I recently discovered that Taulman 3D, a filament maker is located somewhat near some relatives of mine. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to swing by and get a chance to talk to Thomas Martzall, the man behind Taulman. If you’re unfamiliar, you should hop onto his site and check out his filaments. They are pushing the boundaries of different properties such as strength or transparency.
What you will find below is the transcribed audio from our interview. I edited out some “ums” and “ahs” but tried to keep it as close to what he said as possible.
The biggest request I got, when telling people I was visiting here was to find out the story behind the logo. Can you explain that to us?
If you watch the kickstarter you can see it is actually an entire person. It is a reference to the term “tall man”, which is just a reference to an industrial employee. The spelling actually came from my daughters.
When they were very little, they thought I was pretty tall. Rather than calling me daddy, it was “Hey tallman!” When they said it, it had the sound of the “taul man”, so I just kind of used that as an influence.
Everybody thinks we just have a shirt as a logo. Actually it is a full person as the logo, but the person wouldn’t fit on the spool.
So the reason your logo looks like a shirt is because the whole guy wouldn’t fit on the spools?
That’s right. It isn’t any more complicated than that. If you watch the kickstarter video you can see the transition. Originally he had a line of filament that he is holding down to his side, but we ended up removing it.
What does Taulman3D do?
The intent is to provide an industry standard to 3D printers for materials. In order to do that, you have to capture the industry. I believe that industry has been interested for some time, of course they buy some of the high end printers for their development processes. The problem was that there was very little associated with utility. In other words, they could do “form fit”, but they couldn’t do functional parts with the high end machines.
Because the parts were too brittle?
Right. It didn’t have any chemical resistivity or much thermal resistivity. It didn’t have any elongation and break, or what you could think of in terms of being brittle. I was interested in 3D printing based on my background in electronic, mechanical, and optical engineering. I had worked with injection molders in the past and in that process became aware of the benefits of making parts from nylon. I decided I wanted to get into the nylon business and in doing so would have to find a 3d printable nylon. That turned out to be much more difficult than I thought it would be. I found out that most nylons were what is known as a commodity nylons, made by super-huge companies. While they worked relatively well for injection molding, they would not 3D print.
I had to find a new chemical company. Then, after I found a new chemical company I had to find the right chemical combination. Then, after I found the right chemical combination, I had to cajole the chemical company to get that to an extruder. Then I had to find an extrusion house to “draw” the material. Nylons are not extruded like your typical ABS and PLA, they’re “drawn”. What that means is that they melt a vat of nylon and pour it out of a spigot directly into water. Inside the water tank are large rolls which grab the line and pull it to the desired size. You can imagine the difficulty in trying to maintain the precision of width for a 3d printing filament on a system that was designed to make rope for large shipping applications.
Many filament stores are simply resellers of the same material. What is Taulman3D?
I have defined the chemical makeup of the polymer and work with the chemical company. Then the chemical company works with my extrusion house. At the end of the day the extrusion house places the orders for the raw chemicals. I’ve worked with the chemical companies to develop a printable line. That isn’t always easy. Its easier with PLAs and ABS, but not so much with PETs and obviously nylons. So when you buy nylon 618 or nylon 645, those are actual chemical numbers developed by me specifically for 3D printing. No one else is out there using this stuff, it isn’t a commodity nylon in other words.
Who are your customers?
I have industrial customers as well as hobbyists. The majority of my customers, are members in the 3D printing community. We do have some larger industrial customers as well as “quick turn shops”. If an industrial customer needs a part for some “just in time manufacturing”, these quick turn shops can print them a part that meets the requirements.
The quick turn shops typically buy t-glase clear, or Nylon648 and make what is called a 3D forge. Instead of milling a part from a large block, which might take days, they 3D forge it, or print a rough part. Then they mill that last 1 or 2%. The take it off the printer, toss it in the cnc mill. Now they have a part that has the right chemical resistance and thermal capabilities. Then they can produce the short runs that might be necessary for this just in time manufacturing.
This process isn’t particularly new, but not many have perfected it. We refer to it as 3d forging rather than 3d printing because it is still going to go through a machine for the finish. The good thing about this is that they don’t worry about stringing or surface finish because they are just going to mill a millimeter or so off of it anyway.
We can’t always say the names of the companies, but we’re very pleased with the .coms, .edus, and .orgs that we support. Right now, as 3D printing has exploded, a lot of them are doing R&D.
With the release of Triton, we now have a 3D printable plastic that anybody with an all metal hot-end can print. It will hold up thermally to, its considered dishwasher safe.
What is your biggest seller right now?
I’d have to say that t-glase is really taking off right now, probably due to the lack of odor and shrinking, as well as the continual bonding.
A company in australia contacted us because they needed something special. We don’t normally print per request, but this was an unusual case. They needed a large wing printed that would be single layer and hollow. The idea was that they were going to mount solar panels inside the wing. The methods they had tried resulted in the wing’s structure being compromized and it would break any time it crashed.
We printed this with a 1.4mm nozzle. It was a single perimeter, yard long, transparent, flying wing.
Tell us about the kickstarter that recently ended.
The kickstarter, while it didn’t get funded, was an absolute blast. The people that came on and commented were all very professional. The intent was to release 6 new materials at one time. I think that a reason that it may not have passed funding was because we may have tried to bite off more than what people were interested in. We didn’t see it as a bad thing at all. There were a lot of chemical companies watching.
A lot of people don’t realize that when we look at plastics we look at a list of about 25 different things. There are plastics out there that these chemical companies have that they’ve maybe only made once, or twice for a specific use or client. Maybe the processing for this is more expensive, its more involved than what they would normally do for a commodity. They may be watching for some kind of place to have a use for those materials.
Because of the professionalism from people responding on the kickstarter, I’ve started to get more and more calls from chemical companies. I’m not opposed at all to running materials that the companies have created on their own. It is more important that we get it out into the community. At the end of the day it is the folks out there printing stuff in their garage that are going to make the news, not me.
so it actually worked out really well. Even though it didn’t get funded we’re moving forward with Triton and TCPTE, which is a horrible name. It is a combination of TPE Eurethane and nylon. It makes a very flexible part but still works in bowden tubes.
In the whole 3D printing industry, what are you excited about?
I want to see more 3d printable things. I really think that robotics are a big area we’ll see improvements. They need materials that can handle much higher stresses and that is going to be a nylon, not a PLA or ABS. I really want to see more robotics.
If you would like to know more about Taulman 3D or find a reseller of their filament, you can go to their site to find it.