Home » Getting Started With Filamet™ and Pure Metal 3D Printing

Getting Started With Filamet™ and Pure Metal 3D Printing

The 3 Basic Steps: Print > Debind > Sinter

Note: If you are new to all of this, and just want pure metal parts with the least complex process possible, we recommend that you start with our Bronze Filamet™. Bronze has a long history and many beneficial properties.

BENEFITS OF BRONZE
Cost-effectiveness, High thermal and electrical conductivity, Excellent surface finishes, Non-magnetic and non-sparking properties, High dimensional precision, Resistance to corrosion and metal fatigue

What you’ll need to print:

  • Filamet™, Choose from one of our 15+ stock materials, or contact us about creating something new and unique.
  • Any FFF 3D printer that accepts any brand of filament (direct drive works better but isn’t required) hardened steel nozzle sized at 0.6mm or 0.8mm. In addition, TVF makes a Metal 3D Printer optimized for use with Filamet™.
  • Blue painters tape for your print bed (or glue stick for a glass print bed)
  • Filawarmer, a simple thermal device that strengthens the filament as it comes off the spool.

Follow the guidelines on the Use Instructions page to optimize your current printer for use with Filamet™. The only hardware change you’ll need is a stainless steel or hardened steel nozzle, Filamet™ can wear your nozzle more quickly than regular PLA.

We generally use Ultimaker Cura for slicing. To start, just pick a generic PLA profile for your printer and set the nozzle temperature to 210°C (410°F) and tune in the range of 190-230°C (374/446°F) and the flow rate to 135% and adjust it as you go. All printers will print differently, requiring different flow rates and temperatures. Optionally, set the print bed to 40-50°C (104-122°F).

What you’ll need to Debind and Sinter:

  • A Kiln
  • Heat resistant gloves
  • Crucible
  • Al₂O₃ and Sintering Carbon for Bronze and Copper
  • Steel Blend and Sintering Carbon for Stainless Steel 316L, Stainless Steel 17-4 and Inconel® 718-34

Note: Filamet™ debinds with only heat so there is no extra debinding equipment needed.
Sintering can be done in any kiln that can reach and hold the sintering temperature. For a quick look at sintering temperatures, check out the Products page.


FAQ

Essentially any FFF/FDM 3D printer that accepts any filament brand will work.
Dual gear is better than single gear.
Direct drive is better than bowden tube.
Convenient nozzle changing is good, too.

Customers have had good, consistent results with the Prusa and Creality brands.

You will also want:
A hardened or stainless nozzle sized at 0.6mm or 0.8mm. Brass nozzles will work but they’ll wear down quickly.
A Filawarmer will help with the printing process. The filament gets a memory of its circular shape on the spool. A single strand of filament goes through the Filawarmer as it comes off the spool which helps ease that memory and make the filament more pliable and flexible.
blue painters tape for your print bed. Glue sticks also work on glass print beds. Filamet™ really sticks to the bed so putting a release layer between the print bed and the print is key. This is not required for powder coated spring steel plates.

It’s important not to bake the whole spool at once. That does the same thing as the Filawarmer but the effect lasts only about 24 hours and then the whole spool will be brittle and unusable after heating.

The Virtual Foundry Metal 3D Printer

The Virtual Foundry Metal 3D Printer is specifically built and optimized for printing Filamet™. It has a Micro Swiss all metal direct drive extruder and a BL Touch probe for automatic bilinear compensation.

This system allows you to print all of The Virtual Foundry’s 3D printing materials as well as other brands of FFF / FDM filaments.

Uses 1.75mm Filament
Microswiss dual gear, direct drive extruder with all metal hot end
Automatic Bed Levelling – BL Touch
7” Touch Screen Display by Big Tree Tech
Build Volume: 220 x 220 x 300mm

Includes Filawarmer, Spool Holder, (1) 0.6mm and (1) 0.8mm Hardened Steel Nozzle

The Where to Buy page lists our stores and resellers.

If you’d like to get everything you need to print, debind and sinter, contact us for a quote on a complete system including a printer. You’ll get all the equipment and accessories you need plus training and support that ensures your success.

While Filamet™ isn’t as strong as standard PLA (because of the very high metal content), it is still sturdy. Reducing friction on the Filamet™ as it’s pulled into the printer is key.

Filamet™ materials are less hygroscopic than traditional PLA.

While it won’t hurt them to be wrapped with a desiccant packet inside, it shouldn’t be necessary. You will want to avoid any direct heat like from a heat vent or direct sunlight. You would also want to avoid high levels of humidity like in a room that’s not climate-controlled in the summer.

Other than that, the material should last a long time for you.

Start with a 0.8mm with High Carbon Iron Filamet™ and a 0.6mm for all other filaments.

To start, just pick a generic PLA profile for your printer and set the nozzle temperature to 210°C (410°F) and tune in the range of 190-230°C (374/446°F) and the flow rate to 135% to start. Optionally, set the print bed to 40-50°C (104-122°F).

There are a few reasons this may happen.

  • Your feeder has too much tension on it. Loosening the grip of the feeder may solve this issue.
  • If it only happens during travel, try a lower travel speed. Fast movements can result in broken filament.
  • If it’s happening during regular printing, try lowering your speed. You may have been going too fast or too slow.
  • Try moving the Filawarmer and spool closer to the feeder. For direct drive printers, be careful not to get too close or sharp angles as the hot end moves across the print will result in broken filament.

If your nozzle jams at the beginning of a print, your nozzle may be too close to the build plate. Try moving the nozzle away.
If your nozzle jams after a couple of layers, your flow rate maybe too high. Try lowering the flow rate a little until it stops.

On Ultimaker S5 printers, you can download our Copper Filamet™ profile.

We do not recommend using official Ultimaker Print Cores with our materials. The AA cores use bronze nozzles, which will wear away after a couple of prints. CC cores have ruby tips. They are very hard, but they jam up easily. Instead, we recommend 3D Solex Print Cores. They have hardened nozzles and they are easily replaced and switched out for a different size.

To use 3D Solex Print Cores, you can either select AA 0.4mm as the print core and change the “Line Width” to the nozzle size, or change it to the Print Core that matches the nozzle size that you are using. The second option requires you to dismiss an error on the printer when you print because the print core installed in the printer will not match what you chose in Cura. 3D Solex Print Cores are set to 0.4mm in software.

If you end up with a jam, the best way to clear it is to do cold pulls with PLA. After a few, when it starts to look like it is clearing, push a nozzle cleaning needle into the nozzle. Continue cold pulls until you see the jammed filament is not on the PLA you are using to clean. Reload the filament and start printing again.

Two things need to happen during sintering:
The part shape is supported, and oxygen is prevented from reaching the part.
We solve part shape support with a refractory ballast: Al2O3 (for copper and bronze) or Steel Blend (for the steels).
We solve the oxygen problem with Sintering Carbon.

If you have the oxygen problem solved with a shield gas and/or vacuum, you can ignore any reference to Sintering Carbon in the instructions. You will still need to manage part shape support however. The crucible and Al2O3 or Steel Blend will still be needed.
Bury your part in the refractory ballast in a crucible. Then, add Sintering Carbon to the top. Place the crucible in your kiln, set the time and temperature program, press go and you’re all set.

Full instructions are on our website and that includes a webinar with a demonstration.

You can use any kiln though that is programmable and can hold the sinter temperature of your desired material. For a quick look at sintering temperatures, check out the Products page.

The same kiln you use for sintering will be used for debinding. Filamet™ debinds using only heat so that process happens on the front end of the heat cycle at lower temperatures. No special equipment or chemicals are required for debinding.

We sell a kiln that is hot enough to sinter copper, bronze and the steels.

You have some control here. You can shrink the parts 7% and get about 80-85% density. If you add enough heat and time for the parts to shrink by 20%, your density will be in the low 90’s. The less they shrink, the less the shape will change. The X and Y axes shrink fairly uniformly. The Z axis will have slightly more shrink due to gravity. Circles and holes keep their shape well.

A good rule of thumb when starting is out is 5% isostatic shrink for Copper and Bronze, 10% isostatic shrink for the steels. 

A wire brush or wire wheel works best.

The best way to learn the sinter process is to print the Universal Calibration Rings model and then follow the sintering instructions which are set for this size model. Sintering times vary by the size of the print.

The companies listed on our Services page can print and sinter parts for you for a fee.

  • Aluminum 6061 Filamet™ is 65.0 – 68.5% metal by mass.
  • Bronze Filamet™ is 88.0 – 90.0% metal by mass.
  • Copper Filamet™ is 87.0 – 90.0% metal by mass.
  • High Carbon Iron Filamet™ is 75.0 – 80.0% metal by mass.
  • Inconel® 718 Filamet™ is 82.0 – 85.0% metal by mass.
  • Rapid 3DShield Tungsten Filament is 88.0 – 94.0% metal by mass.
  • Stainless Steel 17-4 Filamet™ is 80.0 – 85.0% metal by mass.
  • Stainless Steel 316L Filamet™ is 80.0 – 85.0% metal by mass.
  • Titanium 64-5 Filamet™ is 78.0 – 82.0% metal by mass.

Density is weight divided by volume.

While in its printable spool form, Filamet™ has a PLA binder. Through sintering, the PLA binder is burned off and the remaining object has the same conductive properties of whatever metal it is.

All SDS are on this page.

The Virtual Foundry is consistently working on expanding available products. Keep watching this website, our Facebook page and our LinkedIn page for new material announcements. Looking for custom development? Please contact us!

Filamet™ makes metal printing available to anyone with a Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printer – no need to purchase a costly printer to print with metal.

Here and at the bottom of every page of this website.

Yes we do! We ship worldwide!


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