Our friends at Polymaker were kind enough to send us a spool of black 300g Polysmooth PVB filament this month for testing. This material was designed to work with their new PolySher, a desktop smoothing machine that removes the visible layering that plagues FDM printed parts.
This airtight machine uses a nebuliser to create an aerosol of ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. The micro droplets melt the outer layer of the 3D Printed part creating a beautiful smooth finish. This method is safe, easy and requires no heat compared to the dangerous and volatile acetone vapour bath technique commonly used to smooth ABS.
The PolySher can work with filaments that are alcohol soluble for example Polymakers PolySmooth PVB, which was designed to print like PLA but has improved mechanical properties comparable to ABS. Note: you won’t be able to smooth ABS or PLA printed parts as they aren’t alcohol soluble.
As we don’t have a PolySher we were keen to see how the Polysmooth printed as a regular filament. After our initial print tests we already think PolySmooth PVB could be a real candidate to replace ABS and an attractive material choice for 3D Printer owners regardless of if they own a PolySher.
We printed our prints on a non-enclosed printer with buildtak and like all other Polymaker filaments we didn’t notice any odours when printing. As Polymaker claim, PolySmooth PVB printed with fantastic results using our standard PLA settings. In the interest of time we printed the parts at 0.20mm resolution, so there are visible layer lines when when magnified.
Our first test print was the Ball and Cage which we decided to print to test how PolySmooth handles support material. The support removal process was a breeze and supports could be easily removed with our fingers. We didn’t consider this when printing but it would be interesting to see if this model could be successfully smoothed without fusing the ball and cage. Perhaps suspending the ball with an ABS or PLA printed riser would work.
One of our go to tests for printing different filaments is a hinge with the pin in place, printed in one part. In the past we have found a particular ABS was the only material that could successfully print this hinge without it breaking when trying to open and close the hinge. The hinge printed beautifully in Polysmooth with great layer adhesion and a remarkably smooth surface. Once again the support material and raft could be removed easily and after gently flexing the hinge back and forth we were able to free up the pin without breaking. This is exciting to us as in our experience we haven’t found any other materials that have been able to print this working hinge without breaking.
Our third print was this ultra-tiny 2.75mm working nut and bolt. In our experience printing something this small and functional is something not many desktop 3D Printers were capable of in the past and up until now we have only been able to print this design with a very specific brand of ABS. This nut and bolt is extremely tiny and in fact is quite difficult to handle with large fingers so we were really happy to see PolySmooth could successfully print this functional nut and bolt!
Our fourth print was a trick nut and bolt, to a casual observer it looks like the bolt and nut is printed in place but after unscrewing the two ends of the bolt apart you can see that the bolt is printed in two sections. This print is a favourite of ours as it demonstrates print accuracy where the two main bolt sections join in the centre. With PolySmooth the join and accuracy was flawless as the nut passed over the join perfectly.
At the moment we don’t have a PolySher demo unit in the office but we are as excited as you are to try the PolySher. The new PolySmooth filament is really nice and we can see it as a great alternate for ABS, the print quality is really fantastic with no warping and easy support removal. Its excellent that this material can handle higher temperatures (softening temperature 70 °C) and is stronger than ABS.
In the future we are planning to test the visual and physical differences between PolySmooth PVB and ABS. By looking over Polymakers testing statistics it looks like PolySmooth will be stronger than ABS and PLA for many applications.
PolySmooth and the PolySher are currently being funded on kickstarter with 24 hours remaining. Backers can use our referral code 3DTech when filling out the shipping details survey for some free filament samples!
UPDATE: PolySmooth and the PolySher is available to pre-order for Australian customers through 3D Tech Supplies resellers. Click here to find a reseller! ETA November / December 2016