still let some moisture in. Despite the fact that the amount of moisture is close to non-existent, we recommend using silica gel beads to ensure there is absolutely none left inside the bags. All it will take you is placing the silica beads packets inside the vacuum bags with the filament.
Also, have some filament clips at hand. The endpoints of filaments are sharp and these clips will prevent them from tearing your vacuum bags.
Dry boxes are another great way of storing your filaments in as they also provide a dry environment. This technology functions via electronic dehumidifiers that regularly dehumidify the inside of the box. The result is a dry and humid air-poof environment for your filaments.
These are transparent boxes with sealed lids. The latter do not let any moisture reach you filaments. The transparency is another advantageous feature for you, allowing you to know what filament is inside which box. Quite practical, isn’t it?
Try to buy a storage box which can fit in several spools of at least 20cm in diameter. Usually, the good standard is a storage box with 40cm in length and 30cm in width.
The only problem with a storage box is the amount of moisture that can remain inside it after you have placed the filament in. However, there is an easy solution to this as well – all you need is a dehumidifier.
Best dehumidifiers don’t require any batteries or cords for performance. Additionally, they are totally renewable. The renewal process is also quite simple – plug the dehumidifier into a power outlet as soon as you notice the silica gel beads change their colour. The good news is that most dehumidifiers have colour indicators with them making the whole thing much simpler for you. These devices are also quite affordable – a high-quality one can be found at a price of $15-20.
As you can see, it’s not that tough of a challenge to store your filaments correctly. A little bit of an effort will deliver you much better results in your 3D printing journey. Simply choose one of the storage methods discussed above and you are good to go.