Many filaments are hygroscopic, absorbing moisture from the air. In a few days, your PLA filament will absorb enough air to become brittle. Nylon (polyamide) filaments will fill with air in a number of hours. Brittle filaments break often within your extruders and Bowden tubes and may lead to warped 3D prints, as well. Final part properties can also degrade as a result.
On high-end systems, like the MiniFactory Ultra, drying and conditioning chambers have been in use for a number of years. Companies, such as Xioneer, have had professional filament dryers for some time now, while other firms have had dry boxes to keep your filament from taking in less moisture. MassPortal has been offering an industrial and desktop filament dryer for years. Many users now preheat spools to dry them out in an oven.
I’d always advise drying your feedstock in a professional context. I’ve found that keeping your filament in air tight containers stuffed with desiccant does the trick, as long as you remember to not leave a material out for a long time. And with the polyamides, well… that just tends to suck to be honest.
Thought3D, the Maltese company behind Magigoo bed adhesive, think they have a solution. The firm has released an inline filament dryer. This dryer uses desiccant to dry filament pushed trough it as you print. You have to pre-dry for 50 minutes and then it dries along with you printing. Called Drywise, it costs $1,700.
“In our 5 years of developing and selling Magigoo and working closely with filament and printer manufacturers world wide, we have seen clear un-met gaps in user experience. Spending large sums of money on high performance material care, having to pre-plan filament drying, then needing to dry the filaments for tens of hours and sometimes even days in costly ovens was not a future we wanted to agree with for industrial additive manufacturing. We have been working on a solution to make material care seamless, improve the ability to recover wet material and more importantly be able to bring down the preparation time by treating just the amount of material you need to 3D print. We are happy to present Drywise in-line dryer as an easy to use stand alone machine for repeatable and reliable results,” Dr. Keith M. Azzopardi, Chief Research Officer of Thought3D stated.
Not so sure about the costly ovens and I’ve never really had a problem with “pre-plan filament drying”, nor have I ever had to put material in an oven for days. But this could be a very exciting solution. The company says that sensors in the system optimize the drying and that you can change the desiccant or desiccant cartridges.
The company also has taken the time to calibrate its drying systems for a number of filaments, focusing on polyamide and polyamide composites. Later on, Thought3D will focus on high-temperature materials. Available in models for drying 2.85mm or 1.75mm feedstocks, Drywise units will begin shipping in February and July of 2022, respectively. Initially they will only be available in the European Union. You can prepay now with $300 to obtain a preorder system.
I’m not sure if Drywise will work, but, if it does, then this will be a great solution for people printing with polyamides. These materials are impossible to keep well on a printer. When dried, polyamides give you a hell of a performance for a relatively low-temperature printing material. Part properties mean that these thermoplastics can be used widely and composite-filled variants are now some of the most popular production materials on desktop fused deposition modeling systems. Especially for those users, this could be a godsend.
For people with other filaments, oven drying could still be a useful alternative. However, if you are in an enterprise print lab or a print facility at a design or industrial competence center, then this is a great solution. You’ll save a lot of employee time with more reliability and less print interruptions. You can also now dial in a process and system much more coherently. Part properties and the consistency of printed parts will be much improved.
One of the largest failure modes in 3D printing is caused by filament being too wet or indeed in inconsistencies in humidity throughout the day. If this works, then it will eliminate this inconsistency. Furthermore, part properties will be more predictable, layer adhesion, part aesthetics, and overall part strength could improve. Given the costs in enterprise 3D printing, I think that inline filament drying should be the norm.
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