BlueDogBlackDog Consulting

Frequently Asked Questions


How can I make my own 3D printer filament?

Welcome to the wonderful world of DIY 3D Printer filament.
For a fraction of the cost of buying it, you can make your own.

 

First, you're going to need a filament extruder.

Unless you're flush with cash and an engineer, you'll probably want to start out with a desktop model.  Our machine of choice is the Filastruder, created by Tim Elmore.  It's a bargain compared to other machines on the market, and it has a large user base and active support forum.

Want a bit more DIY? You can easily find instructions online to make your own extruder.  One of the most popular designs is the Lyman Extruder, created by an 83 year-old retiree, Hugh Lyman.  (Never stop making!)

 

Next, you'll want raw material and colorant.

There are many types of plastics available at many sources; however, not all plastic can be extruded into filament, and not all online retailers have tested the material in a filament extruder.  Some plastics can offgas toxic fumes when heated, (e.g., PVC can create chlorine gas).  Make sure you know what plastic you are buying, they all look similar in raw pellet form. 

3D Supply Source tests every plastic and colorant in our Filastruder to ensure that it can create useable filament.  The owner has a biology degree with a minor in chemistry from Texas A&M University.  In addition, she has worked as an environmental scientist for over 12 years in the fields of Public Water Supply, Industrial and Hazardous Waste, Hazmat Emergency Response, and Air Emission Sources.

 

Links:

How do I use the Colorant?

We recommend most of our colorants to be used at ratios between 96:1 to 32:1, for more information on colorant and color recipes, see DepartedPrinter's post on the soliforum filastruder subforum.

How to do Ratios:

Because colorant is less dense than typical plastics, ratios for mixing are by volume, not weight.  Luckily, most plastic pellets have a density around 1 g/cm3   (A quick refresher on density from The Math You Need, When You Need It project.)  So the old addage, "A pint's a pound the world around" holds true in our case, which means that 2 cups, or 16 fluid ounces, of pellets weigh 16oz, or one pound. (What? Why is this information here? Are you trying to confuse me?  No, it's just to show you that even though we package by weight, you are not getting less raw material if you need to measure it by volume.)

So lets begin with a standard measurement: 1 cup = 48 teaspoons (tsp).

  • Therefore, if you take one cup (48 tsp) of pellets plus one tsp of colorant, you have a 48:1 ratio.  The larger number is always the pellets, the smaller number is always the colorant.  
  • If you want a 100:1 ratio, you'd have 100tsp of pellets to 1 tsp of color.  That works out to (2 cups + 4tsp) pellets + 1 tsp color.
  • If in doubt while measuring colorant, use less.  You can always add more colorant, but it's really hard to dilute the batch while extruding by adding pellets. 

96:1 ratio

  • 4 cups pellets to 2 tsp color (~ 1kg of filament)
  • 2 cups pellets to 1 tsp color
  • 1 cup pellets to 1/2 tsp color
  • 1/2 cup pellets to 1/4 tsp color
  • 1/4 cup pellets to 1/8 tsp color

48:1 ratio

  • 4 cups pellets to 4 tsp color
  • 2 cups pellets to 2 tsp color
  • 1 cup pellets to 1 tsp color
  • 1/2 cup pellets to 1/2 tsp color
  • 1/4 cup pellets to 1/4 tsp color

32:1 ratio

  • 4 cups pellets to 6 tsp color
  • 2 cups pellets to 3 tsp color
  • 1 cup pellets to 1.5 tsp color
  • 1/2 cup pellets to 3/4 tsp color
  • 1/4 cup pellets to 3/8 tsp color

24:1 ratio (This is usually too high for filament extrusion)

  • 4 cups pellets to 8 tsp color
  • 2 cups pellets to 4 tsp color
  • 1 cup pellets to 2 tsp color
  • 1/2 cup pellets to 1 tsp color
  • 1/4 cup pellets to 1/2 tsp color

How do I extrude PLA material?

PLA is short for Polylactic Acid.  It's a biodegradeable polymer that is easy to use in 3D printers without heated beds.

PLA must be kept very dry for extrusion of filament and for 3D printing.  Usually, this is accomplished by drying the pellets out in the oven prior to extrusion.

For more information, read a Brief Tutorial on Polymer Extrusion by Tim Elmore (courtesy of the Filastruder forum hosted by Soliforum).

 

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