Unfettered design freedom has always been touted as one of the major advantages of the 3D printing industry. However, there is a significant limit on what you can create with 3D printing. The required raw materials for this type of additive manufacturing technique can work to the disadvantage of your project because they can sometimes act like a limiting factor.
Until recently, all FDM-based 3-dimensional printing goods looked like plastic, this gave the consuming public the unnecessary impression that they were chintzy and cheap. Thus, they tend to look upon them as something inferior, of which the opposite is true.
Now that composite filaments have become commonly accessible, it naturally became less of a problem. You can now 3D print almost anything even if you think that it is not 3D printable. This is made possible by combining together other substances with plastic filaments in order to come up with one formidable final product.
Now, let us look at one of these unusual materials at a deeper level, wood.
What is the Best Way to 3D Print with Wood?
Before we had the 3-dimensional printing industry, the one and only way to custom design any kind of wood-based project was to hack it down or chisel it up. Otherwise known as subtractive manufacturing method, this method usually requires a high level of skills for the worker.
Add to that, traditional methods offered us very limited design options. Another downside to this type of processing for wood-based projects is they tend to create a lot of unnecessary waste.
Wood-based additive manufacturing may appear unlikely until you realize the secret behind the material: it isn’t exclusively made of wood. The filament used in additive manufacturing is simply a PLA mixed with something like a suspension of very small wood particles.
The bulk of 3-dimensional printing filaments found in the market nowadays contain at least 30% to 40% wood chips by weight. The remainder of which is made entirely of PLA. The PLA serves as a vehicle for the wood particles, so they can move about freely.
Composite filaments aren’t just for wood anymore. Metals, ceramic, marble, and carbon fiber, among other materials, are now being qualified as 3D printing filaments.
The type of wood utilized here differs within the sub-set of wood filaments. If you want to 3D print something which looks like oak, olive, cedar, or bamboo, there should be a filament suitable to what you are wanting to make.
The Advantages of 3D Printing in Wood
The main reason you must consider printing your project with a wood filament is mostly because of its unparalleled aesthetic value. The layer lines created naturally by 3D printing mimic the natural pattern of wood fibers.
This is the reason why wood is particularly suitable for composite filaments. It can further enhance the quality of wood filament prints, so much so that they take on a much more realistic appearance with natural visual appeal.
You will greatly improve how your wood print looks if you are willing to take some risk by going the extra mile to finish it. Like real wood, sand your wood print for a smoother feel, then have it coated with either a lacquer finish or varnish. You can also custom color the finish of your wood print if you like to.
Long-Term Viability or Sustainability
Since PLA and wood share the same attribute as qualified sustainable materials, melding them together in the wood filament is perfect. PLA is a material derived from plant matter, while wood fibers used are actually natural wood fibers.
On the manufacturing side, this is suggestive that the wood filament produced from 100% naturally renewable resources.
Ease of Use
The fact that PLA is the easiest and simplest filament to deal with is a huge boon to the production of composite filaments. This kind of user-friendliness easily translates into high quality wood filaments. You can print wood filaments at low temperatures without having to worry about issues with bed adhesion, plus they are not vulnerable to warping.
Furthermore, when you heat up wood, it would be emitting a pleasant burnt odor, especially if you’re printing with cedar or pine. A cautionary note, though: the nice odor can still be accompanied by tiny particulate matter. See to it that you’re printing in a very well-ventilated area.