Use Instructions and FAQs


Printing with Filamet™

Due to its high metal content, Filamet™ will inherently break more easily than standard PLA. Still, Filamet™ should be easy to use. Place the spool so that pull and friction are reduced as much as possible. Use a FilaWarmer to ease the path from spool to printer. To report any issues with Filamet™ after trying a FilaWarmer, please contact info@thevirtualfoundry.com.

Temperature:  401-419°F (205-215°C)
Set print bed to 122°F (50°C) (optional).
Tip: Put a layer of blue painters tape on the print bed. Filamet™ has great adhesion to the bed. For easier removal of prints, heat the print bed before removing the print.

Speed:  2000mm/min to start
Filamet™ prints just like any other PLA 3D printing filament, with one exception... start slow. Rushed prints are the most common cause of rough prints. Because Filamet™ is more than three times heavier than plastic filament, three times more energy is needed for print heads to heat the material, often taking more time. Some users have added larger heaters to their print heads in order to get higher print rates. With experience, prints can be faster, but for a quick win on a first try, start at about 2000mm/min. Increase to normal speed as experience is gained.

Layer Height:  Many slicers lay down an extra wide first layer to get good adhesion to the bed. This is not a problem unless the first layer is very thin. With traditional PLA, it will simply squeeze out at the sides. Filamet™ is more viscous which slows this process. If the printer nozzle seems clogged, it may be that the nozzle is too close to the bed on the first layer. Once dialed in, some users are printing down to a layer height of .1mm.

Nozzle:  For Copper, Bronze and Stainless Steel 316L Filamet™, use a .6mm or larger standard stainless steel nozzle.
For High Carbon Iron Filamet™, use a .8mm or larger hardened nozzle.

Reel Placement:  Reducing friction and pull on Filamet™ during printing is important. Try hanging the reel just above the printer. Any way to reduce friction and pull will greatly reduce chances of breakage during printing.

FilaWarmer:  Filamet™ has an exterior plastic coating that encases and protects the metal material. This plastic keeps the memory of its shape on the spool. As Filamet™ passes through the warmer, the memory of the Filamet™ is reset and prints with ease. The FilaWarmer comes pre-programmed to 60°C - perfect for Stainless Steel 316L Filamet™. Adjust the temperature to 45°C for Bronze and Copper Filamet™. For best results, station the Filamet™ spool above the printer to minimize any bend of the filament as it comes off the spool. Hang the FilaWarmer so that the top of the warming tube is at the same level as the spool center hole. Purchase a FilaWarmer in our Online Store.


Sanding and Polishing Filamet™

With heat, Filamet™ becomes clay-like. It can be carved, resculpted, pieces can be added and seams smoothed. Important! Constant movement is necessary when sanding to avoid unintentional melting. Experimenting is worthwhile.

Needle file:  To make print lines vanish, sand the surface even. The loose particles from sanding are smashed into the print line gaps with the heat from the friction, fixing them in place. This step is complete once the entire print’s surface is smooth and even.

Sandpaper or 3M Radial Disc:  Start with 120 grit sandpaper or 80 grit 3M Radial Disc, and go over every part of the print. The matte surface will become shiny as finer grits are used. Complete the entire surface of the print before moving to the next grit. The Virtual Foundry recommends using 4 grits with 3M and 6 or 7 grits with sandpaper. A nice shine can be achieved with less, but the mirror shine comes closer to the 7, ending around 3000 grit. After sanding, rub the print down with some flannel or a sunshine cloth to clean off loose particles. A mirror shine should be evident at this phase, even before the last step.

Sewn Buff and Zam:  Place sewn buff on a rotary tool, then liberally apply zam to the buff and to your print. The print will melt if it gets too hot, so it is critical to keep the buff moving and continue to apply zam liberally. It may be useful to practice this step on a simple print or a “failed print.”


The Sintering Process and Magic Black Powder

Sintering in an Open Environment
(Copper and Bronze Filamet™ Only)

Mix the Magic Black Powder:  Start with a mixture of 1.8 parts MBP to 1 part water and adjust as needed. The mixture should be a bit on the runny side but have a thicker consistency than water. Starting with a thinner mixture allows more time to paint on the first layer before the MBP sets up too much.

Prep the Print:  Manually paint a layer of the MBP mixture onto the print, carefully covering all surfaces. This coat grabs all the detail of the print and makes a mold that holds the print’s shape while firing. During the painting process, the MBP is thickening in the firing vessel (metal cylinders work best as the firing vessel). Put the print into the MBP while it's just barely thick enough to suspend it. If it’s too thick, air pockets and bubbles can occur and create deformities in the fired print.
Tip:  Magic Black Powder application video

Candling:  This step removes moisture from the MBP. Place the firing container in the furnace and bring the temperature to 350°F (176.7°C). Hold for 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Ramp Cycle:  Over the course of one hour, bring the temperature from 350°F (176.7°C) to 500°F (260°C)

Debinding:  This step removes the binder from the print. When candling time is up, bring the temperature to 500°F (260°C) and hold for 90 minutes. Then, ramp the temperature to 700°F (371.1°C) and hold for 90 minutes. Once this temperature is reached, the print has achieved its final look.
Tip: Once the container passes 600°F (315.5°C), minimize its exposure to oxygen (i.e., do not open the furnace, make sure peepholes are plugged, etc.).

Sintering:  This step welds the print into pure metal. Increase temperature according to the table below, then hold for a time dependent on the size of the print. The swirly cone print (42g) will hold for 45 minutes.
Tip: The mechanical properties of the final product are directly related to how long the print is held at the sintering temperature. If the end product is powdery and brittle, it’s under sintered. If the print looks like old wrinkled fruit, it’s over-sintered. Eliminate exposure to oxygen to avoid failure due to oxidation.

Summary:
Candling - 350°F (176.7°C) for 1:15
Ramp Cycle - Over 1 hour, bring the temp from 350°F (176.7°C) to 500°F (260°C)
Debinding phase 1 - 500°F (260°C) for 1:30
Debinding phase 2 - 700°F (371.1°C) for 1:30
Sinter Temp - see below
(If no ramp rate is specified, Full Ramp is implied.)

Quenching:  This step ends firing and cools the print. While the print sinters, prepare a 1-2 gallon metal container of water. Using tongs and heat resistant gloves, remove the print container from the furnace and place directly into the water. The water will hiss and bubble as the project cools, and MBP will disintegrate. Retrieve the object from the water when cool, after about 3-5 minutes.

The Magic Black Powder closest to the print should be dark gray. If it is white, troubleshooting is needed to eliminate oxygen. Try sealing the container with stainless steel tool wrap.

Initially, the print will be dark: this is a very thin surface layer. Much of it can be removed by pickling, but sandblasting, fine steel wool or tumbling will also get the job done. The Virtual Foundry recommends 3M Radial Bristle Discs.

For first trials, plan for 7% shrinkage of the part overall through the sintering process.

Sintering in a Vacuum or Inert Environment
(All Materials)

Items Needed:  
Refractory Container (Crucible)
Powdered Graphite and/or Al203 (Refractory Ballast) (available in our Online Store)

Prep:  Place the object in the refractory, ensuring the entire print and all surfaces are completely covered and any protruding areas are fully supported. The print must be fully surrounded by the refractory.

Fire:  Place the Crucible in the furnace and begin the firing cycle.

Copper and Bronze    Stainless Steel 316L

1. Ramp temp to 350°F (176.7°C) and hold for 75 minutes

2. Ramp temp to 500°F (260°C) over the course of 60 minutes

3. Hold temp at 500°F (260°C) for 90 minutes

4. Ramp temp to 700°F (371.1°C) and hold for 90 minutes

5. Ramp temp to Sinter Temp (see below) and hold

(If no ramp rate is specified, Full Ramp is implied.)
    
1. Ramp temp to 401°F (205°C) over the course of 180 minutes.

2. Ramp temp to 2192°F (1200°C) over the course of 180 minutes.

3. Hold temp at 2192°F (1200°C) for 180 minutes.

4. Furnace cool to ambient temp until Crucible can be removed by hand.

 

* Sintering instructions for High Carbon Iron Filamet™ are being finalized. This page will be updated when those instructions are ready.

 

This process takes around 12 hours and has been tested on prints up to 200g.

For first trials, plan for 7% shrinkage of the part overall through the sintering process.

Tip:  The mechanical properties of the final product are directly related to how long the print is held at the sintering temperature. If the end product is powdery and brittle, it’s under sintered. If the print looks like old wrinkled fruit, it’s over-sintered.

Print is ready for finish work!


 
Filamet™  Sinter Temp
Bronze  1590°F (865.6°C)
Copper  1800°F (982.2°C)
SS316L  2192°F (1200°C) in vacuum or inert environment

* Sintering instructions for High Carbon Iron Filamet™ are being finalized. This page will be updated when those instructions are ready.

 

Sintering Furnaces

Furnaces used to sinter objects printed with Filamet™ should meet the requirements below:

Filamet™  Max Temp  Atmosphere  MBP Needed?  Programmable?
Copper & Bronze  2012°F (1100°C)  Open  Yes  Yes
Copper & Bronze  2012°F (1100°C)  Vacuum or Inert  No  Yes
SS316L  2552°F (1400°C)  Vacuum or Inert  No  Yes

Note:  Furnaces can vary in temperature by 100°F (37.8°C) from the furnace readout which can adversely affect results. Test furnace temperature with an independent thermometer.

When a vacuum or inert environment furnace is used, no Magic Black Powder is needed. Instead, use a suitable refractory to support the print's shape. TVF recommends powdered graphite (available in our Online Store).

See the Sintering Furnace Information page for a purchasing resource.


FAQs

How should I place Filamet™ when I am printing with it?
Ease the pull on the Filamet™ to reduce breakage while printing. Hanging the Filamet™ above the printer works well. A little suspension frame with some free spinning ball bearing action works too.

How Strong is Filamet™?
While Filamet™ isn’t as strong as standard PLA (because of the very high metal content), it is still sturdy. Reducing friction on the Filamet™ as it's pulled into the printer is key.

What kind of printer does Filamet™ work on?
Filamet™ works in any desktop printer. If the printer prints with standard PLA, it will print with Filamet™.

What is the Metal Content of Filamet™?
Copper Filamet™ is 90% metal by mass, Bronze Filamet™ is 87-90% and Stainless Steel 316L Filamet™ is 81-85%.

Is Filamet™ Conductive?
While in its printable spool form, Filamet™ has a PLA binder (10% or less). Through sintering, the PLA binder is burned off and the remaining object has the same properties of whatever metal it is.

What are the print settings for Filamet™?
Printer settings and sinter firing schedule can both be found on the Use Instructions page and printed instructions are included with every order.

I want to sinter a print. Where should I start?
The best way to learn the sinter process is to print the swirly cone model and then follow the sintering instructions on the Use Instructions page which are set for this size model. Sintering times vary by the size of the print.

Do you have any instructional videos?
Yes! Check out The Virtual Foundry YouTube channel for instructional and promotional videos.

What do I need to polish Filamet™?
The Deluxe Buffing Kit provides everything needed to polish prints.

Where can I find Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the copper Filamet™?
Copper MSDS

Are you going to have more printable metals?
The Virtual Foundry is consistently working on expanding available products. Keep watching this website and our Facebook page for new material announcements.

What makes Filamet™ special?
Filamet™ makes metal printing available to anyone with a desktop 3d printer - no need to purchase a costly printer to print with metal.

What kind of kiln do I need?
Mainly, the kiln needs to be programmable. The Virtual Foundry uses kilns that are made for firing semi-precious metal clays.

What is the mix ratio for Magic Black Powder (MBP)?
As a starting point, consider a ratio of 1 to 2 with 1 cup of water to 2 cups of MBP. This may be a bit on the dry side in which case a bit more water should be added. The goal of the mixture is a bit runny but not like water. A layer of MBP will be painted on to the print to create a mold that holds the object's shape while firing. Be sure to apply to all the detail of the print - cracks, crevasses, etc. While this layer is being applied, the remainder of the MBP mixture will begin setting. Starting with a thinner mixture will offer more time for this process. It's important to have that first layer fully applied and the object into the remaining MBP mixture when the mixture is just barely thick enough to suspend the object. If the mixture is too thick, air pockets may form and create deformities in your fired object.
Note: Metal cylinders work best as the firing vessel.

How should I store Filamet™?
Filamet™ does not appreciate being exposed to air for weeks. When not in use, store Filamet™ in a sealed plastic bag with the desiccant pack included with the product.

I need help! What do I do?
Contact The Virtual Foundry through email or Facebook.

Where is the link for the swirly cone model?
Here and at the bottom of every page of this website.

 

The applications for Filamet™ are endless, everything from jewelry to blocking radiation.

Please share your experience and applications on Facebook.