Filament is the bane of a 3D printer’s life; slight kinks, too much moisture, tangling, variable diameter and price are all drawbacks to the strimmer wire-like thermoplastic we feed into our extrusion-based machines. The slightest problem with filament can ruin a 11 hour print in the blink of an eye, so what’s the solution?
Sculptify, a startup launching on Kickstarter in the coming months, think that they have solved it. Their printer, of which there are very little technical details available, prints using plastic in its post processing pellet state.
Many projects and systems, such as the Lyman Filament Extruder II, have attempted to take plastic pellets and turn them into filament for your printer but Sculptify are claiming to have completely bypassed the whole issue of filament entirely.
The ability to use pellets in their machine means that not only does that open the doors to a completely new range of plastics but by removing the production of filament could make 3D printing even cheaper. Roughly speaking, a kilogram of ABS pellets is a third, sometimes a quarter, of the cost of the equivalent in filament form.
The man behind Sculptify is Slade Simpson and a background that includes a Mechanical Engineering degree, followed by time as a Design Engineer at Honda and CVG certainly stand him in good stead to provide a significant breakthrough in 3D printing field.
The breakthrough of using material in its pellet form is called Fused Layer Extrusion or FLEX, which is an apt name for one of their first demonstration videos. In the video above Sculptify demonstrate some TPU parts printed on their printer. TPU is a common rubbery material found around the home, printing with TPU is considered by many to be a bit of a holy grail for desktop printing and though many flexible filaments are available, there’s not a commercially available TPU filament on the market.
In terms of pricing and tech specs it looks like we will have to wait until their launch on Kickstarter, which is slated for Q2, but if they’re printer is at an affordable price and does print directly with pellets it could make for a very interesting development in the industry.