Saturday, July 1, 2017

PolySmooth - Another Reason for Expanding Our View

I know that 3D Systems was working on expanding the material offerings to 3rd Gen Cube and CubePro owners because I was included in some of the new material testing and in one case received a new material by accident.  These included infused filaments like wood and metal.

But, the minute 3D Systems decided to drop their FDM printers, any hope that 3rd Gen Cube owners would have the benefits of newly introduced filaments vanished.  And, there are some great new filaments!

One of the benefits of adding the JellyBox (kit), M3D Micro, M3D Micro+, M3D Pro and M3D ProMega to our lab serving at-risk young people is that all of these platforms allow us to use 3rd party filaments.  They don't all allow us to use ANY filament; but, some do... including the potential for eventually printing extremely high temperature filament like PEEK, PAEK and Ultem (PEI) using hot ends capable of reaching over 400C degrees.

My focus in this post is to introduce a filament that, unless we broaden our view and consider other 3D printers, would allude Cube/CubePro owners... PolySmooth from PolyMaker.Com.

PolySmooth prints at just a slightly higher temperature than PLA, 210C-230C.  Like PLA, PolySmooth is sensitive to moisture and spools must be protected when not being used for printing.  But, UNLIKE PLA, it can be smoothed using isoprophyl alcohol vapors in a similar way ABS can be smoothed using acetone.  I've tried the acetone vapor method and find it to be way too scary and way too toxic to be safely used in my home or the lab.

That is not true of the preferred nethod of smoothing PolySmooth, which is a device called the Polysher, which works like an enclosed cool-mist vaporizer using a nebulizer system.   I will soon be making a video of my own experience using PolySmooth and the Polysher system; but, until that happens, this video is very helpful in seeing exactly how well it works.

I can attest that it does work, and works very, very well.  Obviously, results vary based on the underlying quality of the print.  As you can see in the above video it is well enclosed so, while alcohol is flammable, the vapor is well contained and, unlike the acetone methods no heat is used, reducing the danger exponentially.  If the user is patient and lets everything settle down after a part has been processed before raising the elevator, fumes are minimal.  So, I feel confident using the Polysher in my home and around our cadets and at-risk students in the YouthQuest 3D ThinkLink Lab.

The truly cool thing for me is that even the $200-$299 M3D Micro/Micro+ can print using PolySmooth, so it's not just for the highest end 3D printers.

The black PolySmooth that I purchased with the Polysher system doesn't photograph well enough to truly see the remarkable changes that occur between the original and processed versions of a print.  I have orderd some light blue PolySmooth and will immediately print some objects and post an update with images showing my personal results.  But, trust me, it is VERY cool.

My goal with this blog has always been about helping Cube owners have the best possible 3D printing experience.  And, that extends to that phase in our journey where it becomes necessary to expand our view beyond the realm of the Cube experience.  It doesn't cost a lot, relative to our investment in the Cube printers to use our experience to expand what we can do.

On Amazon, PolySmooth is $39 and the Polysher system is $299.  New 3D printers capable of printing the PolySmooth can be had for as little as $200.  That means the total cost of new printer, Polysher and Polysmooth is less than our investment in any of the Cube printers we've owned.  While I love owning each of the Cubes (1st, 2nd and 3rd Gen Cubes), I am finding I have been able to leverage that experience best by moving to new 3D printing platforms that offer me a much wider range of materials and 3D printing possibilities.  The PolySmooth/Polysher system is just one more reason for expanding our view.