We have seen the 3D printing filament space evolve quite quickly over the past year or so. We’ve seen the emergence of materials unlike the traditional hard PLA/ABS plastic options that we were limited to only a couple years ago. Now we have, at our availability, filaments which look and feel like wood, copper, bronze, bamboo, rubber, and more. There are flexible filaments, metallic looking filaments and even glow-in-the-dark filaments which can be purchased and printed on almost any FFF/FDM based desktop 3D printers. Now, one company called ProtoParadigm has launched a Kickstarter campaign, for what they call ProtoFlux.
ProtoFlux is a PLA based magnetic filament which has the potential to really enhance the available options that we have when designing and printing objects. In the current state of affairs, we still remain limited mostly to printing objects that look cool, but don’t really serve much function. Of course there are fun little toys with moving parts, replacement parts for tools, and other designs floating around the internet for some objects which can in fact enhance our lives. However, it isn’t until we see more functionality available in 3D printed objects, that we will really begin to see desktop 3D printers go mainstream.
ProtoFlux filament may just be what we have all been waiting for. It is a material that is attracted to magnets, although it still maintains its plastic-like feel and weight. It is entirely printable on any 3D printer that is capable of printing PLA, and has the potential, not only to create some really unique magnetic products, but also opens the door to something which could become quite useful within the 3D printing space; magnetic data storage.
“For the first time, [you can] 3D Print magnetic storage on your desktop,” explains ProtoParadigm. “ProtoFlux’s remnant magnetization and strong coercive field means you can imprint magnetic data to filament or finished parts. It’s easy to read and write basic digital data to ProtoFlux using a magnetic field and linear hall effect sensors.”
Magnetic storage has been around in one form or another since the late 19th century, and is the method in which traditional hard drives, analog audio and video recording devices and floppy disks work. There are also new magnetic storage methods on the horizon, such as Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM). The ability to 3D print these types of devices from the comfort of your own home could open the door to some very interesting 3D printable product designs, and at the same time, make this technology much more attractive to the masses.
As one example of what this filament can be used for, ProtoParadigm created a very unique key, which has had digital code written to its teeth, which is then read by a linear hall sensor. This is one type of application that this filament can be used for, and with the vast array of different 3D printable file repositories out there, I have no doubt we will soon see free downloadable files for many more unique devices, provide that the ProtoFlux Kickstarter goal of $2,100 is reached.
Currently, at the time this article was written, they had raised $1,418 of the 2,100 goal. If you are interested in getting yourself some of this unique filament, it will only cost you $19 for a 227g spool. There are other backer options available as well, for more filament and additional products. For $89 you will get the “Maker Kit” which includes a 750g spool plus all the magnets and sensors you need to begin integrating this filament into your next project.
What do you think? Will you be backing ProtoFlux? What types of unique ideas do you think people will come up with in order to use this new material? Discuss in the ProtoFlux Magnetic Filament forum thread on 3DPB.com.