The prices of 3D printers have decreased massively, but 3D printing is still being held back from the masses. One of the factors why 3D printing is not yet as popular as, say, 2D printing is the high price of filament. Such prices range from 25 to 45 dollars for a kilogram of the material, depending on the quality of the product. However, young UK start-up Noztek claims to have found a way for customers to pay up to 70 percent less for the material.
The company has invented the so-called Noztek Pro Filament Extruder. This is a red box which converts wholesale bulk pellets into “premium quality” plastic. As it appears, the only thing you need to do is to which on the heater, add pellets into the hopper and then switch on the motor. The mysterious red box will then need three to four hours to produce the filament. Wondering what you exactly need filament for? Noztek’s Steven Forster explains the process: “The simplest way to explain 3D filament is to look at traditional inkjet paper printers, they use cartridges to apply ink to the paper and in the same way 3D printers use reels of plastic – which is melted – to create layers which eventually forms into a dimensional object.”
We wanted to find out more about Noztek’s peculiar red box and we therefore did an interview with Forster.
Steven, you claim to have found a way to create filament in a much cheaper way, using the so-called Noztek Pro Filament Extruder. Could you explain to us how this red box actually works?
“Just like ink for your traditional printer, retail filament is quite expensive and is produced using industrial machines in factories, we found that you can buy the raw materials – resin pellets, quite cheaply and decided to build a machine that can be used at home or the workplace. The Noztek Pro is really a desktop version of a larger industrial type extruder, it works by converting plastic pellets into filament that can be used for 3D printing. The pellets are added to a hopper, which are then pushed along a barrel by a screw to a heated element section where the plastic is then melted and forced through a die (either 1.75mm or 3mm), where it is extruded as a long length of plastic filament. It can then be wound onto a reel and connected to a 3D printer.”
“We hope that people will be able to print as many models, clothes, tools and games etcetera, without worrying about the cost of material implications.”
Are you the first company to have invented such a system or are you following the work of other companies?
“No, a competition was held in America last year to see if anyone could make one of these machines and it was won by a chap called Hue Lyman. This was the proof of concept we needed to begin our own project, we took his open source kit design, improved it and came up with the Noztek Pro. There are a few other companies making extruder’s but they are in a kit form which is good for the enthusiast, but we believed there was a gap in the market for a fully built machine that could start making filament straight from the box.”
The Noztek Pro can reduce costs of filament by as much as 70 percent. What will be the main implications for users, do you think?
“A few things really. The first is significant cost savings on filament for printing, but you can also make up your own color variations by mixing different colored filament into the unit. You can also use the Noztek for making different types of plastic filament, even recycling old designs.”
Surely groundbreaking, but what do you hope to achieve with your invention?
“We hope that people will be able to print as many models, clothes, tools and games etcetera, without worrying about the cost of material implications and if they can use recycled household items then the prints they make will be almost free.”
“I think that 3D printing is a game changing technology. It will eventually move manufacturing into the home (…) it’s quite an exciting time.”
Talking about 3D printing in general, what do you think is the most important development in 3D printing today?
“I think that 3D printing is a game changing technology. It will eventually move manufacturing into the home, it’s still early but people are now are printing musical instruments like guitars and bicycles. The new generation of printers can print rubber, metal and even electronics, so it’s quite an exciting time.”
And what do you think 3D printing can lead us to in 5 years?
“I actually think that electronic goods like mobile phones, tablets and computers will be printed at home and also a lot of construction like home building will be printed using larger versions of this technology. The sky is the limit!”
Image credits: Noztek.