How to prepare the filament properly

Even tight factory-packaged filament is not always suitable for use when removed from the box. We should bear in mind that the purchase of the material itself is not the last step before printing. 

For the 3D printing process to run properly, it is essential to prepare the filament properly. Filament drying at the appropriate temperature eliminates moisture that the filament could have absorbed.

Filament spool getting prepared for 3D printing (Source: 3DGence)

Most printing materials are highly hygroscopic

Hygroscopicity, or filament susceptibility to absorb moisture, is an undesirable phenomenon in this case, but it occurs very often, especially among engineering materials. How does it look in practice? Water settles on the outer material layers and penetrates inwards having a direct impact on the 3D printing process and models. 

The hygroscopicity of filaments causes significant problems during the printing process itself, not always visible at first glance. Even a small amount of moisture in the material can have an adverse effect on the:

  • Mechanical parameters of the print – when printing with the use of engineering materials that have certain properties, we cannot afford to lose their mechanical parameters 
  • Model quality – air bubbles may appear on printout walls 
  • Layer lamination – the capability of successive print layers to join 
  • High porosity – the material’s structure that has absorbed moisture after printing may be “foamed”. This proves the large number of pores that form when the filament is extruded from the nozzle. Water molecules in contact with a hot nozzle evaporate forming bubbles. This translates directly into the density of the print structure (as evidenced by a lighter color) and dimensional accuracy

Filament drying

The key to obtaining the desired properties of a printed part is proper filament drying before printing. What does this process consist in?

To remove excess moisture from the material, it is necessary to place a filament spool in a suitable device to dry it. The time and temperature at which the heating operation should be carried out depend on the material used.

3DGence Material Management System (Source: 3DGence)

Use Material Management System for filaments drying and preparation

3DGence Material Management System ensures each material will be properly dried, and moisture-controlled according to material specification. Besides, the entire workflow from material selection, configuration, compartment assignment, and readiness is streamlined and intuitive. Watch the video on how to dry filaments with MMS.

Preprocessing is crucial for 3D printing

  • It is important that we are aware of how to use 3D printing materials. 
  • Remember that despite the lack of visible differences after unpacking the material, it does not mean that the filament has not absorbed moisture. We can check it only by measuring the filament and the weight and assessing the appearance of the print. For the safety of the process and printing, we always assume that new material, even tightly packaged, requires drying in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • We should also pay attention to the proper protection of filament against moisture during the printing process. Heated chambers in industrial 3D printers guarantee that the right temperature is maintained for our material. 
  • It is also important to safely store filament after printing (closed tight with desiccant in a shaded place).
PA6 material has been heated at 65°C for 24h (Source: 3DGence)
PA6 material has been heated at 85°C for 24h (Source: 3DGence)
3D printed part made with Nylon 680 Taulman, the material has not been heated before use (Source: 3DGence)
Filament drying: 3D printed part made with Nylon 680 Taulman, the material has been heated at 85°C for 24 hours (Source: 3DGence)