Just like a good marriage or partnership, a copolymer is greater than the sum of its parts. It takes on some of the qualities of each of its components, and this can make for some unique properties for diverse applications. But why you should use them? Read on to learn more about copolymer 3D filaments and examine the differences between this filament and other materials.
What Are Copolymers?
A class of polymers, copolymers are made from two or more different monomers in repeating groups, sometimes called blocks. Each of these monomers has certain characteristics that may be desirable to end-users. Manufacturers combine the monomers to create a hybrid material that can be more durable, flexible, and stronger than the base monomers. But the combination is not a mechanical one, but a chemical one, so the resulting product is more like a marriage of materials where each one shines.
What Is Copolymer 3D Filament?
You guessed it! It’s a 3D printing filament made from – here it comes – a copolymer. Injection molding companies shouldn’t get to have all the fun, so manufacturers like Filamatrix take some of the same materials and extrude them into useful 3D filament for your printing pleasure.
The Differences Between Copolymer and Other 3D Printing Materials
3D printing materials such as PLA are comprised of one singular repeating monomer which has been polymerized to create a homopolymer. A copolymer, however, uses two or more different monomers in its polymerization. While homopolymer filaments are very useful, their use is often limited by their properties. For example, homopolymers may be less impact resistant and less heat stable.
The Benefits of Using Copolymers
As I mentioned, a copolymer is a versatile chemical team. It can be tailored to the specific needs of a project. For example, you can choose a copolymer filament that makes a strong and waterproof product, not one or the other. But wait, there’s more!
A Balanced Property Profile
Since copolymers are chemical constructs of unique monomers, the combination can be balanced to produce the desired end-product properties. These filaments inherit properties from single monomers to create a superior chain of components with unique properties. Thus, integrating copolymers into your design process enables you to craft products that perform better than a mere homopolymer would.
Promotes Innovation in Design
When using a polymerized filament, you can choose from copolymers that have the unique properties your design requires. This means you can physically break free from certain design constraints that lesser materials would require. Supports might become thinner, or a waterproof coating may become unnecessary. If you have an innovative design you need to bring to reality, the qualities of copolymer filaments allow you to do more.
Why Businesses Need To Use Copolymers
Businesses should consider incorporating copolymers into their products to better meet consumer needs and standards. It’s also crucial to use the filament to better meet business requirements. Keep reading to explore a few of the reasons companies should consider copolymers.
Copolymers are an affordable substitute for traditional materials, especially when more than one material might be replaced with a single copolymer. Instead of choosing one spool of material to get one behavior and a second material or process to achieve another behavior, a designer might choose a single copolymer to do both. This can decrease restock time and simplify materials acquisition and storage, allowing businesses to do more with less inventory and space.
Every stage of a product’s development and production life is another place for failure to occur. Every process removed simplifies production. Going from two or three steps to a single print made with a copolymer can be a game changer.
Practical Applications of Copolymer 3D Filament
There are practical applications for every filament, and copolymers are no exception. The ways in which some industries use copolymers are as diverse as the copolymers themselves. Here is a sampling of industries that rely on copolymer 3D filament.
Architecture and Construction
Flooring, plumbing, and trim. Just a few of the uses for copolymers in architecture. But those are old-school compared to new advances in construction that utilize copolymers for structural and roofing components. Remember, copolymers can be tailored to meet specific requirements. And 3D printing with them means that one-offs can last as long as a production part. Customized trim anyone?
Medical professionals need tools that can extend beyond one simple use, and professionals in this industry turn to copolymers to meet biocompatibility and durability requirements. Copolymers in the medical field are most useful for implants and medical devices.
Consumer products also find ways to utilize copolymers. Modern customers desire better quality items they can use more than once, especially portable products. Copolymers can improve the quality of many plastic products, providing an outstanding balance of stiffness and flexibility where necessary. Protypes can be as good as the final product.
Tips for Printing With Copolymers
Now that you understand what copolymer 3D printing filament is and why you should use it, use these tips to start printing. As always, follow your supplier’s recommendations when they are offered. Filamatrix provides specific printing parameters for every filament we offer to get you started right.
Optimal Printing Temperature
Each copolymer has a different optimal printing temperature. Start printing at the lower end of the recommended temperature range for the copolymer components and gradually increase this until the print quality peaks.
Bed Temperature Adhesion
The bed temperature adhesion is like the printing temperature in that it varies from copolymer to copolymer, so you must check to see whether your filament needs a heated bed. Use PET or Kapton tape to help maintain a stronger bond, though a glass bed will often work fine. These adhesive products help hold the bond between the print bed and the first print layer. Also consider a heated bed, even if one is not absolutely required.
If you’re new to working with any filament, it’s best to print at a slow speed. Printing slower allows the copolymer more time to bond with the layer beneath it, allowing you to more reliably produce a strong print. Baby-step your way to faster prints.
Layer height is always an issue with any print, and copolymer prints are no different. Thinner layers look better but there can be adhesion and strength issues. Start in the middle of your typical print range and adjust for your specific needs (beauty versus strength versus print time).
Start with the recommended cooling settings from the manufacturer. Not provided? Remember that copolymers take on the properties of the base monomers, so look up the settings from those to get a starting point.
A big part of the appeal of copolymers is the ability to get multiple desired features from a single filament. But sometimes post-processing is required. In many cases the same methods you’d use for single polymers, such as sanding, painting, or a filler primer, can be used to enhance the appearance and functionality of your print.
Filamatrix is constantly bringing new and exciting filament products like our Zenith PETG Copolymer to market. Check it out here, or browse our other filaments for all your 3D printer needs. We suggest looking at our blog or giving us a call if you have questions about 3D printing problems or processes. Filamatrix is here for hobbyists, small businesses, and enterprise 3D printers alike.