Last week we presented a test of two 3D printing materials by Spectrum Filaments – ABS GP450 and ASA 275. In the article I mentioned the interesting attribute that all products of the company have – the individual identifier of each filament spool, informing about all its most important technical parameters. As the manufacturer assures – functionality called Verify Your Spool is a real sensation and few filament manufacturers in the world can boast of this type of system. What is it, what is it for and is it useful at all – I will try to answer these questions in the article below…
Let’s start with the fact that the production of filament used for 3D printing in FDM / FFF technology is not and has never been easy. At first glance, it seems to be trivial – in one place, properly doped granulate is poured, which melts at a certain temperature, and then extruded a line with a given diameter. It can be said that it works on a fairly similar principle as the 3D printing method itself. Unfortunately, in reality it looks incomparably more difficult and many companies that coped well with the processing of plastics had serious problems in achieving equally good results in the production of filament.
Materials of this type are produced so-called free extrusion method. It is one of the most difficult plastics processing techniques due to the particularly large impact of individual parameters of the production process on product dimensions and material homogenization. For a filament to be good, it must not only have a good mix, but also have a constant diameter, ovality and homogeneity. In other words, if we use 1.75 mm diameter material, it cannot suddenly reach 2.20 mm or 1.30 mm diameter, as this will have a significant impact on the quality and 3D printing process. The same applies to its ovality and homogeneity – discoloration or different concentrations of additives on different sections of the material are unacceptable.
To complicate matters more, by creating a filament production line, it is not enough for it to guarantee the maintenance of the above parameters at the highest level, but to maintain them at high speed – i.e. increased efficiency. It often turns out that companies with several production lines have the same or lower performance than companies with one / two, but perfectly optimized and equipped with a number of modern and expensive measuring systems.
Spectrum Filaments boasts of having one of the fastest and most modern filament production lines in Europe. During production, each 1 mm of running material is constantly measured in two axes with an accuracy of ± 0.8 μm. To ensure that the measurement result is reliable, the company uses certified laser meters designed by a renowned Swiss company. The information that is collected by the system is the diameter course, average diameter, ovality and standard deviation for each kilogram of material produced and wound on a spool.
The data is archived by the system and cataloged. Each manufactured filament spool receives its own identifier, after which the system returns a complete set of information about the production process. We check it in the Verify Your Spool application.
Each spool has a sticker with a QR code and its text version. When the code is found in the database, the following information is returned:
In addition, the manufacturer informs about the entire production process of the material (except that this is general information).
Very cool feature, but for what for…?
And it depends who is asking about it…? If a user of a home 3D printer looking for the cheapest and the best PLA, ABS or recently PETG (because everyone is 3D printing visors for medics now), the above information will be of no use to him. He can possibly treat them as a minor trivia and check whether what I wrote above actually works?
However, this makes sense in industry, medicine or research projects. Of course, if a given company or institution orders 20-50-100 kg of filament, no one will verify each of the spools, but random checks can easily confirm whether the words of the manufacturer with a high-quality production process are covered in reality? In heavy industry, automotive or aviation (where more advanced materials are used than PLA and ABS), such quality reports on raw materials or production components are something obvious and standard.
It is also a clear signal to other suppliers of this type of material that quality is no longer demonstrated only by verbal declarations and “opinions of satisfied users on the forums”, but rather specific data that anyone can verify at any time.