Extreme Thermal Mods For 3D Printing Exotic Materials

For general everyday use, there’s nothing wrong with the standard selection of plastics that most 3D printer filaments are available in. PLA, ABS, PETG — they’ve all got their place, and they’re all pretty easy to work with. But if you need to work with more exotic materials, you might need to go to extremes and modify an off-the-shelf printer for high-temperature work.

For the team led by [Andreas Hagerup Birkelid] at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the standard menu of printer chow wasn’t up to the jobs they had in mind. They wanted to print using polyether ether ketone, or PEEK, a high-performance thermoplastic with useful mechanical and thermal properties, in addition to chemical resistance. Trouble is, the melting point of PEEK is a whopping 343°C (649°F), making it necessary to turn up the heat — a lot. A standard Creality CR-10 printer was upgraded to withstand not only the 500°C max temperature of the new hot end and 200° printed bed, but also to survive operating in what amounts to an oven — a balmy 135° in a chamber made from IKEA cabinets. That entailed replacing plastic parts with metal ones, upgrading belts, pulleys, and wires, and moving all the electronics outside the enclosure. Even the steppers got special treatment, with water cooling to keep their magnets from reaching the Curie point.

The mods seemed to do the trick, because a Benchy printed in a carbon-fiber PEEK filament came out pretty good. It seems like a long way to go and kind of pricey — $1,700 for the printer and all the mods — but if you have a need to print exotic materials, it’s way cheaper than a commercial high-temp printer.

[via 3D Printing Industry]

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