3D Printing With Multiple Soluble Filaments

- Apr 29, 2019-

Complex 3D printing designs often require the use of automatically generated support structures around them to ensure stability. While this can bring some truly incredible results, it adds a lot of time and cost to the printing process. In addition, there is an arduous process of removing all of the support material without damaging the object itself. If you have a suitable high-end 3D printer, one solution to this problem is to use water-soluble filaments to support it; throw the print into the bathtub and wait for the bracket to dissolve.

But what if you want to print something that is both complicated and needs to be soluble? This is exactly what [Jacob Blitzer] has been experimenting with recently. The trick is to find two filaments that can be printed at the same time, but dissolve them in two different solutions. His experiments prove that it can be used for consumer hardware, but this is not easy, and definitely not cheap.

You may be wondering what the possible application of this technology is. For [Jacob], he hopes to be able to print hollow molds of complex geometries and eventually fill them with concrete. Molds require a large amount of internal support, and if they are not printed in soluble filaments, it is almost impossible to remove. However, once the interior of the concrete has solidified, he also hopes to dissolve the mold. Therefore, he needs a support that is easy to dissolve filaments, and it is more difficult to dissolve a mold for the actual use.

For the mold itself, Jacob uses high impact polystyrene (HIPS), which can be dissolved with an industrial degreaser called limonene. This is expensive and quite annoying work, but it does a good job of eroding the buttocks, so this is a problem to solve. It took him a few months to find a water-soluble filament that could be printed at a temperature similar to the temperature of the buttocks, but eventually he found a filament called Herofair. Unfortunately, the price per kilogram is as high as $175.

So you have silk, but what can print them at the same time? Multi-material 3D printing is a tricky topic, and several different methods have been developed over the years. Finally, [Jacob] chose FORMBOT Tyrannosaurus Rex, which uses an old-fashioned method with two separate hobs and extruders. Conceptually, this is the easiest way, but calibrating such a machine is notoriously difficult. Running two exotic and moody filaments at the same time certainly didn't help.

After all, I spent all my time, money, and energy on this project (he must also write software that can create 3D models first) [Jacob] said he was not very satisfied with the results. He made some undeniable amazing works, but the failure rate is very high. Still, this is a fascinating study that seems to be the first such study, so we are happy that he shared it for the benefit of the community and looks forward to seeing its future.


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