We were approached by a representative from HangZhou Hongkai New Material of China who wanted us to try out their 3D printer filaments.
We were provided with a small sample of several new filaments produced by the Asian company, including:
- “Standard” PLA filament
- Wood-infused PLA filament
- Color Changing PLA filament
- “Strong” PLA filament
The standard PLA filament printed as well as any we’ve tried, and it comes in some interesting colors as you can see at the top.
We had not as good results with the wood filament, which for some reason had to be printed at lower temperatures; it was a bit “runny” at normal PLA temperatures that we use for many other filaments. The big problem with this wood filament was a majorly clogged nozzle. After not much printing, perhaps 100g, our 0.4mm brass nozzle was completely obstructed and could not be cleared by any standard techniques. Apparently wood fibers gradually accumulated in the nozzle area, causing the blockage. Eventually we resorted to a blowtorch and cleaned it out “real good”. After contacting the manufacturer, it seems they’ve also had this issue and are reformulating the mix, which they say cures this issue.
The color changing filament is quite interesting. It prints as normal, but when exposed to UV light, it changes color. In the video above we used a point source of UV light to exaggerate the effect. Typically, however, you’ll simply place the printed item in the sun where it will gradually change color. HangZhou Hongkai New Material offers a variety of color changing options beyond this one, so you can choose the “target” color you’d like.
The strong filament was curious. It’s PLA, yet they say it is a stronger material. Basic print tests didn’t really tell us the story, so we printed some standard test objects and attempted a “pull to break” test with them. Our findings? The two materials seemed to fail at similar stresses, but failed in different ways. Standard PLA would simply crack into pieces (the white piece above), while the “Strong” PLA from HangZhou Hongkai New Material (dark below) would usually bend, although in some tests it cracked as well. We suspect it’s “stronger” in that it isn’t as brittle as PLA and thus could be used in some applications where PLA would fail. One note, though: we had to print this stuff at higher temperatures than normal PLA in order for it to laminate correctly. It sounds like ABS plastic, but it’s not.
We further tested the “strong” filament by printing the famous “space wrench”, designed by Made In Space for use on the International Space Station. Yes, it works and is likely more durable than a pure PLA plastic mix due to the less brittle nature of this filament.
Can you buy filament from HangZhou Hongkai New Material? Possibly. They’re located in China, where they typically sell filament to clients in that region. They could sell to others in more distant lands, but the shipping cost per unit basically kills the deal, especially for a product that can be found from many vendors.
What they’re seeking is a partnership with local resellers who could bring in larger quantities of their filament to new sales regions, thus reducing the shipping cost per unit significantly. If you’re interested in becoming a reseller, let us know and we’ll put you in touch with them.