The use of 3D printers has gone beyond manufacturing and has become increasingly common in homes. From hobbyists to work-at-home entrepreneurs, these remarkable machines seem to create physical items out of thin air. In reality, the items are printed using filaments made of a variety of materials, depending on what is being created.
In the home, these printers are being used to create replacement parts, toys, fashion accessories, jewelry, knick-knacks and more. Users may have just a few rolls of filament, or they may end up with dozens on hand. As the primary “ingredient” in 3D printing it is important these filament rolls are stored properly. Whether storing these materials at home or in a storage unit, the following considerations will help keep everything in great condition.
Why Storing 3D Filament Properly is so Critical
The quality and integrity of 3D filament can be negatively impacted by a variety of forces. These include:
- Direct sunlight
- Dust and dirt
These factors can negatively affect the quality of the filament and thus the final product being printed. Perhaps more frustrating is that if the filament is not stored properly it can cause repeated nozzle blockages. One of the easiest ways to minimize these negative impacts is to store filament rolls properly.
3D Filament Storage Solutions
Before storing 3D filament, grab some zipper style gallon-size plastic storage bags, silica gel packets, and a permanent marker. Mark on the bag the type of filament it will contain, and place two small silica gel packets in the bag with the filament. Seal the bag and store in a cool, dry space away from direct sunlight.
Another storage solution many users prefer is the use of vacuum-style bags that are often used to store out-of-season clothing. These bags are characterized by a larger circular hose connector that a common household vacuum connects to. Once placing the roll or rolls of filament in the storage bag, vacuum out any air from the bag and store in a dry place out of direct sunlight. Make sure any filament rolls are dry before storing them.
For those who have larger or multiple rolls or reels of 3D filament to store, using a climate controlled storage unit can be worthwhile. This can keep filament away from dirt and dust, direct sunlight and heat, and most importantly, minimize moisture that can cause sputtering, poor quality and nozzle blockages.
Restoring 3D Filament that has Absorbed Too Much Moisture
Even when most filament has gotten wet or damp, it is still salvageable. Restoring it to useable condition will depend on the type of filament it is.
PLA filament can be dried in an oven that has been pre-heated to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. With the fan going and the oven door cracked, place the filament in the oven for up to six or seven hours, depending on how much moisture the filament has been exposed to.
ABS and other types of filament can be restored using similar steps to the above, but with an oven that has been pre-heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for three to five hours, depending on the amount of moisture it has absorbed.
A dehumidifier can also eliminate moisture from filament that may have been exposed to damp or humid conditions.
Once restored store the filament in gallon-size plastic bags containing two gel packs for safekeeping.
If you’ll be storing 3D filament, here are some additional useful tips:
- Use quality plastic storage bags.
- Label filament clearly.
- Silica gel packs can be re-used indefinitely.
- Only restore filament in a warm oven when you will be home the entire drying period.
It is also far better to store filament properly than to have to rejuvenate it, so take proper steps from the outset.
Creating parts or trinkets using a 3D printer can be fun and interesting. If the filament is contaminated by dust, dirt or moisture, however, it can have less than desirable results and be frustrating. Taking a few simple steps can increase the quality and enjoyment factor of any 3D printer project.
Gary Ashton is the CEO and owner of The Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Advantage.