An exciting new range of filaments for 3D printer is the exotic composite filaments. These filaments combine metal or other materials mixed with a blend of PLA to produce prints with metallic finish or other unique properties.
Proto Pasta is a filament company leading the exotic filament field. They contacted me to review their unique filaments. Proto Pasta sent me generous samples of their Aromatic Coffee High Temp PLA, Stainless Steel PLA, Magnetic Iron PLA, and Conductive PLA.
For part 1, I’ll review Aromatic Coffee PLA and Conductive PLA.
For Part 2 of my review, Stainless Steel PLA and Magnetic Iron PLA are abrasive filaments. They require a hardened nozzle that I have to order from Lulzbot, so they will be evaluated in a future blog.
I was happy with their cardboard spools. They were lightweight and would be easier to recycle when I was done. The core of the spools was also a large 128 mm outer diameter, which keeps the filament straight .
The filaments did not have a recommended temperature posted on the spool, though they did suggest that you print at regular PLA temperatures (200 – 220 C). I was skeptical after my past experiences with exotic filaments like Colorfabb Bronzefill, which required higher temperatures to print well.
For both of these filaments, I 3D printed the same test file. They are printed at 0.2 mm resolution, 210 C hot end and 70 C bed temperature.
Aromatic Coffee High Temp PLA
This filament is made with the waste products of a coffee plantation (husk, leaves, etc). On the spool itself I could not smell any coffee as I unwrapped it. The filament has a medium brown color on the spool; as I printed it did darken to a brown – bronze tone. It did not warp on the test print.
The hallmark of this filament is the smell of coffee as you print. Yes, as you print your room will smell like a fresh pot of coffee. The smell was not burnt or overwhelming like a coffee shop, so I did not mind it as I printed (Disclaimer, I’m not a big coffee drinker).
The finished print had a nice dull bronze sheen to it, and it did darken from the original light brown filament color. Aromatic Coffee does print with nice iridescent and semi – translucent tones for a great visual effect for your print. The support material came clean off the print, but not the build plate tape.
Post printing, I cannot tell if the print still smells like coffee. I tried warming it up in my hands, but I could not smell any coffee in the final print.
When I finished printing, it did stick a bit more than normal PLA to the blue tape, so I had to replace the tape on the build plate.
If you want to make this into something you can use in the kitchen, Proto Pasta has a procedure to anneal this filament for higher temperature applications. In a future blog I’ll experiment and write about this process.
This PLA filament is designed to be electrically conductive. I’ll work on a project in a future blog to test the electrical properties of conductive PLA. For this blog I’ll just focus on how it 3D prints.
Conductive PLA is matte black on the spool. It prints smoothly at 210 C with the same matte black finish on the build plate. After I pulled the pieces from the build plate, the support material was stuck stubbornly to the blue painters tape. When I tried to scrape it off, it turned to dust and left a mess on the build plate.
I also found a unique property for this 3D filament. You can write with it! The conductive material in this must be graphite, because this writes with the line quality of a harder lead drafting pencil.
Like the Aromatic Coffee PLA, the test pieces did not warp on the build plate.
By itself Conductive PLA looks like any other black PLA, though at $48.00 for 500 g it is not a filament you want to play around with.
The real draw of this filament is how it conducts electricity. In a future blog I’ll explore the electrical properties of Conductive PLA.
Impressions So Far
So far I like the PLA from Proto Pasta that I have tested. Both have not warped with my torture print. They have both printed smoothly without jamming, and their finished quality is great.
I have had problems cleaning the build plate of supports and residue after each print, which can be frustrating.
Coffee fans will love the smell of the Aromatic coffee blend as they 3d print. I can’t tell if the print smells like coffee after printing, or if I’ve gone nose blind to it, so your prints may or may not still smell after printing.
I like the idea of a 3D printing filament that is made with discarded waste products like coffee bean husk and leaves. In this way future filaments can be made from discarded food waste, instead of virgin PLA from a food source. I think using coffee waste to demonstrate this is a good way to prove the concept of sustainable filament.
However the idea of coffee-smelling filament is a novelty compared to other filaments from Proto Pasta, but one that can be expanded upon in the future with other sustainable filaments.
Conductive PLA would be good if you want to make electric components on a regular basis, or want to put LED’s into your cosplay props. If you want to integrate conductive PLA into your item you will have to model it for printing with a dual extruder, or print parts separately for assembly. The files to work with this material will have to be developed further. Conductive PLA does have real applications for drones, medical devices and other electronics. It would be interesting to see a 3D printer that can have some of its wiring replaced by this conductive filament.
My favorite Proto Pasta filament so far is the Conductive PLA. The graphite content makes it conductive, and you can write with it in an emergency. For science teachers, this presents a great tool for future STEM classes. Teacher and students can design robust electronics for 3D printing that do not require delicate wiring.
I look forward to playing with the other metallic filaments from Proto Pasta.
DISCLAIMER: 3D-PT is not paid to endorse Proto Pasta products. Proto Pasta provided the samples used at their own expense. There was no expectations from the company given as a condition of this review.