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3D Printing Soluble Filaments

According to Hackaday, when it comes to complicated 3D printed designs, they “often require the use of an automatically generated support structure around them for stability.”  The only issue here comes after the print itself, when makers are forced to endure “the painstaking process of removing all the support material without damaging the object itself.”

However, there has been a solution: “if you’ve got a suitably high-end 3D printer…[you can print your object’s supports] in a water soluble filament; just toss the print into a bath and wait for the support to dissolve away.”

“But what if you’re trying to print [an object] which is complex but also needs to be soluble?”  This is what engineer Jacob Blitzer has recently been experimenting with.  “The trick is finding two filaments, which can be printed at the same time but are dissolved with two different solutions.  His experimentation has proved it’s possible to do with consumer-level hardware, but it isn’t easy and it’s definitely not cheap.”

As for applications for this sort of object, Blitzer initially “wanted to be able to print hollow molds in complex geometric shapes, which would ultimately be filled with concrete.”  For these molds, Blitzer when with a High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) filament.  “Finding a water-soluble filament for the supports, which could be printed at similar temperatures to the HIPS took months of research, but eventually he found one called HyroFill to fit the bill. Unfortunately, it costs…$175 per kilogram.”

To print these objects, Blitzer used a FORMBOT T-Rex, which “uses the old-school method of having two individual hot ends and extruders.”  The results, for Blitzer, have been mixed: “he’s produced some undeniably stunning pieces, but the failure rate has been very high.  Still, it’s fascinating research appearing to be the first of its kind.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Jacob Blitzer and Hackaday

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