Faberdashery Sells PLA With a Twist

By on August 11th, 2011 in Hardware, Service


A new service for 3D printer owners has emerged: Faberdashery. They sell plastic filament that’s suitable for use in several types of popular 3D printers, including MakerBot, Bits From Bytes, Ultimaker and the many variants of RepRap. 
The difference at Faberdashery, beyond their broad color selection and exclusive sales of PLA, is that they sell filament by the meter. Now you can buy exactly what you need and won’t end up with half-used spools of Bile Green laying about your work area. 
We discussed their operation with Faberdashery’s Clare Cunningham: 
Fabbaloo: Who is behind Faberdashery? What motivated the creation of the service? 
Clare Cunningham: Faberdashery is a family-run business of 3D print enthusiasts from various backgrounds, both creative and scientific. We had been playing around with 3D printing for a few years and came to appreciate the importance of using quality print materials. We decided that was a good place to begin and built Faberdashery from there. 
Fabbaloo: We’re curious: was your geographical proximity to RepRap/Bits From Bytes (near Bristol) a factor in the creation of Faberdashery?
Clare Cunningham: The South-West of England really is a hub of innovation for 3D printing. The RepRap labs at University of Bath, RepRap Ltd. and eMAKER are all based in the South West. Faberdashery have worked closely with the RepRap team at the University of Bath to develop our materials to the highest quality. We are now excited to supply our filament to the university as well as RepRap Ltd. and eMAKER. 
Fabbaloo: You sell only PLA filament. Tell us why you don’t also sell ABS filament? 
Clare Cunningham: Firstly, PLA is an excellent print material. It is less prone to warping and gives fantastic quality prints. Secondly, it is a plastic with unique environmental credentials. It is not fossil fuel based and has the potential to eventually biodegrade. A criticism frequently levelled at 3D printing is that it is creating more plastic stuff for landfill. We feel that PLA provides a credible answer to this complaint. There may be a time when we do stock ABS (we never say never) but for the moment we are focussed on developing our PLA filament.
Fabbaloo: From where do you source the PLA? 
Clare Cunningham: All of our manufacturing is done within the UK, giving us tight quality control over our products and excellent results. Our raw PLA, from US-based Natureworks, is one of the few things we source from abroad. However we are talking with some exciting new UK companies who we hope may provide us with a more local solution in the future. 
The concept of selling filament by the meter seems to be unique, as most other shops sell by weight or spool. What is the thinking behind this approach, and has it been successful? 
As keen fabbers ourselves we were always frustrated that we had to buy large reams of one colour material, which would then gather dust on a shelf while we experimented with the latest stuff. What we really wanted was small quantities to play with. So for Faberdashery to sell print material by the meter seemed the perfect approach. 
We have had a really positive response from the fabbing community. The 3D print community is one that naturally embraces innovation and so instantly got what we were trying to do. We want Faberdashery to be known as a company that meets the demands of the community and feel we have made a good start.
Fabbaloo: What’s next for Faberdashery? Will you sell other products? 
Clare Cunningham: Our aim is to support the innovations of the fabbing community by providing the best materials to work with. We are currently developing new materials that we think people will find very exciting. However for Faberdashery print materials is just the starting point. Our vision is to give a true haberdashery-like experience to digital crafters. In the future we see ourselves providing both tools and filament, alongside content creation. Faberdashery will always strive to be as innovative as the community it serves. It’s a hugely exciting time for the digital craft movement and we can see limitless possibilities. 

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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