How to Store Filament Right: Everything You Need to Know

Find out key details on how to keep your filament safe and organized for 3D printing
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William McCollum
William McCollum
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Last updated: January 11, 2023
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How to properly store filament is a significant issue for 3D printing hobbyists. Humidity and dust are the most challenging storage conditions for the most widely used filament materials, including PLA, ABS, PETG, and TPU.

Most 3D printing materials are hygroscopic, which means they absorb water molecules instead of repelling them. The filaments used in 3D printing are made from polymers, and when they absorb water, they can be broken down through hydrolysis.

The polymer in the filaments breaks down when heated at the point of extrusion, weakening the filament. Through repeated exposure, even what we consider relatively low ambient humidity can harm a filament. Keep reading for details on several ways to keep your filament safe and organized.

Why Should You Store Filaments Properly?

How to Store Filament Right: Everything You Need to KnowInadequately stored filament collects moisture from the air and gradually loses quality, leading to unsuccessful prints and nozzle clogs. It can be difficult and time-consuming to clean and replace nozzles, so it’s better to keep dust and moisture from the air on the filament. Dust and particles that settle on filament spools when kept out in the open also affect print quality.

Any items printed using filament that has absorbed moisture (wet filament) won’t seem as neat or clean-cut as you want them to.  3D printing Trusted Source What is 3D printing? How does a 3D printer work? Learn 3D printing Learn how to 3D print. 3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. 3dprinting.com is disrupted when using wet filaments because moisture in the thermoplastic evaporates when it is heated. As a result, the material’s composition contains air bubbles, leading to stringing and 3D-printed components with poor print quality and strength.

For proper extrusion with wet filament, a higher temperature is required. When filaments made of materials like nylon, polycarbonate, and copolyester are heated and wet, hydrolysis is likely to occur. Hydrolysis is when the water the filament absorbed from the surrounding environment disrupts the polymer chains inside the thermoplastic. You will observe poor layer adhesion when using wet filaments. Swollen PLA filament can damage your 3D printer, clogging the hot end and potentially necessitating a replacement.

Does the Type of Filaments Matter?

When storing a filament, the type of material does not matter as most filaments are hygroscopic, some more than others. The amount of moisture that each type of filament absorbs varies, and the best ABS filaments absorb less moisture as a proportion of weight compared to other polymers. Other plastics, such as Acrylic, PETG, Nylon, Polycarbonate, and Nylon Blends, absorb moisture more significantly and require storage with extreme care.

It’s best to store every type of filament properly and keep them in a dry environment and prevent dust and particles from settling on them. You can simply protect the filament from the way of airborne particles and moisture by keeping it in closed containers or other places.

The Most Effective Ways to Store Filaments

There are several methods for effective  3D printer filament storage Trusted Source Filament Storage For 3D Printing: Your How-To Guide - 3D Printing Correct filament storage is vital if you want to get the most out of your 3dPrinting filament. Click here for a filament storage how-to guide 3dprinting.com , and some methods are either costly or time-consuming. The following are the best ways to store filament so that it doesn’t come into contact with moist air and dust:

Storage Boxes and Containers

The following are various types of boxes and containers in which you can store your 3D filament spools:

Storage Boxes 

How to Store Filament Right: Everything You Need to KnowTransparent storage bins with sealed lids are an excellent way to properly preserve your 3D printing filaments. The purpose of using sealed-lid containers is to prevent outside moisture from getting to the filament. Transparent containers are necessary for practical reasons. You won’t be able to determine what filament is in which boxes if you cannot see through them.

You should try to find something large enough to stack a few spools at least 20 cm in diameter, and the height should be roughly 40 cm, depending on how many filament spools you intend to stack. Desiccants are necessary for storing the best PLA filaments in containers and storage boxes. A desiccant is a hygroscopic substance that selectively absorbs all of the ambient moisture in an area. Desiccants can be bought as beads but are typically found in tiny bags.

A Filament Dry Box

How to Store Filament Right: Everything You Need to KnowThe best way to store TPU filament is to store your filament in a dry box to stop any moisture from being absorbed. Filament dryer boxes often let you print using the stored spool without removing it from the box. There are two main sizes of filament dryer boxes available for purchase:

  • Small cases that can hold just one roll of filament
  • Large cases that can hold up to six rolls of filament.

The multipurpose dryer stations feature moveable shelves, a 3D printer station, and storage and dryer for 3D printer filament. Before purchasing, ensure the filament dryer box is big and sturdy enough to store your filament.

Vacuum Storage Bags

How to Store Filament Right: Everything You Need to KnowHow to store PLA filaments includes using high-quality vacuum storage bags to keep your filaments airtight. Purchase heavy-duty vacuum-valved bags so that you may extract all the air in them, leaving the filaments completely dry. The modest size of these bags is 16 by 24 inches, among many more sizes.

To make the most of your space, you should be able to fit three 1-kg spools in each. Vacuum bags inevitably contain some moisture after being sealed. Although it’s not necessary, add some desiccant to ensure you get rid of any remaining moisture before sucking out all the air.

Dryers

How to Store Filament Right: Everything You Need to KnowThere is a potential that a dry box or bag with desiccant won’t be able to remove the moisture from a wet spool of filament completely. How to store 3D printer filament properly with no risk involves the use of specialized filament dryers.

Most filament dryers operate by storing the filament in a gently heated space where any moisture can be evaporated. Additional features offered by purchase-only dryers include a timer, display, temperature controls, or fan.

Just keep a watch on your power bill since using an electrical device to store your filament may prove to be an expensive option in the long run. If you wish to build your filament dryer, you can find some excellent project designs online, with free download files and a video to follow.

When and How to Dry Filaments

Although we refer to it as wet filament, it is not always easy to tell if a filament is affected by moisture in 3D printing by simply touching it. When you are 3D printing, sizzling sounds from your printer and bubbles appearing in the filament as it is heated are signs that your filament has absorbed moisture.

Other signs of a wet filament include stringing, blobbing, and poor layer adhesion in the 3D-printed part. Before the print process, it can be challenging to determine whether the filament has absorbed too much moisture. However, if you discover that your filament spool is less flexible than it used to be, that may indicate that it is moist.

How to Dry A Filament

Drying the filament is an essential step in the 3D printing process as it greatly increases the likelihood of a successful print product. The following are ways to ensure your filament is free from moisture:

Use a Filament Dryer

How to Store Filament Right: Everything You Need to KnowA filament dryer is a piece of equipment built to remove moisture from the filament. The dryers hold a spool of filament in a heated container, causing the moisture in the thermoplastic to evaporate. Many different kinds of filament dryers are available on the market, from straightforward plug-and-play models for hobbyists to more complex systems for professional users.  Recommended filament dryer temperatures Trusted Source How It Works - PrintDry™ Learn how PrintDry filament dryer works to help break the bond of water molecules from your filament and keep your filament dry. www.printdry.com  for various 3D printing filaments are:

Material

Temperature

Drying time

PETG

65°C

3 hours

PC

75°C

6 hours

PLA

55°C

3 hours

ASA

65°C

4 hours

ABS

65°C

3 hours

TPU

55°C

4 hours

Nylon (PA)

75°C

12 hours

The simplest filament dryers comprise a heated container that can fit at least one filament spool. More advanced machines include extra features like spool rotation and ventilation for consistent heat distribution.

Use an Oven

How to Store Filament Right: Everything You Need to KnowAn oven is the easiest way to dry up filament before 3D printing. Preheat the oven before placing your filament spools for up to six hours. Ensure your oven has a correct thermostat before placing filament in a heated oven. Simply place a thermometer into the preheated oven to measure the temperature and check your thermostat. If there are any differences, you can change your oven’s settings.

There are particular temperatures for various filaments. Hobbyists must also take the material of the spool holder into account because you don’t want it to melt or burn in your oven.

It’s also a good idea to understand how precisely your oven can maintain the temperatures mentioned above. You risk melting all the plastic and fusing your entire spool if the temperature deviates too far from the desired temperature. The best 3D filament for outdoor use, particularly ABS, can emit unpleasant scents and fumes, which is not what you want in a food-preparation device. After your filament has finished drying, give your oven some time for ventilation.

Can  A Filament Be Too Dry?

Most  3D printing plastics Trusted Source The Plastics of 3D Printing | Tools, Publications & Resources By Jason Griffey | Editor’s Note: This is the third of a series of posts excerpted from Jason Griffey’s Library Technology Report “3D Printers for Libraries.” The substrate for FDM printers are almost exclusively some form of thermoplastic that is delivered in an extruded wire-like form on a spool. It is usually called “filament” in the generic. www.ala.org contain heat-sensitive compounds that can be eliminated by periodically drying the filament in an oven or dryer. This can reduce the strength and quality of printed parts, and the material would become more brittle and of worse quality if it were overdried. Using suitable storage techniques can stop your filament from absorbing moisture in the first place, and you shouldn’t overdry it either.

Final Thoughts

Storage of filaments is a crucial component of 3D printing. Whether you decide to make your own DIY filament dry box or buy one, it’s essential to keep your 3D printer materials dry. If you don’t take the proper precautions, your filaments can get wet and no longer be usable, leading to substandard prints and wasted money.

Proper filament storage not only helps keep your filament tidy and dust-free, but it can also aid in preserving the quality of future prints. You can save time and money by trying to dry and store your 3D printing filaments properly.

Dry filaments perform best, promoting a fluid 3D printing process and high-quality prints with no or little stringing and strong layer adhesion. To safeguard your 3D printing materials and get the most out of your 3D printer, adhere to the above guide on how to store filament.

References

1.
What is 3D printing? How does a 3D printer work? Learn 3D printing
Learn how to 3D print. 3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
2.
Filament Storage For 3D Printing: Your How-To Guide - 3D Printing
Correct filament storage is vital if you want to get the most out of your 3dPrinting filament. Click here for a filament storage how-to guide
3.
How It Works - PrintDry™
Learn how PrintDry filament dryer works to help break the bond of water molecules from your filament and keep your filament dry.
4.
The Plastics of 3D Printing | Tools, Publications & Resources
By Jason Griffey | Editor’s Note: This is the third of a series of posts excerpted from Jason Griffey’s Library Technology Report “3D Printers for Libraries." The substrate for FDM printers are almost exclusively some form of thermoplastic that is delivered in an extruded wire-like form on a spool. It is usually called “filament” in the generic.
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