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How 3d printer filament is made?

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In 3D printing, the filament is an important part, and with the growth of industrial applications, there is now a wide range of 3D printer filament and brands available based on customer requirements. 

The production of filaments can be broken down into five stages, beginning with the manufacture of plastic and ending with the packaging of filament spools for delivery.

1.  Plastic manufacturing: 

Crude oil is refined by being heated in an industrial furnace, and naphtha, which is one of the many components separated, is used for plastic manufacture.

Chemical bonding of naphtha, catalysts, and other chemical components takes place in a polymerization reactor, and the polymerized naphtha products are compounded and processed. During this process, the products are melted and mixed with other materials to form plastic. This is then granulated to form small pieces known as pellets or resin.

Mostly clear or white pellets and resins are manufactured by plastic suppliers. This enables their consumers, such as filament makers, to have more control over the coloration process.

2.  Preparation of pellets:

The pellets formed in the first stage are readied for the next stage called shaping. In this stage, they are transferred to an industrial blender and mixed with additives. This is to create a consistent blend and bring specific properties to the filament. Where they’ll be solidified into their string-like form.

Additives include items such as colorants, and other things that contribute specific properties and characteristics such as impact resistance, strength, structural integrity, and magnetic properties. 

The blended pellets are then dried, as they are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb moisture from the air. It is necessary to remove moisture from the pellets to ensure the high quality of the filament produced, otherwise, there is a risk of the plastic getting degraded or deformed. The temperature and duration of drying vary based on the manufacturer’s requirements.

3. Shaping:

In this stage, which is the most critical, the pellets are shaped in the form of a string. This process involves heating and cooling, which are described below. 

Heating: 

The pellets are fed into a filament extruder, and with the help of a heating chamber are melted into a gooey or slushy substance, so that they can be easily shaped. On melting, the pellets get bonded and shaped into a consistent, stranded material, which is called a filament. This filament is pushed out through the heating chamber to the cooling section.

Cooling: 

In this phase, the filament gets pulled through multiple water chambers into a chamber full of warm water. The desired rounded-shaped filament is ensured by having the right temperature settings. 

In the second chamber full of cool water, the filament is cooled down and solidified into its new shape. The slower the speed of the filament being pulled, the larger the diameter of the filament. 

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4.  Spooling: 

The cooled filament is pulled from the cooling chamber to the spooling mechanism. The diameter of the filament is measured by a laser device to ensure it is within the tolerance limit. 

The spooling process then starts by attaching it to a spool and wounding it around it. When the sensors detect that the spool is full, the filament is cut and secured. The process is repeated till the batch of filament is exhausted.

Packaging: The final stage is where the filament spools are packaged as per company-specific requirements and branded by affixing brand stickers. Packaging would also include labels and barcodes for business purposes.

After packaging, the filament is prepared for shipping to customers or stored for awaiting customer orders. 

In summary, the process of filament production is key to many industrial and other applications as the success of 3D wholesale printing ultimately depends on the quality of the filament. 

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