A challenger appears!

With some other projects having consumed my attentions for the past few weeks, I was eager to return to more Stratasys experiments.  Having acquired enough breakaway support material to last me for the foreseeable future, I could once again be running with both extruders operational.  One material that I’ve wanted to try for quite a while is the 0.070″ ABS filament used on the PP3DP UP! printer, as people had mentioned that it was a bit different from the Chi Mei PA-747 ABS filament sold by Makerbot, New Image Plastics, Village Plastics and most other US suppliers. The problem is that overseas ordering is rather a pain – while PP3DP does now take Paypal, they still need a minimum order of over $100 (and stick the buyer with the paypal fees as well).

Fortunately, UP! user Enrique Muyshondt set up desktopFab to act as a US dealer for PP3DP printers and supplies. I ordered a 700 gram spool (1.54 lbs.) for $35 plus $12.34 shipping. Unfortunately, Enrique has since had to increase the price to $40 per spool – it seems PP3DP really doesn’t have any sort of dealer margin built into their price structure.

A Stratasys 2lb. spool on the bottom, a Bolson 2lb. spool in the middle, and a PP3DP 1.5lb. spool on top.

The spools are pretty small, but then again, the UP! printer that they’re intended for use with is a small desktop printer.  Happily, they have a 2″ mounting hole, so FDM users don’t have to re-spool onto empty Stratasys reels.  I threaded the material through the FDM 1600 and after waiting for the head to come up to temperature, I loaded it through the T12 modeling tip.  The extruded material looked and acted just like Stratasys P400, so I grabbed a micrometer and checked the die swell – 0.0175″!  Time to get the support material loaded and try making some parts – this was very promising.  Despite being honest-to-goodness Stratasys breakaway support material, I had trouble with it kinking between the feed wheels and the liquifier inlet.  I had almost resigned myself to tracking down some Vespel rod (horrifically expensive) to machine a new inlet that would reduce the distance to the drive wheels when I figured I’d try drilling out the nozzle again with a 0.011″ bit.  There must have been some buildup in the tip, as I had no more jamming after running the drill bit through.

I thought I'd give Adrian's cute little mini-extruder a try.

I could post lots of pictures of all the results, but I’ll keep it brief and simply say that the PP3DP filament runs great.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that it was Stratasys P400 – it has the same matte finish, die swell, adhesion to support material, etc. that the OEM filament has.  It does seem to have a substantial amount of ooze, though it has been rather humid lately and I didn’t bother trying to dry the filament (it came in a sealed bag with desiccant).  While I’ll certainly continue with investigating alternate materials (the MG94 should be extruded soon), the PP3DP filament is easily the best bang-for-the-buck model material for Stratasys owners at this time.  However, one possible caveat is quality control – several months back, a number of UP! users noted that a batch of filament put out noxious fumes when run. While this isn’t much of a concern with a closed oven type of machine like a Stratasys, it may indicate that batch-to-batch consistency has yet to be perfected by PP3DP’s filament source.  Still, this is nitpicking about second-hand information – when I run out of the PP3DP filament, I’ll have no qualms about ordering more.

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