Thursday, 20 March 2008

Infill and warping

Now that I can create blocks with different infill densities I decided to experiment to see what effect it has on HDPE warping.

I have been using a standard test shape and a jig made of three nails to make comparative measurements.

I measure from the middle nail to the base with a pair of digital calipers and subtract the distance to a rule placed across the nails. The figure I get is an average of the amount each end warps upwards. Not very precise because the base is warped the other way as well.

The block is 40 x 10 x 20mm because you need about 40mm length before the warping becomes big enough to measure and 20mm height is about where things start to straighten out. Bigger shapes warp more but obviously take a lot longer to make. Each one of these takes about an hour including making the raft, extruding the block, separating it from the base and measuring it.

The block is held flat while it is stuck to the bed of the machine by the raft. It warps when I remove it. I have only recently noticed that it warps even more when left overnight, so some of my previous tests are not that accurate. For example I was quite pleased when I first produced this extruder sized block :-

But here it is again photographed some days later :-

Not easy to compare because of the angle but the uplift at each end probably increased from about 0.5mm to 1mm. It implies to me that HDPE creeps when under prolonged strain, not a very good engineering property. That is the main reason PTFE fails in the extruder.

I made the test blocks with different infill densities and left them overnight before measuring them :-

Here are the results: -

Density Warp
20% 0.44 mm
25% 0.79 mm
33% 0.47 mm
50% 0.47 mm
100% 0.53 mm

The 33% value looks totally anomalous but that is because I tried a thicker base. Its base is 3mm of 100% fill including the raft, whereas all the other tests begin the sparse fill on the first layer above the raft.

I also tried 1mm filament 50% fill which gave 0.42mm warp showing that not stretching the filament does not give any improvement.

Conclusions: well sparser fill reduces the warping slightly. A thicker base, rather than resisting warping, actually contributes to it. I must point out that once you get less than 50% fill the object is considerably weaker than a solid block.

Finally here is a longer example, which illustrates how warping gets worse the larger the object is. This is 100 x 10 x 20mm with 20% fill. The first time I made it it lifted the raft away from the base. I got round that by increasing the raft temperature by 10°C to get a stronger weld. It was then quite hard work removing it and it caused some damage to the PP bed.

The 40mm section in the middle is only warped by 0.19mm but the ends are well over 1mm. That shows that you cannot compensate for the warping with a crowned bed because it is not a constant curvature. One could probably scan the shape of the base and lay down support material with the inverse curve. I expect it would then pull itself flat.

In my next experiment I will try filling the sparse blocks with polyurethane two part thermoset plastic.


  1. If it were me, I'd try diagonal infill before I got involved with thermosets.

    Have you looked at the Zhang and Chou article, yet?

  2. Yes I have read the Zhang and Chou article. Coincidentally, they used the same fill patterns and the same outline size for their test object but they only looked at 100% fills.

    Their conclusion was that a zig-zag across the width of the object gave the least warping.

    I guess diagonal fill would be somewhere in between the two so I didn't consider it worth the effort, I maybe wrong.

    I did make an object with 25% fill in the short direction only, which came out as 0.42mm warping which is the lowest yet. However, that is only a 20% improvement over a solid fill, so these gains are very small for a big reduction in strength.

    When the object is still attached to the bed it is a lot less warped, so there are big gains to be had freezing it in that shape.