What’s the Ante to Play the Filament Game?

By on March 16th, 2015 in Ideas

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For some years now, to market 3D printer filament you merely had to provide good quality filament. That seems to be changing. 

In 2012 a decent 3D printer filament vendor would offer a choice of ABS or PLA plastics in either 3.00 or 1.75mm formats. Oh yes, there might be a handful of colors other than black, white and “natural”. 

Wind the clock forward to 2015 and we see a different market emerging. While you can still purchase the 2012 set of products, there have been a number of enhancements to the product shelf of many filament vendors:

  • Many brilliant colors beyond the basic set, including transparent and glow-in-the-dark
  • A variety of wood-infused filaments, with varying colors, woods and degrees of coarseness
  • An increasing number of metal-infused filaments, beginning with bronze and now including copper, tungsten, stainless steel and more
  • Conductive filaments, enabling those with dual extruders to actually print primitive circuits embedded within printed components
  • Flexible filaments capable of printing embedded hinges, flaps or grips on rigid parts
  • Ultra-strong carbon fiber filament permits printing significantly stronger parts, opening up many new applications for 3D printing
  • Alternative materials such as Nylon, HPDE and even high-temperature ULTEM

There will always be room for the basics, but nowadays it seems that filament vendors could be pushed by the market to offer a lot more than just that.

We discussed whether 3D printer filament has become a commodity earlier, and concluded it had not yet done so. Meanwhile, differentiation in the market continues by many vendors offering a increasing basket of specialty filaments. 

Now if only more people would use them.

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!