3devo’s Filament Maker [Source: Fabbaloo]
3devo is one of the very few surviving companies to market a desktop filament production device.
I’ve seen many similar companies come and go over the years, as the seemingly straightforward challenge of heating and extruding thermoplastic is actually far more complex than one could imagine.
I recall one early venture into this space, where a device was developed to accept thermoplastic pellets and extrude a filament. While that part worked presumably okay, the new filament simply spilled out the side into a completely unusable ball of spaghetti.
That company hadn’t thought through the entire lifecycle of how filament should be produced and used.
3devo Filament Maker
But 3devo seems to have done so. They have developed a practical system that takes into account most of the issues. It seems to be successful, as they have survived and thrived.
One of the technology innovations they’ve been using is vertical extrusion, where gravity is leveraged to help make consistent filament. Normally in industrial filament production lines, the filament is extruded horizontally, which requires use of enormous temperature-controlled water baths. No such baths are required with 3devo’s system.
The challenge of extruding filament is to very precisely control the temperatures and speeds of extrusion. In industrial settings, this is done by monitoring equipment and fancy sensors, but it’s less sophisticated with 3devo’s smaller equipment.
3D Printer Filament Production Challenges
Source thermoplastic pellets for use in 3devo’s Filament Maker [Source: Fabbaloo]
Another challenge is that many of 3devo’s clients use the device not just to “make their own filament”, but to “make unusual filament you can’t buy”. This might mean unusual colors or thermoplastic mixes not found on product shelves.
And that means the tuning of the system may not be the same as would be used for more standard thermoplastic mixes. 3devo says a wide variety of enterprises are operating in this area, including education, chemical companies, space agencies and more. One application of particular interest is the composition of biocompatible materials, which are not exactly easy to find in the filament market.
Thus 3devo operators have a tougher time getting things right.
That’s where the company stepped in to help. They’ve developed something they call “DevoVision”, a video series. It’s designed to help clients improve their filament production results. They’re also doing training.
These should greatly assist clients in understanding the subtleties of filament production, and perhaps lead to additional sales for 3devo.
I’m impressed with this strategy, as it focuses directly on customer needs. Making customers successful in their endeavors will yield good things for 3devo in the future.
3D Print Farm Filament
Custom industrial 3D printer filaments produced on 3devo’s Filament Maker [Source: Fabbaloo]
While we’re on 3devo, there is another class of users of their filament production products: Farmers. No, not vegetable farmers; we’re talking about 3D print farmers, those who operate arrays of machines to produce prints.
According to 3devo they have a number of farmer clients that use the system to produce custom-made industrial-quality filament. This is then sold to their clients as a secondary revenue source to go along with print services. It also provides a means of dramatically reducing the cost of filament for use in the farm, as the farm need only purchase inexpensive thermoplastic pellets instead of expensive filament.