Joe’s Corner #8: Summertime Blues

Summer in the Midwest is something we look forward to all winter. After months of shoveling snow and subzero mornings, we just cannot wait for its arrival.

That summer lovin’ lasts right up until July, when the first 90 degree days arrive—with 95% humidity. We are lucky to have a nice cool lab to work in.

However, while my coworkers and I are quite happy about this…my rack of 3D printing filament is feeling a bit under the weather.

“One area that can be easily overlooked is the health of your filament stock. Sure, you’ve followed the instructions from the manufacturer, but is your filament actually ready to perform?”

Most materials seem to be hardly affected by this change in season, but some are just going to give you fits. The top offender on our list is NYLON, in any formulation. It is very hygroscopic and absorbs moisture at an alarming rate.

Besides Nylon, we also see this happening with ABS, PVA, and many more.

How do you know if you have soggy material?

As you extrude filament in midair you will often see steam and bubbles in the filament. Anytime that you experience really rough walls or hear popping during printing, you can be pretty sure your material
needs some special care. I’ll show you how we take care of this with a simple contraption that my friends at UCSD tipped me off to.

The first item that we need is a vacuum chamber big enough to fit the spools in.

I chose this one:

ARKSEN© 5Gal Vacuum Chamber & 3CFM Deep Vane Pump, Degas Purge Epoxy Resin Kit

On the bottom I placed a round silicone heat mat to control temperature.

I chose this one:

Dia 10″ 120V 500W, KEENOVO Circular Silicone Heater Mat

I placed a thermal mat on the bottom to help absorb any moisture and prevent a hot spot. I then placed
a handful of desiccant packs in the bottom:

Now simply place the filament into the chamber:

Wait for the heater to reach about 70°C:

Fire up the pump and put the chamber under full vacuum 29.92 inches of Hg:

24 hours seems to be sufficient to pull all the moisture out of the materials.

Now throw a roll onto the machine and see how much difference the extra step makes. We are amazed with the results, I think you will be too!

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