If you have been 3D printing for any amount of time you know that failed and test prints are part of the experience.
If you are running your printer frequently, these test and failed prints can quickly amount to a lot of plastic added to the waste stream.
So what’s the solution for the environmentally conscious 3D printing enthusiast?
One solution is to perfect your craft so you stop failing prints and no longer need test prints but this is simply not practical; especially if you want to continue pushing the envelope.
There is another solution. Make your own 3D printer filament!
In addition to helping the environment by recycling your failed and test prints, desktop filament extruders enable you create customized filaments and, if you go through rolls and rolls of filament, will save you money in the long run.
There are a number of companies offering desktop filament extruders and in this post I give an overview of four such companies and their product offerings.
Filabot, based in Barre Vermont, USA, was launched in 2011 with a Kickstarter campaign that raised over 300% of their targeted funding goal.
Filabot has a passion for the environment and is dedicated to reducing the plastic pollution stream by recycling single use plastic at the consumer level.
The company offers two filament extruders, the EX2 and EX6, both having a 1-year warranty.
The EX2 extruder retails for $2499 and boasts a patent pending, three-stage extrusion screw that pressurizes the plastic as it is being extruded thus controlling the diameter of the extruded filament.
The machine accepts 1/8 inch pellets and powdered materials including ABS, ABS Flame Retardant, 4043D PLA, 3D850 PLA, 3D870 PLA, PC, HIPS, PETG, and WAX. Lower Melt Flow Polymers.
To compensate for flucuations in extrusion forces during the process, the rotation speed of the extrusion screw is precisely controlled by an automatic, variable voltage control module.
Other features of the EX2 include single zone temperature control with max temp of 450 Celsius; interchangeable extrusion nozzles (1.75 mm and 2.85 mm standard); 26 cubic inch hopper volume and extrusion output of 2 pounds per hour (~250 in/min).
The EX6 extruder retails for $9499 and features a number of upgrades over the EX2 including a removable extrusion screw and four independently controlled temperature zones. The multi-zone heat control provides for dialing-in temperature profiles as needed to match the polymer being extruded.
Like the EX2, the EX6 accepts 1/8 inch pellets and powdered materials but it can handle a broader range of plastics including ABS, ABS Flame Retardant, 4043D PLA, 3D850 PLA, 3D870 PLA, PC, HIPS, PP, PS, ULTEM, PEEK, NYLON, HDPE, PETG, and WAX. Low to Higher Melt Flow Polymers.
As expected the hopper size and extrusion capacity are greater on the EX6 at 195 cubic inches and 10 pounds per hour, respectively.
In addition to a full line of replacement nozzles, filters, gear motors, as well as raw material pellets and colorizers, Filabot also offers filament spoolers ($1599), filament cooling modules ($649) and in-line filament measurement systems ($199) allowing the consumer to get set up a complete filament fabrication line.
Customers will save significantly if they purchase the full set up including extruder, cooling module and filament spooler as a package. The EX2 package sells for $3799 and the EX6 package sells for $10149.
While Filabot extruders tend to be more expensive than other extruders summarized in this blog, this company is essentially a one-stop-shop for consumers or businesses that do a lot of 3D printing and are serious about making their own filament.
Felfil, based in Torino, Italy, has a different approach to their extruder product platform. They sell only one extruder model, the Evo, based on an open source philosophy.
The difference is that you can purchase a fully assembled Evo, an Evo kit that you assemble yourself or a Basic kit that includes key components only.
A fully assembled Evo sells for 719 euros while the Evo kit and Basic kit sell for 599 and 299 euros, respectively. All versions come witha 2-year warranty.
Assembly of the complete kit is straightforward via the instruction manual and accompanying video.
The basic kit comes with the gear motor, extrusion screw, melting chamber, nozzle and main support bracket.
Users will have to source certain parts such as a heater, electronics, insulation, hopper enclosure and outer extruder enclosure to get a fully functional extruder. Felfil provides guidance for users to source the components needed to complete the extruder.
Customers can purchase the Evo with clear transparent, yellow transparent, white or black outer housings. I personally like the transparent options as you can see the inner components of the system.
The Evo filament extruder offers 3D printing enthusiasts a mid-level price option for making your their filament and the kit options will be attractive to the do-it-yourselfer.
- Extrusion speed 1.15 meter/min
- Max temperature 250 Celsius
- Extrusion tolerance +/- 0.07 mm
- Materials PLA, ABS, HIPS, TPU
- Interchangeable nozzles 1.75 and 2.85 mm
So we’ve looked at a couple extruders with fairly hefty price tags – at least for my budget.
To balance this report, I include a summary of what I would call a budget extruder from Filatruder out of Snellville, GA, USA.
Like many 3D printing start-ups, Filastruder was launched in 2013 with a Kickstarter campaign.
The company’s underlying principles include being ‘green’ and giving back.
They are 100% solar powered and all the ‘void filler’, e.g., Styrofoam peanuts, air bags and packing paper, is 100% re-used.
Their giving back programs include providing supplies to under-resourced school teachers in the Atlanta area. As of August 2018, the company has donated over $3000 worth school supplies including notebooks, crayons, glue, pencils, books and computers.
How frickin cool is that!
The Filastruder runs for $309 if you order the unit with a hopper ($299 without hopper). The unit also comes with a pound of ABS pellets.
This extruder is not for the user who expects to be extruding filament within minutes of unpacking. Like many machines in the 3D printing industry, assembly is required.
Assembly takes a couple of hours but for those that are comfortable with self-assembly, the only tools needed are a screwdriver, pliers, wire cutters/strippers/crimpers and Allen wrenches.
The assembly instructions are fairly easy to follow though you need to be comfortable interpreting electrical schematics to complete the assembly. For me, personally, I’d like to see more photos for the electrical portion – I am a very visual person.
Not to worry, however, as there are literally thousands of Filastruder users around the world and the company’s website includes a well represented user’s forum to complement direct support from the company.
- Extrusion rate ~ 1/3 pound per hour
- Max temperature 260 Celsius though the heater is rated for higher temp (contact support for this)
- Raw material pellets, 5mm shredded plastic
- Motor Control variable speed and torque control via closed loop PWM controller
Users report successful extrusion of the following materials: ABS, PLA, Nylon, Polycarbonate, PET, Acrylic, Polypropylene, PMMA, PVA. PC, TPU, PCL, PEEK, PAEK and LDPE. The user forum includes information on the settings used to extrude the various materials.
Filastruder also sells filament winders; pellets; 3D printer parts including hot ends, electronics and stepper motors plus their own line of Veracity filaments.
If you are looking to start extruding your own filament for a reasonable price and are not afraid to tackle self-assembly, I’d give Filastruder a serious look.
The last filament extruder I want to discuss is 3devo based in The Netherlands and founded in 2013.
The company designed their first extruder in 2014, upgraded the design in 2014 and went into volume production in 2016.
What sets 3devo’s extruders apart is that their machines combine the extruder, filament cooling unit, filament measurement and filament spooler into a single unit.
They even have a pending international patent application directed to the ‘all-in-one’ design: WO2017212037A1.
Another basic difference of the 3devo extruders is that the filament is extruded out of the nozzle vertically to ensure round filament. With a horizontal extrusion configuration, the force of gravity may cause the filament to be slightly out of round.
Currently, 3devo offers four extruder models:
- Composer 350 5350 euros
- Composer 450 6350 euros
- Precision 350 4850 euros
- Precision 450 5850 euros
The Composer series extruders are designed for experimentation and mixing/compounding new materials.
Precision series extruders are designed for more common filament extrusion with materials such as ABS and PLA. This series also has a slightly higher extrusion output of 1 kg/hour compared to 0.7 kg/hour with the Composer series.
The main differences between the 350 and 450 models are the maximum temperatures and the number of filament spool holders available. The higher temperatures attainable with the 450 models (450 Celsius) allow for a broader range of materials to be extruded.
All of the 3devo extruders models include four controllable temperature zones; optical sensors for hopper material level; optical filament diameter measurement; dual fan filament cooling system; a package of pellets and a 1-year warranty.
A single nozzle is used for all extrusion. Filament diameter is controlled to within 0.05 mm by an optical sensor and filament pulling system.
3devo has produced a number of videos showing unboxing and initial set up plus tutorials on making filament. I find it interesting, however, that they do not make the owner’s manual available until you purchase the machine. In today’s world where consumers can literally purchase anything online, making the owner’s manual available for review prior to purchase seems obvious.
In addition to their line of filament extruders, 3devo also manufactures a plastic shredder.
Though the price tag is on the high end, I like the sleek, single unit design and vertical extrusion orientation of 3devo’s machines. The single extrusion nozzle with optical diameter control is another differentiating design feature that intrigues me.
This machine is designed to have you extruding filament essentially right out of the box.
Like 3D printers, home and business 3D printing consumers have many options of filament extruders available to chose from.
From quite affordable do-it-yourself kits to higher end units that allow filament manufacturing right out the box, there is an extrusion machine for pretty much every budget.
European styling is very evident in the Felfil and 3devo machines while the Filabot and Filastruder models have a more ‘industrial’ look about them.
It’s truly amazing how far the consumer 3D printing industry has come in such a short time frame. From printers to filament extruders, the home and business user has everything available to them to set up and run a full 3D printing production line.
What will you create?
If you have questions, comments, experience with any of the filament extruders I’ve highlighted or other filament extruders, we’d love to hear from you. Please send us your comments below.