Sean Mousseau

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Don’t Let Your Filament Go to Waste: Best Practices for Storage

Cartoon 3D Printer Filament Spool

Introduction: The Importance of Proper Filament Storage

Proper filament storage is crucial for maintaining the quality of your 3D prints and ensuring optimal performance of your 3D printer. Filament, the material used in 3D printing, is susceptible to degradation over time, resulting in poor print quality and even damage to your printer. By understanding the causes and consequences of filament degradation and implementing best practices for filament storage, you can keep your filament fresh and ready to print.

Understanding Filament Degradation: Causes and Consequences

Filament degradation can occur due to various factors, including exposure to moisture, heat, and light. Moisture is one of the main culprits of filament degradation, as it can cause the filament to absorb water, resulting in poor print quality and clogged nozzles. Heat can also cause filaments to degrade, as high temperatures can break down the material’s molecular structure. Additionally, exposure to light, remarkably UV light, can cause the filament to become brittle and lose its mechanical properties.

Using degraded filament can have significant consequences on print quality and printer performance. When filament absorbs moisture, it can result in poor adhesion between layers, leading to weak and brittle prints. Moisture can also cause the filament to bubble and pop during printing, resulting in uneven surfaces and failed prints. Furthermore, degraded filament can clog the nozzle of your 3D printer, leading to extrusion issues and potential damage to the printer. It is, therefore, essential to store your filament correctly to avoid these issues.

Best Practices for Filament Storage: Temperature, Humidity, and Light

To ensure the longevity and quality of your filament, it is crucial to store it in optimal conditions. The ideal temperature for filament storage is around 20-25 degrees Celsius (68-77 degrees Fahrenheit). Higher temperatures can accelerate filament degradation, while lower temperatures can cause the filament to become brittle. Humidity is another critical factor to consider, as high humidity can cause filaments to absorb moisture. The humidity level should be below 50% to prevent moisture absorption.

Light exposure, particularly UV light, can also contribute to filament degradation. Storing filament in a dark or opaque container is best to protect it from light. If you do not have a suitable container, you can cover the filament with a cloth or place it in a storage box to shield it from light. Additionally, it is essential to avoid storing filament near heat sources or in areas with high humidity, such as bathrooms or kitchens.

Consider investing in a filament storage box or cabinet to maintain optimal storage conditions. These containers are designed to regulate temperature and humidity, providing a controlled environment for your filament. Some storage boxes even come with built-in dehumidifiers or temperature control systems. If you are on a budget, as I am, use airtight containers or resealable bags with desiccant packs to store your filament.

Vacuum Sealing vs. Desiccant Packs: Pros and Cons

Regarding filament storage, two popular methods are vacuum sealing and desiccant bags. Vacuum sealing involves removing the air from the storage container to create a vacuum, while desiccant bags contain moisture-absorbing materials to keep the filament dry. Both methods have their pros and cons.

Vacuum sealing effectively removes air and moisture from the storage container, ensuring that the filament remains dry and fresh. It also helps to reduce the risk of filament degradation due to exposure to air and moisture. However, vacuum sealing can be time-consuming and requires special equipment, such as a vacuum sealer. It is also unsuitable for storing large quantities of filament, as removing individual spools from the vacuum-sealed bag can be difficult. Also, it is easy to damage filament spools by over-compressing them with a vacuum sealer, and any sharp edges can easily create a hole in the vacuum seal bag, negating any benefits from vacuum sealing your filament.

On the other hand, desiccant packs are a convenient and cost-effective way to keep filaments dry. They contain moisture-absorbing materials, such as silica gel or calcium chloride, which help to prevent moisture absorption. Desiccant packs are easy to use and can be placed inside the filament container or bag. However, they must be replaced or renewed regularly, as they become saturated with moisture over time. Additionally, desiccant packs may not be as practical as vacuum sealing in removing air from the storage container.

How to Revive Moisture-Damaged Filament: Techniques and Tools

If your filament has absorbed moisture and becomes brittle or bubbly, there are techniques and tools you can use to revive it. One method is to dry the filament using a filament dryer or oven. Filament dryers are specifically designed to remove moisture from the filament, while ovens can be used at a low temperature to dry the filament. Following the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when using these tools is essential to avoid damaging the filament. The oven should only be attempted as a last resort at very low temperatures and under constant supervision.

Another technique is to use a filament dryer, which uses heat and airflow to remove moisture from the filament. Filament dehydrators are available in various sizes and can dry multiple filament spools simultaneously. They are a more efficient and controlled method of drying filament than ovens or filament dryers.

Preventing moisture damage in the first place is the best approach. Store your filament in airtight containers or resealable bags with desiccant packs to keep it dry. Avoid leaving filament exposed to air for extended periods, and always seal it tightly after use. If you live in a particularly humid environment, consider using a dehumidifier in your storage area to maintain optimal humidity levels.

Conclusion: Keeping Your Filament Fresh and Ready to Print

Proper filament storage is essential for maintaining the quality of your 3D prints and ensuring optimal performance of your 3D printer. By understanding the causes and consequences of filament degradation and implementing best practices for filament storage, you can keep your filament fresh and ready to print.

Remember to store your filament in a cool and dry environment, away from moisture, heat, and light. Use airtight containers or resealable bags with desiccant packs to prevent moisture absorption. Consider using vacuum sealing or desiccant packs to protect your filament further. If your filament has absorbed moisture, use techniques and tools to revive it.

By following these tips and recommendations, you can ensure that your filament remains in optimal condition, resulting in high-quality prints and a longer lifespan for your 3D printer. I store all of my filaments in individual freezer storage bags with a desiccant pack in an opaque container with a larger desiccant pack and multiple spools. The packs I buy are renewable by heating them per the manufacturer’s directions reducing the expense and waste involved and I always reuse freezer bags unless damaged. While printing, I place spools in an inexpensive filament dryer I got from Amazon with a desiccant pack and print directly from the dryer.

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