Why should you store correctly 3D filaments?
Storing filaments the correct way has great importance. It affects the quality of our prints and the amount of struggle we put in our work. Some times when the printer just doesn’t seem to cooperate, and often, most of our prints fail. In these cases, we ask ourselves what is the reason, and how it is possible? There are situations were until yesterday everything worked fine and now it’s just a mess. Then we realize that we changed the filament and theories start to arise.
Have you taken into consideration that the failures of your 3D prints could be caused only by the way you store 3D filaments? Filament humidity is a more common problem than you think. With this article, I will try to find the solution to the 2 most common questions that arise on this topic:
- How to store 3d filaments
- How to reduce humidity in 3D filaments
We have several solutions, and if you read this article until the end you will be not waste any plastic.
Which 3D filament materials are affected by humidity
Based on the material of the filament, humidity may have different effects. The most affected is PLA as it is also the most used material type, but let’s not neglect others: ABS, TPU can store humidity that will affect print quality. The most problematic material type is Nylon as in less than 24 hours it can store enough humidity to ruin the spool. Hidrosoluble 3d filaments must be stored in an environment with 0% humidity but this is rather obvious.
3D filament by its nature has a chemical composition that attracts the water molecules present in the surrounding air, this peculiarity is called “hygroscopy”.
The only non-hygroscopic filament is PET filament, in fact, it is particularly suitable for prints that have an application in contact with water.
The most common problems that can arise when a filament has come in contact with moisture are:
- Accentuated fragility
- Bubbles and crackling during printing (which cause under/over extrusion)
- Increase in diameter and degradation of the properties of the filament itself.
The level of severity of these problems depends heavily on the type of filament. For example, as we said before, PETG 3D printer filament is not affected by the humidity of the ambient at all, while nylon saturates fairly quickly and can cause printing problems if it is not stored correctly.
But now let’s answer the questions:
How to store 3D filament
If you are aware that you will not use the printer, or a certain 3D printing reel for a certain period then it is appropriate to seriously think about its conservation.
3D printer filament storage
The first solution we offer is very simple but effective and very economical.
Vacuum bags for clothes! These are special bags for storing winter clothes and blankets, equipped with a non-return valve. These bags allow the aspiration of air with any vacuum cleaner. Normally they provide protection against water, odors, mold, dust, and pests.
These bags cost around $ 20 for 10 bags. There are different sizes and based on this, the choice of the dimension is yours, based on how many reels you think you need to stock. For greater comfort I recommend bags measuring 50 x 60 cm.
These are normally transparent, so you can easily recognize the stored filaments, even if you have many together.
If the idea of closing your reels in a closet and not having them immediately available does not convince you, but you still want to keep the filament in a place free of humidity then the second option is for you! In this case, we ask for help in the home and storage department.
This time we are talking about airtight plastic boxes, easily available on the internet or any IKEA.
You can create an easy DIY filament storage box to store the filament. The hermetic closure protects the filament reels from external humidity, but we also have to get rid of the humidity already contained inside. In this case, it is recommended to refill the box with silica gel sachets. You can get many types and they are easily found on the internet.
Adding a few bags of silica gel inside the box is essential to eliminate residual moisture. It is also recommended when using the vacuum bag to have absolute certainty of the total removal of moisture.
How to reduce humidity in 3D filament storage
For the pickiest, a highly porous and synthetic silica gel is commercially available. It uses an ecological color indicator so that when the pearls absorb moisture, they change their color from yellow/orange to green or blue.
The pearls normally turn blue only if they have been bathed in water. There are many types of silica gel on the market, the only advice we would like to give is not to buy a very cheap type that turns blue from pink. In fact, this gel contains cobalt chloride, a product that has been removed from the market in some countries because it is considered carcinogenic.
If you don’t want to run the risk of coming into contact with unknown substances and want to build your own personal filament storage system you can do it with objects you have at home.
Just fill an old sock with rice as you like, close with a string and you’re done. It will certainly not perform as well as silica gel, but will still absorb moisture inside the box, protecting your filaments.
Rice is cheap, readily available, and has hygroscopic properties.
We cannot use it as a desiccant, but it is hygroscopic enough to absorb the moisture in the place of the plastic.
Drying 3D printer filament
But what if the damage has already been done and our filament has already come in contact with moisture? Can we save our ruined filament?
Don’t despair! Nothing is lost. You can still do something even if you haven’t kept the spools properly.
Your filament can be saved, and as usual, we will provide you with more than one solution!
Drying filament in a dehydrator
Drying the filament most easily and less expensively consists of purchasing a domestic dryer for fruit and vegetables. This accessory can be purchased in the most common electronic shops for less than $ 40.
If you buy a model similar to the one shown in the picture, all you need to do is make a cylinder of the appropriate size with a cooking container or a sheet of plexiglass, also you can simply print the cylinder.
in this way, you can dry up to 3 rolls.
The most efficient way is to set it at 55 ° / 60 ° for 24 hours, and you will be sure to have eliminated all the absorbed humidity.
Filament drying in the oven
Let’s say that you don’t want to spend some extra money for this job but you still want to dehumidify your 3D filament, don’t worry! You can use the oven in your home.
What temperature to dry PLA filament
The temperature must be 55 ° / 60 ° for PLA and 70 ° / 80 ° in the case of other materials. It is important to avoid temperature fluctuations and do regular checks! The timing will change this time, in fact, the exposure will be for 6 hours at least, up to 12 in the most desperate cases. Also, the ventilation must be on or just keep the oven door slightly open. In this way, the humidity can escape.
This method is generally more dangerous for the filament and requires (especially for PLA) an oven with high-temperature accuracy. In fact, PLA, around 70°C, starts to melt and it will deform, making it even more useless. To be safe, keep it a few degrees lower and increase exposure time.
If you want consistent prints and less hassle with your filaments then you absolutely need to store properly your filaments.
This can be achieved with simple desiccant material and a proper container.
The most simple and safest way to eliminate humidity from a 3D filament is by using a food dryer.
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