Airwolf 3D Continues Innovation Streak with HydroFill Water Soluble Support Material
Airwolf 3D has been on the scene for several years, most recently with their release of a new build plate adhesive. There has been an ongoing struggle to understand the best ways to get materials to adhere to the build plate during printing so that they don’t warp and shift. Unfortunately, we have seen some problems with these DIY techniques, including the death of a teenager who was using hairspray as a method to create better build plate adhesion. Granted, the circumstances that led to that fire are unusual enough that the chances of reproducing them exactly are nearly nil, but the difficulties of keeping your print in place still require additional attention.
To counter the problems caused by lack of adhesion, particularly with warp-prone polypropylene parts, Airwolf 3D developed an adhesive specifically designed for polypropylene 3D printing called Wolfbite ULTRA. It sounds like the kind of product that might be used by one of the Stark lords in Game of Thrones should they decide to take up advanced manufacturing, but that’s exactly the kind of strength the developers were trying to convey. (It doesn’t hurt that the company’s co-founder and lead designer’s name is Erick Wolf; when you’ve got a name like that, it would be a waste not to use it.)
Not to one to innovate and then disappear, Airwolf 3D continues to bring exciting new products to market with its latest development: a support material that washes away with water. The primary method for erecting the support necessary to scaffold an object during its print is still to print it in such a way that it can then be broken away by hand; however, this method is not only time consuming but comes with the inherent risk of breaking away too much and causing irreparable damage to the printed object. In addition, it limits the possibilities for printing that required support during creation to objects whose breakable support were external and therefore accessible to the human hands and tools needed to remove them.
There have been a number of efforts over the years to develop printing materials that make removing supports easier, but these often required the use of brand specific printer filaments for the object itself as well. Now Airwolf 3D, the company that developed the game changing 3D printing adhesive for industrial-grade polypropylene, has developed a workable printing material that simply washes away in water and is ready for use with any ABS or PLA filaments.
Wolf explained the need that led to the development of this revolutionary water soluble support material:
“Since we started Airwolf over four and a half years ago, our customers have been asking for a soluble support option that truly works. We finally formulated the first real, water-soluble filament in the world and one of the things that makes HydroFill really unique is that it works beautifully when making large ABS parts. Even when exposed to high temperatures, HydroFill maintains its structural integrity while still rinsing away easily with water.”
HydroFill was developed through the collaborative efforts of Wolf and Dr. Miodrag Micic, Department Chair and Professor of engineering design technology at Cerritos College in Norwalk, CA. Micic, an internationally recognized expert in materials science, described the science behind Airwolf’s latest product:
“HydroFill is a proprietary, polymer-blend formulation that is ideal for printing soluble toolings as well as rafts for large surface area parts. It is the first viable soluble support material in the world that dissolves in clean water without the use of any caustic chemicals, detergents, or solvents and without the use of special equipment like ultrasonic or heated baths. HydroFill is a universal, green chemistry solution.”
No more acid baths; in fact, you could conceivably print your piece and leave it out in a heavy rainstorm and let Mother Nature do the removal work for you…but this is probably not the water bath technique the folks at Airwolf would recommend. Instead, products with internal moving gears and gadgets can now be printed in ABS or PLA as a single print on any brand of compatible FFF 3D printer, scaffolded by HydroFill, and then freed from their supports with a good, clean soak.
This new filament, which has already been the subject of rave reviews, will be introduced in both 1.75 mm and 3.0 mm diameters via Airwolf’s booth at CES 2017 from January 5 – 7. And if the past is any indication of the future, pay attention to this company; it won’t be the last time this wolf howls. Discuss in the HydroFill forum at 3DPB.com.
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