WASP’s new Delta WASP 2040 TECH offers a new, high temperature 3D printing capability.
The Italian company has been producing a series of unusual 3D printers since before I first encountered them in 2013. Usually their machines are delta-style devices, but that’s about the only thing that’s the same. Their equipment 3D prints thermoplastics, clay and even whole houses with onsite materials.
WASP 3D Printers
One of their innovations was the idea of 3D printing with pellets instead of the much more common filament. In 2016 when they introduced this concept, it might have been the only 3D printer in existence to do so. Since then a scant few other vendors have introduced pellet-capable 3D printers.
Why pellets? It’s because thermoplastics are typically supplied from base manufacturers in pellet form. From pellets, the material is softened and used in various ways, such as injection molding, extrusion or other processes. This is in fact how filament is produced: pellets are softened and extruded in a precise manner to form a long filament that is wound around a take-up spool.
In other words, pellets are what filament is made from, and that transformation is expensive. This is why a kilo of filament costs US$30, while the corresponding kilo of pellets might cost only US$2 in bulk.
Therefore, if you can 3D print using pellets you can save a considerable amount of cash on your materials, assuming you can accept a pallet of thermoplastic pellets and are not too concerned about using the same color all the time.
WASP Delta 2040 TECH 3D Printer
With that in mind, let’s look at the new WASP Delta 2040 TECH device. This is a delta-style 3D printer that is largely based on the company’s previous WASP Delta 2040 model, having a build volume of 200mm diameter by 400mm tall.
The TECH model is essentially the high temperature version, capable of extruding with a nozzle temperature of up too 500C. That is high enough to allow effective 3D printing of materials such as PEEK. PEEK is a highly desirable material for not only prototypes but also for end-use parts, as it has high heat resistance and other valuable engineering properties.
Here’s the interesting part: WASP’s pellet extrusion system still works on their TECH line! This means it is possible to 3D print PEEK objects using inexpensive pellets rather than the often high-priced PEEK filament options.
How much of a price difference is there?
Compare PEEK Pellet and Filament Pricing
I took a look at current pricing of PEEK filament and found a few examples:
3DXTech THERMAX PEEK: US$495 / kg
3D4Makers PEEK: €299 / 500g = US$664 / kg
INTAMSYS PEEK: US$325 / 500g = US$650 / kg
As you can see, the price of PEEK filament is at a premium, with an average of around US$600 per kg.
But how much do PEEK pellets cost? I took a quick look on Alibaba to see what can be obtained. Pricing is a bit hard to pin down, as vendors offer significant volume discounts when larger amounts are purchased. However, even buying a single kilo of PEEK pellets is priced at only US$60-80. In volume, the price can drop to as low as US$10 – if you’re buying, say, ten tons of PEEK pellets. It might be safe to estimate the price of a reasonable quantity of PEEK pellets to be in the US$50/kg range.
What’s even more interesting is that there are plenty of options for reinforced pellets, either with carbon fiber or glass fibers. These seem to be priced in the US$100-200/kg range, again, far lower than what you would pay for a filament version.
3D Printing With Pellets Cost
3D printing with PEEK has always been expensive in terms of the machine and especially the material, but when there is a pellet option the operating costs can drop very significantly. A good rule of thumb would be that materials could cost around 10X less when using pellets.
WASP supplies the Delta 2040 TECH with either their pellet extruder or a dual-extruder configuration. And of course, the exterior of the machine is stainless steel.
If you happen to be 3D printing a great many PEEK parts, and especially if they are carbon fiber or glass-reinforced, you might want to investigate the possibility of using WASP’s Delta 2040 TECH 3D printer. You could save a lot of money.