Monday, 8 October 2007

Laying it on the line

I decided to investigate the conditions necessary for multiple layers of HDPE filament to stick together so I wrote a little Python test script to extrude 20mm squares stacked on top of each other. From my graphs in equations-of-extrusion I chose an output rate of 3mm/s which gives a filament diameter of about 1.2mm. That only requires about 60% PWM which I thought was not too stressful for a 5V motor running from 12V. I set the heater temperature to 200°C. Here is the first run :-

The first two layers look reasonable and then we are into basket work! The z-axis was raising 1.2mm between each layer but, although the nominal filament diameter should be about 1.2mm, the sides were not growing at the same rate. That meant the filament was dangling allowing it to wiggle around. Next I reduced the z-increment to 1.1mm :-

Better, the first four layers are OK this time, so obviously I tried z-increment 1.0mm next :-

Much better! What is happening is that the filament is no longer cylindrical. Each layer is about 1.0mm high and 1.4mm wide. It could be due to gravity but I think it is more to do with being bent through 90° as it comes out the end of the nozzle.

The fact that the filament weaved about when the nozzle was too high made me think that the feed rate might be too fast so I did a taller test with the XY travel 20% faster :-

Another basket case! What is happening here is that there is not enough material so the filament slumps down and holes start appearing.

I went back to the original feed rate and did a couple of 20mm high tests to check consistency :-

These are actually incredibly strong in the vertical direction. I can stand on one and it takes my full weight. Here is a video of the one on the right being made, the middle section is sped up 8 times :-

I also ran a test at 160°C to see if the filament would still weld to the layer below. It did but it did not stick to the foam board.

As you can see the main defect is that the bottom corners curl up. This was completely expected from the work Forrest published here: Ten-layers-with-no-curling, so next I will try his solution of laying down a raft first.

Another defect is that the filament width varies in waves. These seem to be related to the rotation of the extruder drive screw. You can hear the motor labouring more on part of the revolution. I think it is because something in the drive is a bit eccentric but more investigation is required.


  1. yeah, really rocking! good stuff.

  2. Most excellent Einstein was right 99% perspiration! Just goes to show what a logical approach can achieve. I dream of the day when i get these sorts of results and yours and others hard work just brings it closer thanks