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.
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 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.