August 28, 2020
Eight years ago the Filastruder was invented by a graduate student who needed parts for a research project. Since then, it’s been used by hobbyists for personal printing needs to researchers and scientists to further discovery and efficiency.
So from the classic “can it use recycled bottles” to metal composites and silicone tubing, here are a few interesting applications of the Filastruder we’ve seen over the years.
Fair warning, this is a longer post than we typically publish, but we think it’s a pretty cool read.
Arguably the most popular question we received when we launched the Filastruder was some variation of “can it be used on failed prints or recycled milk jugs and soda bottles?” Our response for a long time was some variation of “sure, but it’ll take some work.” Doing so is not easy, and requires both patience and some dialing in to not make the process a futile exercise.
In his YouTube video, which has more than 2 million views now, Stefan takes a well-explained technical approach and shares how to get the solid results you’d want if you're considering recycling your failed prints through the Filastruder.
If you’re looking to recycle failed prints, check out his video first. It’s a must-have learning resource for the process.
So that’s the process, but what if I drink a lot of Soylent and want to recycle those?
So funny you should ask.
Stephen Hawes on YouTube did just that. He took his love of Soylent meal replacement drinks and used the empty bottles to make his own Soylent filament. And, of course, he then printed a Benchy. It’s a pretty cool experiment. Click here to check it out.
What if I wanted to use the Filastruder itself as a massive hotend?
We love where your head's at, and you wouldn’t be the first.
Researchers at Kent State University in Ohio successfully converted the FIlastruder into an hotend for some large scale prints. What was the recycled filament made of? Old lunch trays.
This is pretty incredible, and a personal favorite of this author’s when it comes to unique applications. Check out the reddit thread here to see more.
There are several types of plastic pellets that can be extruded through the Filastruder. ABS was a popular choice when we launched it, and nowadays PETG is popular, particularly for its ability to be used for PPE (personal protective equipment) in light of COVID-19.
But even with the variety of plastics on the market, a few people took it a step further and extruded some more, let’s say, unconventional materials.
Boron Carbide and the invention of the Olsson Block
At the time of this usage, Anders Olsson was a research engineer at Uppsala University in Sweden. Anders and his team were researching neutrons, specifically the particles in liquids for water purification, and they began 3D printing sample holders that were difficult to have machined when they came across a challenge.
They needed to continue 3D printing their custom sample holders, but they also needed to use boron carbide, which is their preferred and ideal material for absorbing neutrons to protect the people and equipment in their research, because of how hard it is. In fact, it’s popularly used for tank armor.
Enter the Filastruder.
Anders was able to successfully create a boron-carbide plastic fill, but as a result of the material’s hardness, he was going through nozzles left and right. This ultimately pushed him to develop the Olsson Block, an upgrade for Ultimaker 2 3D printers that lets you swap nozzles quickly. And just like the Filastruder, something that was first designed for research, unexpectedly became popular for the 3D printing community.
Copper and iron composite filament
A handful of researchers set out to test and observe the thermo-mechanical properties of metal/polymer composite filaments. One of their tests introduced copper and iron particles into ABS thermoplastic. And they did so successfully.
It will likely come as no surprise, but they found that the tensile strength of the composites decreased by adding the metal particles, but the thermal conductivity of the composite filaments improved by increasing the metal content.Here are a few images from the study, and if you’re interested in learning more about their work, you can download their full report here.
Stretchable, conductive wiring
Have you ever wondered about 3D printing electrical circuits? Well, so have researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada. They have been experimenting with liquid metal alloys, and used a modified Filastruder to 3D print stretchable, conductive wires.
It’s a really interesting process, and one you should check out. You can read more about their process and results here.
It should go without saying that extruding silicone is challenging, but we’re going to say it anyway, so you know how impressive this accomplishment is.
Carson Dickey, a master of engineering student at Texas A&M University, successfully extruded silicone and shared the juicy details with us via email.
“Silicone is a thermoset elastomer meaning it cannot be melted. It is instead mixed with a catalyst then cured with heat and time. Once the silicone is cured, the shape cannot be altered. For this reason, no heat is needed when extruding. If heat is applied in the barrel, the silicone will take on the shape of the barrel and will not pass through the die.
The silicone I used is known as High Consistency Rubber Silicone (HCR). HCR is a commonly extruded silicone and comes in a solid block. Pieces are cut from the block and mixed with a platinum catalyst to begin the crosslinking process. To be mixed, a Two Roll Mill is needed. The mill allows for the two solids to be mixed at a molecular level. I have attached a link to the two roll mill I used. Once the silicone has been mixed, it resembles the consistency of silly putty. This consistency is soft enough to be extruded in the Filastruder. Some types of silicone may be too viscous to be extruded.
When extruding, no heat is required. Any heat will cause the silicone to cure and not able to pass through the die. When I extruded, I began with nothing on the end of the barrel. Once I saw silicone beginning to gather at the end of the screw, I screwed on the die and continued the process until tubing was produced. Once the tube was produced, I laid it on a piece of foil and put in an oven at 100 C for 2 hours. This time and temperature will vary with different brands of silicone.
After extrusion, it is okay if the silicone cures in the barrel but make sure the die is removed before the silicone is cured. The cured silicone can be removed easily by running more silicone through the extruder and pulling out the cured section with a pair of pliers. It is actually quite satisfying since the silicone comes out all together in the shape of the screw.”
Here is a video of the extrusion. Note how slow the silicone moves.
Lastly, since the Filastruder was born out of research needs, we thought we’d share a few published works mentioning the Filastruder and its contributions to their work that we found interesting. NOTE: while previews or abstracts are available for the content below, most full content is behind a paywall of some sort either through subscription, book purchase, or the like.
Fabrication of Polylactide Nanocomposite Filament Using Melt Extrusion and Filament Characterization for 3D Printing by Shrenik Kumar Jain
Winner of the 2018 Best Dissertation prize in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science
Advances in Additive Manufacturing, Modeling Systems and 3D Prototyping
Proceedings of the AHFE 2019 International Conference on Additive Manufacturing, Modeling Systems and 3D Prototyping, July 24-28, 2019, Washington D.C., USA
Direct Coupling of Fixed Screw Extruders Using Flexible Heated Hoses for FDM Printing of Extremely Soft Thermoplastic Elastomers by Mohammad Abu Hasan Khondoker & Dan Sameoto
As you can see, we love learning how the community continues to innovate and advance the usage of the Filastruder. If you’ve used yours in an unconventional way, or have seen some unique applications that we haven’t mentioned here or shared anywhere, please feel free to let us know by Tweeting at us @Filastruder or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to see them.
Or, if you're interested in purchasing your own Filastruder, you can click here.
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