Thursday 20 November 2008

Hot Stuff

When I was making the chuck grip I noticed that the raft changed colour part way across the top layer of the raft.

The heater seemed to be on 100%, so it looked like the plastic was way too hot. By the time I noticed it seemed to have reached thermal equilibrium and apart from some snap crackle and pop sounds, and a bit of smoke the extruder seemed happy. I was reluctant to abort the build because it had taken about an hour to get this far.

When it finished the raft it cooled down to the right temperature and built the object. The surface of the raft has a completely different texture and it seemed easier than usual to peel off the object. Despite that, it managed to hold down what was a very big object. The shape of the object was less prone to curling than most, being a large circle (no corners to curl up) split into three segments and with a corrugated outside perimeter, which could absorb shrinkage. I need to do more experiments to know if it is beneficial to deliberately make a raft like this.

This is what the normal and hot rafts look like close up :-

And here they are under a microscope :-

To investigate further I ran a test with the heater target temperature set to 300°C and monitored the thermistor reading. It maxed out at 290°C. That is fortunate as it is just below the point where PTFE is supposed to start decomposing into poisonous substances. For some reason the PTFE holds up mechanically, I would have expected the barrel to pop out. Perhaps the ABS becomes so fluid that there is very little pressure required for extrusion. Anyway, the extruder seems happy operating at 280°C, where it just about manages to control the temperature with 96% PWM.

The filament changes from green and smooth to almost cyan and a rough texture: -

Again under the microscope the surface looks very different :-

My theory as to what is happening is that the green dye is composed of yellow and cyan dyes, and the yellow component is boiling off, disrupting the surface.

I had a go at making some objects at 240°C, 260°C and 280°C :-

It seems that 240°C is about the limit for green ABS before it starts to change colour and texture. The bottom of each object has to be at the correct temperature so it can be separated from the raft but other layers could be chosen to be different temperatures to give a stripy effect. The hot objects seem very strong and feel like they wont de-laminate in a hurry.

I don't think you can keep the plastic long at those temperatures, I found this mess under a raft. I think the temperature had gone wrong during warm up.

Initially I had no idea why my temperature control was occasionally going wrong. The thermistor is still well attached. I caught the effect with some logging and discovered that the temperature was reading about 40°C low some of the time. Touching a connector seemed to fix it. I could not find a loose connection so I just unplugged it and plugged it in again. I has been OK since. With a 10K thermistor you only need a few ohms to make a big difference at the high end.

So an interesting effect that might be exploitable for support material or aesthetic effects.


  1. Are the dimensions of your three objects made at different temperatures the same? It looks like the cyan filament might pack closer.

  2. No they came out the same size.