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Disclaimer: the comments and opinions expressed in this review are the results of our own (limited!) experience with the product. As always, we try to provide context to give a fair overview of the product. We strive to remain impartial and unbiased, and we have not received any payment or compensation of any form for writing this article. The Recreus FilaFlex 3D printing filament was given by bq, which lend us a Witbox 2 3D printer for free to do the testing.
Today, we‘re testing the Recreus FilaFlex, a flexible 3D filament. This article aims to give a fair evaluation of this filament for 3D printer through the 3D printing of standard 3D files, the famous 3DBenchy and Twisted Hex vase.
Recreus is a Spanish company operating in more than 60 countries. Recreus was founded by Ignacio Garcia and his father in 2013. Recreus is one of the first company to introduce flexible filament for desktop 3D printers. Their goal is to create and explore new materials with innovative properties. They not only sell their famous FilaFlex but also offer rigid filament and extruders.
The Recreus FilaFlex is made from TPE (ThermoPlastic Elastomer). TPE, also referred to as thermoplastic rubbers, are a class of copolymers or a physical mix of polymers (usually a plastic and a rubber) which consist of materials with both thermoplastic and elastomeric properties. The FilaFlex series are made of a mix of a polyurethane base and some additives in order to make it printable in 3D printers.
3D filament used for this test: We have tested the Fluor FilaFlex 1.75 mm diameter filament in 500g spool, on a bq Witbox 2 3D printer. This 3D printer is not equipped with a heated printbed.
1. PACKAGING – 3/5
- Unboxing: a simple plastic packaging
The Recreus Filaflex was delivered as a testing material by a local bq reseller based in Japan. It was packaged inside a cardboard full of different filaments. The FilaFlex was simply wrapped up with an unsealed plastic protection.
- Instruction manual: a summary of a few simple parameters
On top of the filament spool there is an illustration with the key instructions and setting to use the filament: temperature extrusion, print speed, layer height and retraction ranges. The ranges are quite wide so they’re more a general indication than an accurate instruction.
2. OVERVIEW AND SETUP – 2/5
- Software – 3/5
The bq Witbox 2 is operated by the Cura software for the preparation of the 3D printing instructions in gCode from STL file. bq provides a specific FilaFlex printing profile, but we had to make some tweaks to find the right settings. We also used the recommendations provided by Recreus to experiment until we get the parameters right.
The Filaflex requires a very precise combination of parameters to produce good prints, here are the major recommendations:
-A very slow 3D printing speed. 20 mm/s works well.
-A thick layer parameter. We did not manage to get good print results with 100 microns layers, but at 200 microns the results were good.
-120% flow rate.
-Retraction of 3 mm and Retraction speed of 50 mm/s.
-Extrusion temperature of 240 or 245°C
- Hardware – 1/5
Because the FilaFlex is very soft, elastic and flexible, we had to perform some additional physical modifications to our bq Witbox 2:
-Removing the Fibonacci filament guide of the Witbox 2 because it was causing too much friction and directly feed the filament into the extruder.
-Positioning the filament spool right above the extruder, parallel to the unrolling direction.
-Tightening up the screw of the extruder so the extruding engine has more grip on the filament.
-Increasing the offset gap by 0.3 mm. Because the FilaFlex is really sticky a huge gap is required to allow the removal of the 3D print from the print bed.
- Getting started – 2/5
The overall setup experience is really complex and timely. We do not recommend beginners to 3D print Filaflex before they have extensive experience with their 3D printer. Our biggest issue was to get a steady extrusion speed so the object won’t have any weak layer.
3. EXPERIENCE – 3.5/5
- 3D printing – 3.5/5
3D printing the first layer requires a bit of attention to check if the filament is sticking properly to the 3D print bed and if the residue does not adhere to the extruder nozzle. The FilaFlex is hard to remove, even with an increased offset gap. Because this material is really sticky, it is required to clean before and after each print the extruder nozzle.
4. 3D PRINTS RESULTS – 4.5/5
To evaluate the performance of the Recreus FilaFlex, we started by printing some Benchys. Sure there are a lot of other options available in terms of 3D models but the Benchy is the “standard 3D model” which many makers now use as a benchmark to evaluate a 3D printer or 3D filament performance across several parameters (surfaces, level of details, overhangs, …).
All the 3D prints we tested at 100 microns layer thickness failed, even at very slow 3D printing speeds (<15 mm/s). When we switched to a 200 microns resolution with the right software and hardware parameters we obtained very good results.
In the end, the 3D printed Benchy were looking really good. The surface and details are fine, the overhangs clean. The only weakness of this material (once the 3D printer and software is properly parameterized) is the number of unsightly strings of plastic between different parts; ie. extra thin threads or filament are present between two structures. It seems that the 3D printer has difficulties to properly end the extrusion. Because the filament is ultra sticky and resistant, these strings (also called connecting strands) are quite hard to remove.
Having a flexible object 3D printed is truly amazing. The FilaFlex Benchy texture is great and the object can sustain extreme deformations without being damaged. We also loved the vivid color of the Fluor Recreus Filaflex. The pictures don’t do justice to the brightness and final aspect quality of this material.
5. VALUE – 3/5
The Recreus FilaFlex 3D filament is a very good option for flexible 3D prints. It is however a bit more expensive than its closest competitors, for a same quality level.
ANIWAA’S OPINION – 3.4/5
Our overall rating reflects our experience with the Recreus FilaFlex 3D filament printed on a bq Witbox 2.
|3D prints results||2||4.5/5|
The Recreus FilaFlex is a truly great material with unique physical and aesthetic properties but is is very difficult to handle. Our final rating may seem a little harsh in regards to the final quality of the flexible object we printed, but it reflects the expertise required to set up the 3D printer in an optimal way to use this unique filament. The end results are amazing in terms of flexibility and texture but it is really complex to get the right balance for the hardware and software parameters.
Furthermore using this filament requires to apply modifications to the 3D printer and switching back to a “regular” filament will require more hardware tweaks. We don’t recommend this flexible filament to beginners but for advanced makers who know well their 3D printer, the FilaFlex is really a must-try!
We carry hands-on tests of 3D printers, 3D scanners and 3D filaments in our lab in Tokyo. Get in touch if you’d like us to review your products!