Sunday, March 15, 2015
One last experimental filament: wood. This filament is a mixture of plastic and fine-grained wood fibers, alleged to produce a wood-like look and feel. Sounded fun, so I ordered a small roll. Long story short: not bad.
The first bit of difficulty with this is that it comes loosely coiled in a bag, secured with a zip-tie, rather than on a spool like other filaments. I think it's because the filament is relatively brittle, so it can't be wound as tightly. OK, but how do you put it on the printer? You could cut off the zip-tie and put it on a spool holder, but you run the risk of it uncoiling all over the place. What I did in the short term was to loosely coil some of it around an empty spool and print from there, putting the main coil back in the bag until it's needed. So far, seems to work all right.
The second potential problem is one I'd been forewarned about, so I was able to get out ahead of it. Word on the street is that the fibers in the filament cause clogging. I replaced the usual 0.4mm nozzle on my printer with an 0.75mm one, and I had no clogging issues at all.
Printing was a little iffy because adhesion seems inconsistent. On my first print, the tall, skinny item I was printing broke off about a quarter of the way up when I pulled it off the plate; the bottom of the piece was stuck to the printing surface more strongly than some of the layers farther up were to each other. On a later print, some of the support material didn't stick at all well to the plate, so the piece came loose and didn't finish successfully. Printing seems to be best on blockier pieces which have a lot of surface area touching the plate.
The filament itself doesn't look all that woody once printing is complete. It's a matte brown which certainly is a wood-like color, and the texture is, indeed somewhere between plastic and wood, but it's not, in itself, all that convincingly woody. It's most like a sort of really thick, dense cardstock. However, here's where another of the wood filament's properties comes in to play. The precise color is sensitive to printing temperature. Higher temps darken the wood fibers. And as it happens, there's a plugin for Cura which takes advantage of this very property. The temperature of the hot end changes during printing, creating light and dark bands, emulating wood grain, and I think that works pretty well. For another piece, I'm considering using a bit of stain and shellac.
So now that I've got that printed out, I thought I'd take stock of where our Castle Panic set is now. At this point, the walls and most of the towers are stone-painted pieces. The wizard's tower is copper with heavy natural patina. I've also got custom pieces for tar, some painted flame tokens, a monster-themed cup we keep the dead monsters in, and a one-piece dice tower which has nothing to do with Castle Panic, but we use it anyway. At the rate we make new pieces, and at the rate the original set is wearing out from heavy use, I may end up rebuilding the whole game.