As 3D printing is gaining popularity and 3D printers are becoming more affordable, enthusiasts all over the world are buying consumer-grade 3D printers to experience the new technology first-hand. It is for this reason that the Sale of Consumer 3D Printers is expected to exponentially increase in the coming years.
Most of these consumer 3D printers are FDM (Fused deposition modelling) printers which use thermoplastics as raw material. However, to a common user, the choice of the correct thermoplastic material is perplexing. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is known for its durability and strength but comes at the high cost of causing Environmental Pollution.
PLA (Polylactic Acid) which is obtained from plants is hailed for its environment-friendly nature but has the disadvantage of not being as durable as ABS. Floreon, a UK-based 3D printing company, plans to solve this problem by creating a new form of PLA, the Floreon 3D filament, which is not only Four Times Stronger but is also more stable than conventional PLA material.
Dissatisfied with the thermoplastics available in the market, a group of highly skilled scientists and businessmen of the materials industry came together to form Floreon Transforming Packaging Ltd., in Hull, UK about 5 years ago. They aimed to create an improved form of PLA. In order to achieve their goal, they collaborated with the University of Sheffield through a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP).
Over the course of four years of this partnership, the two organizations worked tirelessly to refine conventional PLA to give it more strength and durability. The result of these efforts was announced last year in the form of Floreon 3D filament. Dr. Andrew Gill, the technical director at Floreon, explains the development of the filament in the following words:
“We wanted to offer a high quality 3D printing filament that is far better than conventional PLA. It has taken us five years but I’m pleased to say all the hard work has paid off and we have found the resulting product gives a smooth printing experience with excellent interlayer adhesion and is less likely to break than conventional PLA.”
Following the announcement of its product last year, Floreon won several awards including the Hull Daily Mail Business Award in the innovation and technology category for “developing a cutting-edge bioplastic” (that) offers a greener alternative to traditional oil-based products.
So, what exactly is Floreon 3D filament and how is it better than PLA?
Well, Floreon 3D filament (also called Floreon 700 or FL 700) is a specially formulated and patented mixture of PLA and several other ingredients (which the company is keeping secret for now) that enhance its properties.
The first benefit that Floreon filament provides over conventional PLA is that it is much stronger. Floreon claims that its material is 4 times stronger than conventional PLA. FL 700 also has a higher melting point than PLA making it more thermally stable.
These improvements open the gates of several new applications for FL 700 where conventional PLA is generally deemed unsuitable. These include making objects which require high strength like motorcycle helmets as well as those which require thermally stable materials like automobile parts. Another problem with traditional PLA is that because of its brittle nature and its ability to absorb moisture over time, it can lead to several problems during the printing process such as strand breaks. Floreon says that while Floreon 3D filament can also absorb some moisture, if treated correctly, it can provide more stable extrusion with fewer strand breaks than traditional PLA.
Floreon 3D filament also provides numerous benefits over ABS. Being derived completely from plants, Floreon 700 is much Greener and More Recyclable as compared to ABS which produces several Toxic Materials on Degradation. In an interview last year, Shaun Chatterson, CEO at Floreon, criticized the negative environmental impact of oil-based plastics like ABS. He said:
“There are many organizations that want to use sustainable plant based plastics, but currently can’t source suitable quality material for their needs. There is no future for oil-based plastics, which have an extremely negative effect on the environment.”
ABS absorbs even more moisture than PLA and can cause clogging up of print nozzle during printing; Floreon filament carries no such risk. Finally, Floreon 3D filament is also free of the unpleasant burning smell that ABS produces during the print process. Alex Youden is the head of Nfire labs, a budding 3D printing company. Realizing the potential of Floreon filament, he has decided to bundle a spool of floreon 3D filament with each printer sold by his company. He says:
“During the development of my 3D printer, I spent countless hours testing various different filaments and the one that really did stand out for me was the Floreon filament.”
You can view Youden’s complete interview in the following video on Floreon’s YouTube channel:
Floreon officially launched the floreon filament commercially in July this year (2015). Currently, Amazon sells one kg of Floreon 700 filament for £35. It has a consistent diameter of 1.75 mm and is available in 6 different colors. Bill Stringer, Floreon commercial director, says that the company is working on extending the range of its products over the coming years.
Since the commercial launch of Floreon filament, the company has been working hard to promote its product to a wider audience. Continuing this effort, Floreon will showcase its 3D filament at the upcoming TCT Show in Brimingham from 30th September to 1st October. According to Adam Chatterson, marketing manager at Floreon:
“With five year’s development now in the rear view mirror, it is time for Floreon to focus on the promotion of its bio-3D printing filament, Floreon3D. I’m confident TCT Show, which people visit to see what is current in the 3D printing industry, will give us a great opportunity to promote Floreon3D and to develop new contacts.”
At the same time, the company is also involved in extensive research partnerships with Hull University and Bradford University to further improve its material and to find novel applications for the Floreon filament. With the introduction of Floreon 3D filament, it appears that the dilemma that the common user of FDM printer faces in selecting a suitable filament has been solved to a great extent.
Floreon has been kind enough to send us a sample of their product. We will shortly get back to you with a detailed test of the filament. Meanwhile, let us know your thoughts about the Floreon filament in the Comments section. Also, don’t forget to Like and Share this article with your friends.