3D printing wood filament exists since 2012. It often consists of 60-80% polymers and 40-20% of recycled wood fiber of different kinds. There are no formal specifications for 3D printing materials and especially for new PLA composites. The properties of the end result, together with the whole printing experience, depends largely on what the non-PLA part of the filament is made of. In regards to the wood filament, the higher wood content, the trickier to print in it. In this blog, we will give you a few tips and tricks for how to handle this material successfully and to avoid unpleasant mishaps, like nozzle clogging.
Looks, Feels, and Smells Like Real Wood
The early attempts to create wood-like objects included sawdust in the filament mix. This resulted in the makes being more like cardboard, less tightly built, and more brittle than PLA. Nowadays the market has a new range of wood filament, which allows to create more authentic-looking objects. They smell and feel like real wood. The wood material made of bamboo, for example, creates sturdy objects that look like blocks of wood. The filament which is made of coconut particles has a distinctive finish. Those made in dark finish look very attractive.
How to Choose Wood Filament? – Watch out!
After trying a few brands, visiting 3D printing-related trade shows and reading reviews, we realized that it was a tricky 3D printing material for manufacturers, as the wood filament was not the easiest to handle and may clog nozzles. Manufacturers have to balance and often to sacrifice the authentic wood feel (reduce the % of wood chip) to guarantee a good filament flow for a 0.4mm nozzle (which is the most common for desktop 3D printers). As a result, users may get tricked into buying Wood Color PLA – which is 100% PLA in beige color.
What to 3D Print?
3D print something functional or decorative in wood filament for the smell and feel, and it will also have an eye-pleasing natural effect. Basically, anything that can be carved out of real wood can be 3D printed. The results may impress someone who knows little about desktop 3D printing at home. Makes, that are printed in 100% plastic, do not have the “WOW” factor, due to the unnatural feel and negative publicity about excessive plastics usage.
The announcement of Guardians of the Galaxy part 2 created a wave of interest towards Groot in the 3D printing community. A glimpse of Baby Groot in the movie trailer gave ideas to the designers. Makers all over the world are having fun recreating the famous character. 3D printing Groot in wood seems like an obvious choice. Check our blog dedicated to Groot.
Wood Filament – 3D Printing Settings
– Nozzle Temperature – The majority of wood materials can be printed at temperatures ranging between 180 and 220°C. It is interesting to try out the wood filament produced by a known brand, as it usually generates good printing results. Wood filament moulds and dries very quickly, and it has no problem with bridging.
– Bed temperature – 60°C is recommended. 3D printing in wood material is supposed to be relatively easy as it hardly ever warps. Again, the better quality wood filament sticks well to the building plate, making it suitable for 3D printers without a heated bed.
– Layer Height – The layers are tight and hardly visible even at 0.2mm layer height. With a higher layer, we observed that amazingly “tree rings” appear on the objects. The objects can be sanded, sawed and painted just like real wood!
– Retraction – Produces a lot of stringing. Here is where this filament has a clear disadvantage. It may take a while to tune the slicer settings for this filament. Check “Excessive Retraction” tips and tricks below.
Cura Settings – In the YouTube video below, we show Cura settings and 3D printing workflow that worked well for the Elephant Toy model made in the wood filament.
It could be tempting to test printing in the wood filament at different temperatures. It is said to change the color from light beige to dark brown. However, we would not recommend raising the temperature above the range recommended by the manufacturer, as there is a risk of clogging the nozzle.
Nozzle Clogging Issues – Tips and Tricks
In our experience, wood filament clogged both of our printers’ nozzles, Delta Wasp 2040 and Original Prusa i3 MK2.5S. Fixing a clogged nozzle is not the easiest process, it can also be hazardous. Before trying to use wood filament we would recommend to become comfortable using PLA first and get to know your 3D printer well. When 3D printing in wood it is important to stick to the manufacturer’s guidelines. If the temperature is too low, the filament doesn’t flow, if too high, it burns. Sticky tar residue may accumulate inside the extruder, even if it is not visible. See the picture below where it dripped onto an unfinished part.
Blocked nozzles are frustrating but the issue never put us off 3D printing in the wood filament. Over time we found some techniques to minimize the risk. Here are a few tips and tricks:
– Nozzle Cleaning – One of the best ways to clean the nozzle is to use the trusty PLA filament in between printing in wood. Use a short piece of this plastic filament after every 2-3 prints in the wood filament. We would not recommend “cold pulling” as the wood filament is brittle and there is a big chance that it will get stuck in a PTFE tube.
– Nozzle Change – It is a good practice to change the nozzle regularly. Every 3 months if the 3D printer is in heavy use, and especially when experimenting with various materials.
– Layer Height – 0.2mm and higher. The 1st layer 150% (0.3) to make sure that the filament flow is consistent and bed leveling doesn’t cause unnecessary problems.
– Nozzle Size – 3D printing with a large nozzle signifficalntly reduces the risk of blockage. Check the settings for 3D printing with a 0.8mm nozzle.
– Avoid Excessive Retraction – As we mentioned earlier, wood filament is prone to stringing. Excessive retraction will cause a lot of stringing and will waste some filament in the process. As a result, the missing layers may appear and ruin the print in process. There are two ways to avoid this. 1) 3D print “Local Test File” (a specific part of the object) and tune the slicer settings so there is no stringing. Either 2) Pause the machine for the filament change, unload and load the filament to reset the printer to the original flow.
Read More & Table: 3D Printing Filament for Desktop 3D Printers
It is important to use the right 3D printer filament material for the right job. Here you can find the list of materials available together with detailed reviews and picture galleries for the most used materials in desktop 3D printing. PLA, ABS, Wood, PETG, TPU FLEX, etc. …