PrintDry announced a new filament storage system that’s powered by automated vacuum technology.
Filament storage is becoming an important topic in the 3D print world because of its impact on print quality. Many thermoplastics tend to absorb moisture from the air, and this can corrupt 3D prints.
A moist filament will have poor quality because the water in the filament boils as it passes through the hot end, generating small bubbles. This weakens the print and affects the surface texture and appearance, particularly with semi-transparent materials.
The solution is to dry your filaments before use. However the act of “drying” can take many hours and is usually impractical if you require printing to commence immediately. This is why a “dry storage” solution is optimal: the filament is ready to go when you need to 3D print.
PrintDry has been producing drying solutions for several years, beginning with their original filament dryer (which I still use) and their upgraded Filament Dryer 2.0. Their initial products used a thermal approach for drying: you slow-bake the humidity out of the filament. The heat causes the moisture to evaporate, drying the filament.
However, there’s another approach for drying filament: vacuum. Lowered air pressure dramatically lowers the boiling temperature of water, and if in a vacuum, moisture will boil away even at room temperature. In other words, placing your filament in a vacuum will very quickly dry it out without the need for heat.
A few years ago PrintDry introduced a vacuum container. It was a sealed container with an accompanying air pump. The manually-operated pump would pull air out of the container to approach a vacuum. That approach succeeded, but there was a lot of manual effort involved to pull the air out.
The new system, the Smart Vacuum Filament Container, uses the vacuum approach but does so automatically. PrintDry describes the system as “one touch”, and they’re likely correct.
The procedure is to place up to three spools in the SVFC and touch the top button. The system does the rest. It determines the interior air pressure, and if too high it starts an electrically-powered air pump to extract air until near-vacuum is reached.
At that point the SVFC will stop and moisture will boil away inside the container. Should the air pressure creep up over time, the SVFC will automatically restart the air pump to lower the air pressure again.
The device is powered by a rechargeable battery rather than a normal power cord. It’s not clear how long the battery lasts, but it definitely does not run continuously, so it should be for a reasonable length of time.
One reason for a battery approach could be to allow portability. If you were moving the container from place to place, you would be assured it would maintain vacuum up until the seconds before it’s opened. Conveniently, the device has two handles, one on each side, for this purpose.
One way to use this device could be to dry filaments in the SVFC, then quickly swap them into sealed bags with desiccant. That way you could very quickly dry a much larger collection of filament. Of course, for particularly hygroscopic materials such as Nylon or PVA, you may want to keep them in the SVFC at all times.
The SVFC has just launched on Kickstarter and is available in limited quantities for the early-bird price of US$99. However, the price will eventually rise to US$129.
That price is quite reasonable, as this machine could save a pricey hygroscopic filament from loss.
If you’re looking for a unique and portable filament drying and storage system, this might be for you.