Wednesday 6 December 2017

Christmas Advent 3D Printing 2017 Day #5 Polyalchemy Elixir PLA

December advent calendar - modular Christmas tree
3D Printing advice #Day 5.

For the background and introduction - Day #1 Post click here

Christmas Advent 2017 Download on Thingiverse here - designed by Tom Van den Bon  With some help for each day by the South African Makers team.

Wow, Day #5 of the calendar already, and today the gift is designed by Lelanie Smuts- It's a Christmas Robot.

Since we have a multi-part Robot print. It would have been obvious to use any ‘Silver’ material. I did consider stainless steel, but maybe we will use that later in the series.

Because it has a few different parts and they happen to be the exact colours I have in Polyalchemy Elixir PLA, I decided that the little robot would look amazing printed in this unique material. After all, every robot wants to be nice and shiny

Polyalchemy Elixir PLA Blend's are a little bit special. They are without doubt, the shiniest materials available right now. Models using Elixir have a ‘silk like’ appearance in most lighting conditions.

This PLA material blend does contain modifiers to get the silk-shiny appearance. You will not find ‘natural’ PLA exhibiting this type of shimmer and shine without some sort of additive.

I'm also using Polyalchemy Elixir Emerald City Green for some of the Christmas Tree sections.

I'm breaking my own rule above by printing two parts at the same time, if you look really closely you may see a few tiny imperfections on the left print. These small defects are where the nozzle has travelled back in free-air a long way from the part on the right.

The modifiers do add a lot of strength to the plastic. It’s one of the best flowing and smooth PLA style materials, I have every used.

Just take a look at the first few layers of any Elixir print (below). They always look stunningly perfect.

Elixir Emerald City - Very smooth layers, tight filament bonding and great inter-layer adhesion.

These Elixir colours will be used for our Robot.

Smooth printing.

Little Red hat.

The Robot in parts, ready for assembly - googly eyes not 3D printed :)


Printing advice -

The main thing you need to watch out for is oozing, stop-start ‘blobs’ (poor extruder control) or a lack of extruder retraction v temperature. This will spoil the surface finish. Elixir needs a well tuned 3D printer to get the best out of it. If you have a badly tuned machine, it can look awful.

Printing one object at a time can assist in the surface finish quality on many machines. This is because the perimeter is less likely to be contaminated by wisps’ or blobs from travelling back and forth to multiple object layers. If you can keep the nozzle inside the object – ‘avoid crossing perimeters’ it’s also a good thing for surface quality and finish.

Temperature can play a part in the shiny appearance as will layer height, so experiment with various settings. Spend some time tuning your inner-to-outer perimeter settings, so the join and so surface finish, is perfect.

I would love to see some translucent Polyalchemy Elixr materials one day, but I’m not sure it’s possible with the formulation and modifiers being used? If anyone can do it, surely an Alchemist can?

What settings did you use? - Polyalchemy Elixir PLA tends to like it a little hotter than normal PLA. I do experiment with new colours when I can buy them, but start at 200 Degrees C for a standard 50mm/sec print speed. Expect to go all the way up to 222 Degrees C for higher speed and chunky layers.

I used 215 Degrees C for all the above prints.

Print speed - it's good from 20-120mm/sec. Works fine in Direct drive or Bowden extruders.

Why use it? - Just look at it! It's the most shiny material ever. It's almost impossible to get how shiny it is in any photo. But seriously if you need a stunning bust, vase, or Robot :) then this is a great choice.

Is it strong? - Yes, this is stronger than normal PLA, it has higher impact resistance and the filament will not snap, you will have to cut it.

Is it easy to use/print - Yes. It as long as you have a well tuned, and calibrated machine. You need to measure the diameter of the filament and accurately add this into your slicer (always do this with any filament, but here it's even more important). Elixir will not get as runny as normal PLA at high temperatures, I have had it over 240 degrees C in ultra-high-speed testing systems.

Do you have to dry it before/after use? - No. this material seems very happy being in ambient conditions. But the best advice is always to keep it sealed, dry and away from strong light for maximum shelf life. I have had rolls sat on a shelf open for 6+ months without any problems at all. It does not seem to be affected by Light - not had any brittle models after 1+ year of using this material.

Do i need a 'special' nozzle? - No, it's not abrasive, I have used it with all different sizes of nozzle from 0.25 to 1.6mm - It will work fine with Stainless, Hardened steel, Copper, Ruby or Brass nozzles.

I really recommend not using very big nozzles, or high layer heights. Elixir is most happy and will give the best visual results, at lower layer heights (under 0.25mm max) and with a 0.4mm nozzle or smaller.

Beard (Left) printed with a 0.6mm nozzle - Robot body (Right) was a 0.4mm nozzle

As an example the white (natural) Elixir beard above (left) was printed on the TAZ at 0.25mm layers and a 0.6mm Ruby nozzle, all other parts were printed with a 0.4mm nozzle and 0.2mm layer heights.

Does it smell when printing? - No, no smell at all.

Does it come on a eco friendly spool? - No, It's a clear plastic spool, not marked with recycle triangle and not stating what material it's made of :( It is in a Cardboard box. Some 1Kg spools are still stocked at various places around the world, but it's usually a 750g roll + around 250g of plastic spool.

Conclusion for Polyalchemy Elixir PLA blend  - I do really like using this material. I have still only tried out a few of the colours. I'm keen to get hold of some Black Abyss. I can see myself using that for a lot of projects. I would love to see a Gold Elixir and also some translucent Elixir materials one day, but I’m not sure it’s possible with the formulation and modifiers being used? If anyone can do it, surely an Alchemist can?

Starting to get some height now. Days 1-5.

Day #5 Is Completed. This is a very happy Robot, just what he wanted for Christmas, a shiny suit and hat.

The Robot has a story to tell, all about how he became so smooth and shiny.

Join me next time for Day #6 - I wonder what it's gong to be?

Thanks for reading.


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