Many of our customers ask about using off the shelf or open source materials for their FDM machine. While there has been many open source materials come out, we always recommend that customers use Stratasys materials since there are compelling reasons for doing so.
The machine, software and materials all interface to give you the best part possible. If you use material that comes from an outside supplier, you often don’t know what the melting temperatures or the exact composition of the plastic is, and this can greatly affect your equipment and ruin your part.
For example, there are over 5000 different types of ABS. Some grades of ABS are better for injection molding, some are better for extrusion and some are better for making parts by machining. Having materials that come from Stratasys that are assured work with the FDM printer means less time that you waste and better parts.
Another factor is that material you buy off eBay or an Internet site may contain an unknown amount of recycled plastics or fillers which cause wide swings in melt temps. Added to the melt temperature swings is the risk of clogged heads or “spitting” as the material comes out due to moisture or bad materials. These problems can mean the loss of a part in mid build. In checking on social media, complaints on material problems and failed parts are widespread and cause lots of headaches for users. There are even complaints that the consistency of the build material at the beginning to the end of spool changes on some overseas supplies.
Lastly, some open source material suppliers brag that they have chips embedded in the spools so the materials will run on Stratasys machines. Using non-Stratasys material s could be even more of a problem than bad parts in these cases – users may void any service or warranty contracts plus cause errors that could interfere with machine operation. Non-Stratasys material use is a risk to your machine, parts and your business.
With all three of the things that go into making a part (hardware, software and material) in a one stop shop you have only one source to talk to regarding problems. With open source, you end up being caught in a game of finger pointing with manufacturers passing the blame to materials and vice versa. With a single source there is one place to go and the troubleshooting variables are drastically cut down.
Lastly, materials for 3D printing are an extremely small portion of plastic sales. Current figures from SPI show that in the overall plastics market, 3D printing represents less than 1% of plastic consumption. With such a small amount of plastics going towards printing, firms like Stratasys have to “mix” their formulations with specialty compounders. This means higher cost, higher quality control, and a niche market where the plastic is tailored for 3D printing. But this also means better materials, consistent builds and better results. So when you positively have get the part in the customer’s hands – the reliability and known factors of Stratasys materials makes it the best choice.