There are a handful of 3D printer filament manufacturers that have really been pumping out all sorts of new materials as of late. One such company is ProtoPlant, which is at forefront of the market when it comes to introducing new, unique printing materials. While they are a newcomer to the filament manufacturing space, they have grown quite quickly over the past year.
“2014 has been a wonderful year for us; we launched Proto-pasta, created and released six innovative materials including Steel, Iron, and (now) Conductive PLA, and ship our material world wide,” Sara Shepherd, Community Outreach for ProtoPlant tells 3DPrint.com. “We are very excited about 2015 and the creation of even more materials which will help drive this technology forward!”
The latest, and perhaps greatest material release from ProtoPlant is their Conductive PLA, which is part of a Kickstarter campaign that has launched in conjunction with ProtoPlant exhibiting at the upcoming 2015 International CES in Las Vegas, Nevada (Booth #75029 in Eureka Park), where they will have samples on hand for attendees.
As for the Conductive PLA, “conductive” may be an understatement, as this material is between 60 times and 700,000 times more conductive than readily available conductive filaments currently on the market. It is powerful enough to complete circuits and allow for the 3D printing of completely functional electronics. It is also completely compatible with other PLA filaments, allowing users to create a variety of different touch screen projects, including touch sensors. It prints just like normal PLA (230C hot end temperature) and is manufactured in-house at ProtoPlant, which is located in Washington State.
While ProtoPlant did not need to launch a Kickstarter campaign for their filament, they felt driven to do so.
“When we released our Stainless Steel & Magnetic Iron PLA, we received a few messages asking why we hadn’t released them on Kickstarter,” Shepherd tells us. “3D printing has a very active, supportive online community, so it makes sense that folks want to support 3DP innovations in a community-centered way. We had a great time with our last Kickstarter in 2013, especially when it came to receiving suggestions and support from experienced printers around the world, and after receiving messages urging us to do another, we decided to Kickstart our Conductive PLA.”
As for the backer levels for this campaign, there are many, starting with a $15 pledge which will get you 125g of the conductive PLA filament. If you pledge $20, that will get you the same amount of filament but also provide you with a Stylus Kit that can be used to 3D print conductive pens for touch screen devices. A pledge of $24 will provide you with a Creator Kit allowing you to 3D print other electronics, including those that operate with LEDs, etc. There are other pledge levels that follow, including pledges for larger quantities of the filament, as well as a Controller Kit which provides you with all the needed hookups to create you very own 3D printed gaming controller.
As for the strength and quality of the Conductive PLA, ProtoPlant provides the following information:
- Strength: Fair strength. More flexible than PLA, but less layer adhesion
- Warping: Very low warping
- Dual-Head compatibility: Compatible with (sticks to) PLA in dual material prints
- Stiffness: Low, semi-flexible
- Heat Resistance: Similar to PLA, use below 50C
- Flexibility: Filament is quite flexible but will break if bent repeatedly (especially the 2.85mm). Printed parts come out rigid if they are more than a mm or two thick. Thin sections are somewhat flexible but fail along layer lines if flexed more than a few times.
- Failure Mode: If flexed to breakage, failure will be along layer lines.
Like mentioned above, this isn’t the first Kickstarter campaign launched by ProtoPlant. In fact, they have had two successful campaigns in the past. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this one won’t be equally or even more successful than their previous campaigns. They have a modest goal of $2,250 set on the campaign, which will almost certainly be reached.
What do you think about ProtoPlant’s conductive PLA filament? What types of things do you think will end up being 3D printed, thanks to this new material? Discuss in the Conductive PLA forum thread on 3DPB.com. Be sure to check out the Kickstarter Campaign and some of the videos below: