Over the years, most of us have become very used to the basics of printing and the tools we need for it. The realm of 3D printing, however, remains somewhat novel and unknown to the majority of people, even though technology is improving, prices for machines falling and the art of 3D printing quickly becoming something that anyone can get into and do from home.
Rather than ink cartridges and toner, your key printing ingredient is the 3D printing filament that comes in many different forms. The novelty of 3D printing has meant that not everyone is fully aware of the best practices in storing these materials and keeping them in good condition. Below are some tips:
1. Moisture is the Enemy
The one thing that you absolutely never want your printing filament to be is damp or moist in any way. So, finding storage solutions that eliminate the problem of moisture is essential. Ideally, you’ll find boxes that fully contain the filament (see more below), but if not then at least try to create a dry environment in which to keep the filaments.
Somewhere cool, dark and dry is ideal. If you have a storage space in your home, or a finished basement that’s fully dry at all times, then these will be fine. If there is any excess moisture in the area where you’re storing your filament, you can always employ a tool like silica-based products like desiccant packs. You can even get some that change colour to indicate when the silica is gaining too much moisture and needs drying in the oven.
2. Get a Proper Storage Box
A filament storage box is really a must-have if you’re keeping any quantity of 3D printer filament in your home, office or other work/creative space. We’re not just talking about ordinary plastic boxes here, either. Filament storage boxes are designed to hold either a single spool or 2 spools at once, and what’s more they maintain a steady ambient temperature of 21 degrees Celsius. There’s even a digital thermo-hygrometer on the box that tells you what percentage moisture the air in the box is at. It should be at no more than 10 percent.
These boxes make keeping ideal storage conditions easy because you can know immediately if and when conditions turn less than optimum and take action.
3. Use Zip Bags
In the absence of these kinds of storage boxes, or even just a lack of space in your home, you can use more everyday alternatives. As long as a container can help to keep the printing filament dry, you can consider it an effective storage solution. Zip-up kitchen bags that you might otherwise use for leftovers or sandwiches will suffice if they are the right size, for instance. They should also be clean!
4. Sealable Kitchen Containers
Another alternative from your own kitchen are any form of sealable plastic or glass containers that you have that are of the appropriate size and dimension to hold 1 or more spools of filament. Very often, such containers are even better than the bags because the seal on them is stronger, which is better for keeping out moisture. However, to get ones large enough does cost more money and will take up more physical space.
5. Look Into Filament Dryers
Finally, one more tool to help perfect your storage system for your 3D printing filament is with a dryer box. These are designed to help remove moisture from filament before they are spooled out into the printer and put to good use. They can be heated to up to 50 degrees, usually, which makes them suitable for drying out PETG, ABS, and PLA, all very common material choices for 3D printing.