If you’ve been 3D printing for a while, you’ve probably become used to the common frustrations of the technology – the sinking feeling you get when you check on a print after three hours to discover it’s started to fail, or the rage that comes when the first layer of a print stubbornly refuses to stick to the print bed, no matter how many glue sticks you use. How many of us give much thought to why the problems might be happening, though – other than “this *#()$(*& printer is a *&@Y#% that hates me”?
Many common printing problems, it turns out, can be chalked up to one thing: moisture. Your filament may look and feel perfectly dry, but most 3D printing filaments are hydrophilic, meaning that they love moisture and enthusiastically absorb it from the air. When moisture builds up too much inside the material, that’s when you start hearing those disturbing snap-crackle-pop sounds during your print job and probably see some spectacular failures.
So what’s to be done? Pitching filament just because it gets damp is a huge waste of money, but it’s difficult to dry it once it gets wet. The makers of PrintDry were sick of it, so they decided to do something about it, and after a great deal of research, the PrintDry Filament Dryer was born. First introduced in May, the product has now made its way to Kickstarter, and has far surpassed its funding goal with two weeks left in the campaign.
The PrintDry is a small appliance in which spools of filament are placed and exposed to a consistent flow of hot, dry air that can run for up to 40 continuous hours. With temperature settings that range from 35°C to 70°C (95°F to 160°F), even the oldest, soggiest filament can be dried.
“The migration of moisture into the filament occurs over time and will eventually slow and stop when the moisture content reaches a state of equilibrium with that of the surrounding air,” the PrintDry team explains. “At the equilibrium point, the moisture content will be evenly distributed throughout the entire filament’s interior. The water molecules inside it are attached to the polymer molecule chains, forming a strong inter-molecular bond. This bond is what makes drying the filament difficult.”
PrintDry works by heating the filament to the point where the bond breaks between the moisture and the polymer, allowing the water molecules to travel to the material’s surface. Then the hot air draws the moisture out and carries it away. It’s not a quick process; depending on the material, it can take from a couple hours to more than a day, but it’s effective, and you can dry more than one spool of material at one time by stacking two drying chambers on top of each other.
The dryer can also be used to dry the dessicant packs that come with filament spools. In addition, an opening in the side of the dryer chamber can actually be used to feed the filament into the printer. PrintDry has developed a special kind of filament spool that they call the D-Spool, an open-concept spool that allows the entire roll of material to be exposed to the heat and dry more thoroughly.
The Kickstarter campaign, which ends on November 4, set an initial funding goal of $9,900 CAD ($7,483 USD). At this point, nearly $26,000 CAD ($19,603 USD) has been pledged. It’s no surprise that the campaign has been such a success; everyone who 3D prints on a regular basis has dealt with issues caused by moist filament, and has likely struggled with finding an effective way to dry it out. With PrintDry, a lot of money and time can be saved for very little effort.
Pricing is very reasonable, too, especially for Kickstarter supporters. Rewards start at $75 CAD ($57 USD), which includes one filament dryer, four spool clips, and 10 desiccant packs. It’s an early bird reward, but there are still several left, so you can still take advantage of a significant discount if you decide to pledge. For $99 CAD ($75 USD), you can get the same package plus two D-Spools and an upper deck filament feeder. Bundles of several models are available for higher pledge amounts.
Shipping is expected to begin in January 2017. Check out the Kickstarter video below:
Discuss in the PrintDry forum at 3DPB.com.