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MakerBot’s Not-Exactly-Wood Filament

MakerBot announced the availability of “natural” colored filament. A minor announcement perhaps, but there’s more to the story.

The filament in question is their “Naturals Collection”, which is comprised of three new colors: Peach, Light Brown and True Brown. They’re quite nice and will indeed make certain types of prints very attractive. But that’s not what we’re concerned about.

In a post MakerBot says: 

We’ve heard from a lot of designers who want to show how materials like wood, fur, or even skin might look in their 3D prints. Now you can!

So true. But wait, why not ACTUALLY print the models in wood? This is entirely possible by using one of several commercially available wood-infused filaments. We’re aware of LAYWOO-D3’s wooden filaments as well as ColorFabb’s. 

The little fellow above was printed in one of ColorFabb’s wood filaments. While the filament is actually a mix of wood bits and plastic, the result is surprisingly wood-like. It feels like wood and can be drilled, cut or sanded. In fact, it actually smells like wood when you do so. These filaments apparently work just fine in a MakerBot Replicator 2. 

Back to MakerBot. We suspect they’re selling the natural color filaments because they don’t have a wood option yet - or at least one they’re satisfied with. The issue could be support. MakerBot has sold an awful lot of 3D printers, and if they released a filament that didn’t quite work perfectly, they might be avalanched with calls. It’s got to work correctly. 

Another reason could be that their up-level machine, the Replicator 2X, is designed for “experimental 3D printing”, meaning weird filaments. Like wood. Perhaps MakerBot wishes to confine use of wood filaments to the 2X and just keep the Rep2 simple. 

Meanwhile, if you really want wood objects coming out of your Replicator, just try wood. 

Via MakerBot

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