nGen is the name of the new 3D printing filament by renowned dutch manufacturer, colorFabb. Although the material is basically a copolyester, it can be seen as a compromise between the properties of PLA and ABS. Courtesy of colorFabb’s sole distributor in Poland, get3D, we had an opportunity to check what are the advantages of  nGen and whether the world needs a material like this?

nGen is made from Eastman’s Amphora™ polymer. Among its strong points we can find properties like: strength, flexibility, high gloss and printability in a wide temperature range (recommended range: 220-240 °C). The material also meets some requirements of the US Agency for Food and Drug Administration regarding food contact.

It should be noted that nGen is not the only filament produced from Amphora ™. Last May, taulman3D introduced its new filament, n-vent, which is also based on the same copolyester.

However, NGEN beats n-vent not only in terms of the number of available colors (taulman – 7, colorFabb – 17), but also when it comes to price. 1 kilogram of n-vent costs around 73 EUR, while for the same amount of nGen we only need to pay 46 EUR.

We tested a spool of purple nGen filament of 1.75 mm diameter in an intense purple color. The filament is wound on a standard, colorFabb, transparent spool, vacuum packed and placed inside a colorfull cardboard box. First thing that you will probably notice about the filament is its attractive high gloss.

We printed our first nGen model, a cone, on Monkeyfab Prime 3D printer. The printing bed was sprayed with Dimafix and heated to 60°C. Hotend temperature was set to 230°C. Here came the first surprise – the edges of the model curled up as if the model was printed with true ABS.

Next, we had a go at the 3DBenchy torture test boat, which caused us some problems with adhering the first layer to the printing bed. At this stage we decided to use Gamplate sheets, which proved to be very effective. With the sheet, getting good adhesion of the first layer was easy, and there was no need to “push” the filament into the table.

The boat was just fine:

At this stage, we changed the 3D printer used in tests, and continued on 3DGence. Printing on 3DGence’s ceramic table, convinced us that nGen is quite difficult material in term of first layer adhesion.

Sole heating the table, even to 100°C, did not stop the models from falling of the table. Applying a thick layer of glue stick, did, however, solve the problem and persuaded the model to stay on the printing bed.

With the help of glue stick, in forth attempt, we were able to print (without supports), a festive pet:

What first looked like a very promising model, was unfortunately spoiled in the end by stringing in the antlers. The model was printed mostly at 220°C. nGen would also print decently at lower temperatures, but it did not affect the stringing problem.

Since many issues are revealed while printing large models lasting several hours, we also printed our large test block from nGen. We were not disappointed, the print showed that in fact nGen shrinks and causes cracks in the model. Cooling fans were set at a low level (10%) and the hot end temperature was 230°C.

We also tried to print an nGen rotor on 3DGence, unfortunately due to software’s poor support generating, the result was far from satisfying:

Finally, out of curiosity, we tried nGen on Zortrax M200 3D printer. In general, Zortrax profiles are aimed at dedicated Z-filaments: Z-ABS, Z-ULTRAT Z-HIPS etc. Those filaments require much higher printing temperatures than nGen. However, recently, Zortrax introduced some new Z-materials, and hence new profiles appeared in Zortrax’ software – Z-Suite. One of them was Z-PETG. We used Z-PETG profile for nGen, hoping, that the temperature on this one will be somewhat milder. It turned out that nGen works  really well with the Z-PETG profile! The model (rotor, again) would have been almost perfect…

… if it had not been deformed due to material shrinkage…

It seems that nGen could be a sort of “PLA for Zortrax” – low-odour, styrene-free, high gloss filament (and apparently also more durable than PLA). The big downside is the need to deal with the shrinkage of the material.

For all the other 3D printers, let’s be honest – if you want to print with no odor, keep the temperature relatively low, and have a great choice of filaments with intense colors and high gloss – you should probably stick with PLA.

Adela Walczak
Rapid Prototyping specialist, graduate of Product Design Engineering and Paper Making and Polygraphy, vice champion of Poland in curling.

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