Months ago Colorfabb sent me a sample box of some of their exotic composite filaments to test. These filaments have been the world leader in composite filaments, combining the properties of the wood, metal and carbon, with the printing properties of PLA. Just like Proto Pasta these composite filaments add a new dimension to a 3D printer’s portfolio, and can give a experienced 3D printer the flexibility to develop their skills with new materials.
I have had many people ask me about the different materials available to 3D print with. When I was at the Tinny Home Jamboree
may people asked me how these materials last in the outdoors. For an upcoming project I want to test all the filaments at my disposal to see how well they weather outdoors. Among the materials I’ll test will include filaments from ColorFabb, Proto Pasta, 3Dom USA , and others
I decided to print a set of the same sample chips I made for Nanodax GWPP.
Wood Based Filaments
Colorfabb is known as one of the first filament companies to produce wood-based filaments. These filaments take fine sawdust and mix it with PLA to produce a filament that is unique in 3D printing. When I started 3D printing with my makerBot, BambooFill and BornzeFill were the first exotic filaments I put through the 3D printer.
BamboFill printed fine as a filament, but the makerbot craped out before I could really get to print with it. The one piece I did print, a gyro fidget stuck to the glass build plate. I put a crimp into it with a pair of pliers trying to pull it from the build plate. I found the BamboFill to be too soft for many of the applications I was printing for at the time, so I ended up selling it off when I got my Lulzbot printer.
Other wood based filaments have handled rough handling better. CorkFill has taken the traditional softwood and turned it on its head. CorkFill has a rich chocolate brown color that would make a great accent or inlay piece for intricate woodcarvings. It is also a more durable material than BambooFill, and I can see applications for artistic prints or car restoration.
WoodFill is made from a general mix of wood fibers according to the company. When I first printed with this sample I did have a major jam when some of the fibers clogged the nozzle, which forced me to change it out until I could clean it out.
With a new nozzle, I was able to print a test piece as well as a sample chip. The print looks closer to fine plywood or MDF, which may lend itself to industrial as well as artistic prints.
For all of these wood based filaments, I found them easy to print with. There applications lean more towards artistic prints then practical uses. They are softer than PLA, so it is easier to tool and sand them. I did not notice any smell when printing with them.
Overall I’d recommend BambooFill, WoodFill, and CorkFill for experienced 3D printers with a calibrated 3D printer. Wood based filaments are good for artistic prints, but may be too soft for industrial applications. They will print well, but may take some tweaking with the printing speed and settings.
Metal Based Filaments
Colorfabb also set the bar high for filaments when they released BronzeFill, a metal composite filament.
When I first printed with BronzeFill, I remember thinking “this stuff is gloppy and messy”. Compared to other filaments, BronzeFill did produce a lot of mess around the nozzle, which did flake off and leave blobs on the print. When it printed, it did feel more like clay than solid bronze. It also looks more like cardboard than metal when printed. I did not have the equipment or patience at the time to try to polish the bronze print.
Latter I did print in CopperFill, which looked closer to its namesake. The orange-red color of the filament did come through the print, and I was impressed with how clean this printed in comparison.
After printing a sample chip of both, I took the time to polish both pieces using a wet coarse and fine sanding sponge. After about an hour of sanding by hand, I found I could get a dull shine out of the samples.
For both BronzeFill and CopperFill, I found that they are also for advanced 3D printers. Because of the abrasive nature of the filament, you will need a hardened or plated nozzle if you plan a lot of prints with this material. It would be interesting to see if the CopperFill has any electrical properties that would make it useful in printing drones or other electronics. BronzeFill may have more artistic than practical applications, but it is difficult to polish
Among the samples was XT- CF20. This is another composite that has a lot of industrial applications for 3D printers. The sample chips I printed were lighter than any other sample, yet had comparable flexibility to GlowFill PLA/PHA.
I tried printing this on clear packing tape but found it would not stick. As a switched to blue painters tape I noticed that like the BronzeFill, this filament was gloppy. The carbon fibers did start to bunch around the nozzle and flake off, but could easily be swept away while printing.
According to the factory, the carbon fibers make this filament extremely abrasive. Like the metal based filaments, this will require a hardened or plated nozzle. This is another advanced filament that would be great for tooling and industrial applications. It does have a nice mate black finish, but this would not be recommended as an artistic filament.
I have written enough about ColorFabb in the past, and I have found that all of them generally share the same excellent printing properties as their PLA/PHA counterparts.
These composite filaments are recommended for experienced 3D printers that have the budget and skills to work with these more expensive filaments.
Disclamer: Colorfabb provided some of the samples for free, with no expectation given for the review. Others were purchased by the author.