We spend a lot of time thinking about how our 3D prints look. We tweak print settings, sand, and polish our prints, and even apply coatings to try to hide the layer lines that are the foundation of 3D printing. What we rarely think about though is the fact that these objects often won’t just be setting on a pedestal like works of art in the Louvre, they are tactile objects that will often be held and used. The feel of them is important also. Proto-Pasta Matte Fiber HTPLA helps address not only the looks of our prints, but also the feel of them.
There are a couple companies over the past few years that have been working hard to bring high quality material options to the market. One of my favorites is the team at Proto-Pasta, who for the last three and a half years have been continually bringing new materials to market to help push the boundaries of what is possible in 3D printing. While their Matte Fiber HTPLA is the first material from Proto-Pasta that we will be taking a look at for Filament Friday, it won’t be the last!
Matte Fiber HTPLA is a mixture of Proto-Pasta’s High Temperature PLA (HTPLA) and plant fibers that supply the prints with a low shine, textured look and feel. Their HTPLA is formulated to be optionally annealed after printing to not only raise the final temperature at which the part will melt (a serious problem with standard PLA prints), but also the final strength of the print. The annealing process can easily be done at home in a toaster oven or conventional oven.
The look and feel of the Matte Fiber HTPLA prints is fantastic. The lack of shine really helps bring out the detail in your prints that can often be lost in the reflectivity of other materials. To the touch, the prints have a slightly gritty feel, like that of un-sanded end wood grain. While the glossy smooth texture of regular PLA parts can be nice for some applications, the Matte Fiber HTPLA prints have a tactility that makes them feel more natural. For objects that you don’t want sliding around, like a phone case, I think the added grip the fibers provide will be a perfect fit.
Printing Matte Fiber HTPLA is just like printing standard PLA, you can use the same temperatures and profiles as you normally would. This of course comes with the same pros and cons; you won’t require a heated bed and will find very little curling of your parts for great part repeatability. On the downside, PLA stays soft for a fair amount of time after leaving the extruder, so a good amount of active cooling is needed to help with overhangs and bridging and your results will still likely show drooping on parts that may not otherwise droop in other plastics like ABS.
The filament used for this test was a small sample spool sent to me by the Proto-Pasta team, but after giving the prints a try, I’m excited to pick up a full spool to add to my arsenal of filament options.
Check back every Friday for weekly reviews on 3D printing filament.