If you have been acquainted with the Ultimaker 3D printers, you may have noticed the open-material nature of the platform. Materials from Ultimaker include the trusted PLA with its print friendliness, the flexible TPU, the wear-resistant Nylon, and several others that would make this list too long to include. Apart from the standard Ultimaker filaments, the platform also accepts material from 3rd party filament brands, leaving you spoilt for choice when going about a material selection exercise.
Among the lot of exciting materials available is the class of composite filaments. These employ a base polymer as a matrix and use reinforcement inclusions of chopped glass and carbon fibres in various percentages to impart greater strength and stiffness. To draw an example, the Owen Corning XSTRAND filaments use a base material of nylon or polypropylene and include 30% of glass fibers. Unsurprisingly, this composite filament fares much better in mechanical properties when compared to filaments made of just the base polymer devoid of any reinforcement inclusions.
But not all filaments are created equal. Composite filaments, owing to the fibre inclusions, tend to be abrasive and wear away at 3d printing hardware. The abrasive elements erode away the diameter and tip of the nozzle, both of which result in a print quality drop. A brass nozzle would last only about 300g worth of printing when using carbon reinforced materials. Even more wear-resistant nozzles made from stainless steel and hardened steel last only about 1kg and 3 to 5kg worth of printing respectively.
To accommodate this, Ultimaker has released the special Printcore CC Red 0.6 for the Ultimaker S5 and S3 3D printers which features a ruby-tipped nozzle to combat nozzle wear. The nozzle was designed in collaboration with Anders Olsson, whose research involved 3D printing with boron carbide- one of the hardest in the known materials world. The ruby was the prime candidate of choice for the nozzle tip on account of its extreme hardness, non-toxicity and chemical resistance. The 0.6mm nozzle diameter was chosen to offer a trade-off between printing quickly and maintaining fine feature printability. A sectioned ruby-tipped nozzle showed no discernible wear even after 25kg worth of printing with carbon fiber reinforced material.
The Ultimaker S5 and S3 3D printers are also enabled with hardened steel wheels in the feeder system specifically designed with abrasive materials in mind. The knurled patterns on the wheels would otherwise wear out rather quickly, posing difficulties in gripping the filament and leading to underextrusion defects. Although you still need to exercise caution when you select a 3rd party material, there are a selection of filaments that have gone through a verification process to certify them for the Ultimaker platform. Some material companies have worked with the experts at Ultimaker to develop reliable print process parameters for their filaments. These are available as downloadable plug-ins within Cura, which is Ultimaker’s slicing software.
Are you looking at 3D printing in high performance composites? The Ultimaker S5 and S3 are desktop and workshop ready solutions when you want to print in standard 3D printing materials, and then some.
CAD MicroSolutions, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, has been providing engineers, designers and manufacturers with 3D technology and training for the entire product development lifecycle for over 30 years.
CAD MicroSolutions is uniquely positioned to help their clients enable innovation across Canada, selling and supporting 3D printing solutions as well as design automation software, training and consultation to help clients in mechatronics innovate, design and succeed. For more information about CAD MicroSolutions, please visit www.cadmicro.com or call 1-888-401-5885.
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