[Review] The Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA, an exotic filament for 3D printers

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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 Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA 3D printing filament was given by Proto-pasta for free to do the testing.

Brand Proto-pasta
Model Carbon Fiber PLA
Price $60/kg
Rating 4/5

INTRODUCTION

Today, we‘re testing the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA, an exotic 3D filament. This article aims to give a fair evaluation of this filament for 3D printer through the 3D printing of a standard 3D file, the famous Benchy model.

The cardboard filament spool of the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA.

The cardboard filament spool of the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA.

Proto-pasta filament is manufactured by ProtoPlant, a small engineering firm in Vancouver, Washington, USA. Proto-pasta launched after a successful Kickstarter campaign and is now a well established filament and extruders manufacturer. 

The Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA was delivered to us as a testing material by Proto-pasta directly. We participated to a Proto-pasta filament giveaway on Reddit and won a spool of their famous conductive filament. Generously, the brand sent us a package with a lot of different filaments, including the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA we are testing today. This 3D printing filament is made in the USA from NatureWorks 4043D PLA Resin compounded with 15% (by weight) chopped Carbon Fibers. It is more brittle than standard PLA in its filament form, so it needs to be handled carefully.

The dark matte black color of the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA.

The dark matte black color of the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA.

3D filament used for this test: We have tested the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA 1.75 mm diameter filament in 500g spool, on a Dagoma Discovery200 3D printer equipped with a BuildTak 3D print surface. This 3D printer is not equipped with a heated print bed.

 

PACKAGING

Packaging rating: 3/5

  • Unboxing: a simple plastic packaging

The plastic packaging of the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA.

The plastic packaging of the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA.

The Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA was delivered in a cardboard box containing several Proto-pasta spools, along with some nice postcards and stickers from the brand. The Carbon Fiber PLA spool itself came along in a plastic bag (not vacuum sealed).

The Proto-pasta spools are made of cardboard instead of the usual plastic. That gives a less “high-end” feel to the product but they are equally functional and eco-friendly.

  • Instruction manual: most important parameters can be found on Proto-pasta website

No information about the printing parameters is provided on the spool itself, we had to connect to the Proto-pasta website to get the 3D printing parameters for 3D printing this specific material. Important data such as the recommended 3D printing extrusion temperature (195 – 220° C) or 3D print bed temperature (if available, is not required: 50° C). The Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA density is 1.3 g/cm3 (1300 kg/m3).

 

OVERVIEW AND  SETUP

Overview and setup rating: 4.33/5

  • Software – 5/5

Our Dagoma Discovery200 is operated by a simplified Cura software version, used for the preparation of the 3D printing instructions in gCode from STL file. Except for the extrusion temperature we decided to set at 210°C, no specific settings are required for the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA.

  • Hardware – 4/5

The Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA does not require any specific tune up of the 3D printer. It tends to have a very good adhesion to the build platform, even without a heated printbed. Because the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA is very brittle, it is required to manipulate it with caution, especially during the feeding of the filament to the extruder motor, located at the back of our printer. The insertion of the filament into the filament guide of the 3D printer must also be done very carefully.

Also, because this 3D filament is made from Carbon fibers, this filament can damage the nozzle if used frequently. It is recommended to only use high quality nozzles for 3D printing the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA.

  • Getting started – 4/5

The overall setup experience was quick and easy. However, with an initial print resolution of 200 microns our very first 3D print was correct but not great. Some irregularities and defaults were visible on the side of the Benchy hull. After a few more 3D prints the results became great.

 

EXPERIENCE

Experience rating: 4/5

  • 3D printing – 4/5

3D printing the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA is easy but after the first mediocre result we were a bit worried. After several 3D prints everything became great. Maybe it was the filament change in the extruder or the quality of the filament at the beginning of the spool was less good than the rest.

We performed several tests at different 3D printing resolutions (100, and 200 microns).

 

3D PRINTS RESULTS

3D prints results rating: 4/5

1. Benchy

To evaluate the performance of the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA, we started by printing out some Benchys, the “standard 3D model” which many people now use as a benchmark to evaluate the performance of a 3D printer or 3D filament across several parameters (surfaces, level of details, overhangs, …).

All tests were conducted without using the heating bed, with an extrusion temperature of 210°C and an extrusion speed of 60 mm/s. Note that this Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA is extremely matte and dark black, that is why the pictures are difficult to take. Even with some color correction in Photoshop the pictures don’t do justice to the real life 3D printed Benchys.

Benchy being printed in Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber filament with our Dagoma Discovery200.

Benchy being printed at 200 microns resolution in Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber filament with our Dagoma Discovery200. On the left is the very first 3D print, on the right the result obtained with the same parameters but after several previous 3D prints.

a) First we tested the medium 200 microns layer thickness (60 mm/s extrusion speed) but the result obtained was not very good. After several 3D prints with the same and different resolution the outcome became great.

Benchy printed with the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA at 200 microns resolution.

Benchy 3D printed with the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA at 200 microns resolution. Result obtained after several 3D prints.

b) We then tested the 100 microns layer thickness (60 mm/s extrusion speed) and the result was really great. However we had to remove a few extra threads to really make the Benchy clean. 

Benchy printed with the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA at 100 microns resolution.

Benchy 3D printed with the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA at 100 microns resolution.

This 3D filament is very rigid and looks amazingly good in real life. For a FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) 3D print of Benchy, it is one of the best result we had regarding the writing of the logo on the back of the hull. The Benchy hull is super clean, as well as the bottom logo.

 

VALUE

Value rating: 4/5

The Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA is a 3D filament with a very interesting stiffness ability, which makes it a nice fit for demanding 3D prints, despite its upper range price.

CONCLUSION

Aniwaa’s opinion: 4/5

Our overall rating reflects our experience with the Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA 1.75mm 3D filament printed on a Dagoma Discovery200.

Weight Rating
Packaging 1 3/5
Overview 2 4.3/5
Experience 2 4/5
3D prints results 2 4.5/5
Value 1 4/5
FINAL RATING 4/5

The Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA is a good looking 3D printing material with great physical characteristics. It is not stronger than regular materials but rather more rigid as the carbon fibers reinforced the PLA. This is a 3D material suited for RC modelists or drone enthusiasts, or anyone looking for building rigid structures. This rigidity also allows this exotic carbon filament to make details of a print more visible and sharper. In 100 microns layer thickness the quality results are excellent with precision in the details and clean surfaces.

The Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber PLA is however a bit expensive and should be used for the most demanding prints.

The only downside is the lack of information provided to the users regarding the printing parameters. The website tells you everything you need to know but adding some details on the filament spool would really improve the user experience out of the box.

 

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!

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