Advanced Guide to printing PolySmooth Filament

Author: Matt Tyson/Tuesday, 8 October 2019/Categories: User Guides, Material Guides, PVB

Advanced Guide to printing PolySmooth Filament
Authors Note

Thankyou for taking the time to read our guide on 3D printing PolySmooth. This article has been written to provide both printing and troubleshooting tips along with tips for post-printing processes like painting and support removal. We have highlighted important topics with a star (*) so please don't feel intimidated as sections in this guide may not be relevant to everyone, - Matt Tyson, 3D Printing Solutions

This user guide was last updated - 8th of October 2019

PolySmooth™ is a unique, easy-to-print filament combining excellent printability, great all-rounder strength and compatibility with hands-free post processing techniques. PolySmooth™ is a great-all-rounder and offers similar benefits to PLA and PETG.

Contents:

Introduction 
  What is PolySmooth?
  Requirements *

Printer Setup
  Spooling
  Loading & Unloading Filament *
  Bed Surface *
  Bed Leveling & Nozzle Height *
  Pre-heating
  Enclosure
  Filament Storage

Printer Settings
  Nozzle Temperature *
  Bed Temperature *
  Cooling *
  Rafts
  Supports

Post Printing
  Removing a print after completion
  Removing Layer Lines *
  Painting
  Joining

Trouble Shooting
  Poor surface quality
  Blocked Nozzle / Filament Jam
  Stringing / Oozing
  Warping
  Poor Layer Adhesion
  Difficult to remove prints

Filament Links
  Purchase or learn about PolySmooth filament
 


Introduction


What is PolySmooth™?

Polysmooth™ is a great-all-rounder material that has become an everyday choice for hobbyists, teachers and professionals. It was the first 3D printing material specifically engineered for hands free post-processing with Isopropyl alcohol. The formula of PolySmooth™ is incredibly unique and engineered to combine excellent surface quality, functional mechanical performance and similar printing characteristics to PLA.

PolySmooth™ displays moderate heat resistance, softening at 70˚C (Glass transition temperature).

Requirements *

With almost identical printing requirements to PLA, most desktop 3D printers are suited to print PolySmooth™ out of the box.

Minimum Extruder Temperature - 190°C (±10°C)  is required (Correct temperature will vary on your printer)
Heated Bed - Not required with some machines but low to medium bed temperatures are certainly beneficial! 
Enclosure - PolySmooth™ has great dimensional stability but an enclosure will protect print from drafts.
Part Cooling Fan - The ability to control the cooling fan is recommended.
Feeding / Spooling - No specific requirements.
Other Notes - Some 3D printers suffer from an issue known as heat creep, low temperature materials like PLA, PETG and PolySmooth™ will be affected by this.

Most 3D printing slicers (software) have a pre-configured PLA profile which can be used for PolySmooth™. The accuracy of this profile may vary so we recommend choosing this profile to start with and making necessary adjustments covered in this article.


Printer Setup


Feeding path and spooling

PolySmooth™ doesn't have any specific feeding path requirements.

The base material of PolySmooth™ is slightly more hygroscopic than PLA and ABS, absorbing moisture from the air. To ensure your filament stays dry we recommend unloading PolySmooth™ and storing your spool in a resealable bag once your print has finished or alternatively printing PolySmooth™ from a dry box.

As a general tip we recommend avoiding long and complicated feeding paths that can cause bends in the filament, this can introduce drag on the filament that may result in difficulties feeding and extruding.

Loading and Unloading Filament *

Changing from a similar material
If the printer is currently loaded with a similar material like PLA or PVB, unload that material at 200-220°C and extrude PolySmooth™ at the same temperature. Stop extruding the PolySmooth™ filament after the previous colour is completely purged.

Changing from a higher temperature material:
If the printer is currently loaded with a higher temperature material, unload that material at its recommended printing temperature, and then load and extrude your PolySmooth™ filament at that same higher temperature. It is important to load the PolySmooth™ at this higher temperature so the previous material can be pushed out.  Stop extruding the PolySmooth™ filament after the previous material has been completely purged and cleaned out, lower the temperature to 200-220°C, and extrude the PolySmooth™ plastic for a few more seconds.

Changing from a lower temperature material:
If the printer is currently loaded with a different lower temperature material, unload that material at its recommended printing temperature, and then load and extrude your PolySmooth™ filament at 200-220°C. Stop extruding the PolySmooth™ filament after the previous material has been completely purged and cleaned out. 

Bed Surface *

PolySmooth™ is one of the easiest materials to print and adheres to most printing surfaces. With PolySmooth™ we recommend first trying the surface your 3D printer was designed to use.

Platform Material Recommended Surfaces
Glass Bed

Most popular - Straight on glass bed with glue

Other options - Buildtak or FlashForge style sheet [1] | PEI sheet

Aluminium Bed

Most popular - Buildtak or FlashForge style sheet [1]

Other options - PEI sheet

Perforated Board

Most popular -Straight onto perforated board

Other options - Buildtak or FlashForge style sheet [1]

Flex Plate (possibly magnetic)

Most popular - Buildtak or FlashForge style sheet [1]

Other options - PEI sheet

Notes:
[1] - PolySmooth sticks well to many printing surfaces on the market. Compatibility between PolySmooth and genuine Buildtak is poor however we have achieved good bonding results when applying a layer of glue stick onto the Buildtak.

Bed Leveling & Nozzle Height *

It is important when printing PolySmooth™ that your first layer adheres to the printing bed.

  • Your bed must be properly leveled.
  • Your nozzle height must be set correctly. (distance between the nozzle and bed)

The ideal gap between the nozzle and bed is typically a distance of 0.1mm, this is the thickness of two pieces of paper. When changing between bed surfaces it is important to adjust the nozzle height again to compensate for the added thickness of the bed surface.

Pre-Heating

When printing PolySmooth™, pre-heating the heated bed is not required.

Enclosure

An enclosure is not required when printing PolySmooth™ however can be beneficial to protect your 3D print from drafts and external temperature changes.

If your 3D printer is enclosed and you have the option to open remove the top lid we recommend doing so. Keeping the lid open will help to prevent the PolySmooth™ filament from softening too quickly, this is especially important in summer months.

Filament Storage

When not in use PolySmooth™ should be stored away from sunlight and in a resealable bag with desiccant.

Like many other plastics, PolySmooth™ is a mildly hygroscopic material that will over time absorb moisture from its surrounding environment. PolySmooth™ will absorb moisture faster than PLA or ABS materials so we recommend keeping the product stored correctly when not in use and printing with a dry box to ensure the best printing quality throughout the spool.

Effects of Moisture:
When the filament passes through the hot end the moisture rapidly expands creating bubbles in between layers, poor layer adhesion, inconsistent extrusion due to material expansion and thus poor surface quality.

Preventing Moisture Absorption:
To eliminate all possibilities of moisture impacting your 3D prints, you must store and print your PolySmooth™ filament in the optimum environment (below 20% humidity) to prevent moisture absorption.

Some users will simply dry their filament before use however excessive drying will degrade the filament. We recommend storing all filaments in a resealable bag with desiccant when not in use and we recommend using a filament dry box like the PolyBox™ when printing. The PolyBox™ is a spool holder / dry box that stores filament in their optimal environment while printing.

Removing Moisture:
If your filament has absorbed moisture it can be dried in a convection oven. Visit our 'starters guide to moisture, drying and filament storage' for recommended drying times.


Printer Settings


Nozzle Temperature *

PolySmooth™ prints at a low temperature, typically printing between 190°C - 220°C.

The optimal printing temperature for PolySmooth™ will vary depending on which printer you are using. To find the optimal nozzle temperature we recommend 205°C as a good starting point and based on the quality of the print we suggest adjusting ± 5°C at a time.

Troubleshooting Nozzle Temperature
If the nozzle temperature is too hot, you may experience wisps / stringing on the surface of the print, difficult to remove and fused support material , sagging and poor surface quality on overhangs and a noticeable smell during printing.

If the nozzle temperature isn't hot enough, you may experience compromised mechanical properties due to the poor layer adhesion, under-extrusion (uneven / rough surface quality) and if the filament is not melting fast enough; nozzle blockages.  

Bed Temperature *

PolySmooth™ can be printed without a heated bed, but if equipped a heated bed can be used up to 70°C for the best results. Success without a heated bed will depend on your printing surface, printing environment and model size.

It is important your heated bed isn’t set above the materials glass transition temperature. The glass transition temperature of PolySmooth™ is 70°C.

Cooling *

When printing PolySmooth™ it is best to print with the cooling fan ON. The cooling fan solidifies the plastic faster which will help improve printing quality of PolySmooth™. 

Adequate cooling is also important when printing complex models with unsupported overhangs. To improve overhang print quality you can orientate the model so overhangs are facing the cooling fan.

Rafts

A raft is generally not required when printing PolySmooth™ however with some leveling systems manufacturers may recommend a raft to compensate and improve bed adhesion.

Supports

When printing PolySmooth™, supports can either be printed in PolySmooth™ or with a second dedicated support material. Printing with a secondary material will require a printer capable of multi-material / dual extrusion printing.

PolySmooth™ Supports - Most users own single extruder 3D printers so they print their model and supports in the same material. Polymaker have taken their experience from PolySupport™ and engineered PolySmooth™ to print self-supports that easily break away from the models surface.

Soluble Supports - PolySmooth™ can be printed with a secondary support material that has been engineered to dissolve in a liquid or solvent. Soluble support materials enable users to print complex geometry with superior surface finish on undersides. When printing PolySmooth™ with multi-material capabilities we recommend using PolyDissolve™ S1.

When using soluble supports we recommend having no gap (z distance) between the model and supports.

Support Troubleshooting - If supports are fusing to the model, try decreasing the printing temperature by -5°C adjustments or increase the distance between the model and supports.

If your supports are failing / collapsing during the print, try increasing support density and printing with a raft, this will improve adhesion for the supports.


Post 3D Printing


Removing a print after completion

Once your 3D print has completed, it can be removed from the build plate. The best method to remove your PolySmooth™ 3D prints will depend on your build platform.

Rigid Build Platform
On rigid build platforms like glass or aluminium, a sharp paint scraper can be used to easily remove the model.

Some printers are designed so the platform can be removed from the bed while other printers the build platform may be fixed inside the printer. If the platform is fixed, we recommend supporting the platform with your second hand to prevent uneven pressure on the bed which could affect your bed leveling.

Flexible Build Platform
Some printers on the market print on flexible build plates. With these platforms users can flex the plate to remove prints.

Click here if you are having issues removing prints from the build platform.

Removing Layer Lines *

With any extrusion based 3D printing process layer lines are inevitable. PolySmooth™ offers users many post-processing possibilities with excellent compatibility with alcohol based polishing processes.

First and foremost PolySmooth™ is designed to work effortlessly with Polymakers Polysher™ to deliver users an easier and safer process to remove layer-lines however other polishing techniques can be used.


Example of the detail maintained before and after post-processing in Polymakers Polysher™. (Model designed by Ben Dansie)

Sanding is an optional process that can be applied to remove any major seams or surface defects before polishing. The best results are achieved with 800-grit sand paper and a foam block. After sanding it is important to remove any dust and debris.

Polishing with Polymakers Layer-Free™ technology is the easiest, safest and recommended post-processing method for PolySmooth™. The process is achieved seamlessly using Polymaker’s desktop machine, the Polysher™. The Polysher™ works by exposing the printed model to a dense mist of tiny (< 10 µm) alcohol droplets, which are absorbed locally onto the surfaces of the printed model and subsequently make them smooth (with layer lines no longer visible), while preserving macroscopic dimensional accuracy. 

Post-processing with the Polysher™ is designed to be intuitive and easy to use, simply turn the control dial to select your polishing time and sit back.

  1. 3D print your part with PolySmooth™. 
  2. Fill the reservoir with isopropyl alcohol. (NOTE - Do not fill the reservoir with other liquids or solvents other than isopropyl alcohol or ethanol as this will damage the Polysher™.)
  3. Place your printed part in the Polysher™;
  4. Set the polishing time by turning the knob; a typical part takes 20 - 40 minutes, depending on the size of your part. 
  5. Once polishing is finished, the stage will automatically lift up for you to easily get the part. 
  6. This process can be repeated for more aggressive polishing.

If access to a Polysher™ is not available, or the pattern exceeds the maximum size of the Polysher™, two alternative polishing techniques can be considered: dip polishing and spray polishing. Unlike using the Polysher™ both techniques require certain extent of practice to accumulate enough experience and achieve good results.

Dip Polishing requires dipping the PolySmooth™ print in a tub of isopropyl alcohol to polish the surface of your 3D print. This technique requires more experience than polishing with Polymakers Polysher™.

  1. Attach a wire or similar material to suspend the prints.
  2. Immerse the print in isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol for 5-10 seconds typically. You can use multiple short immersions to get stronger polishing effect.
  3. Allow the print to dry for 20-30 minutes. Inspect the print. Repeat steps 1-3 if needed.
  4. Allow the part to rest in a vacuum(preferred) or convection oven at 40 °C for 1 hour to ensure complete solvent evaporation and surface hardening.

Spray Polishing requires spraying the surface of PolySmooth™ with a spray bottle to polish the surface of your 3D print. This technique requires more experience than polishing with Polymakers Polysher™.

  1. Attach a wire or similar material to suspend the print or put it on a base with small contact area.
  2. Spray isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol on the print surface.
  3. Allow the print to dry for 20-30 minutes. Inspect the print. Repeat Steps 1-3 if needed.
  4. Allow the part to rest in a vacuum(preferred) or convection oven at 40 °C for 1 hour to ensure complete solvent evaporation and surface hardening.

Painting

Before painting we recommend first polishing your part with alcohol or sanding to achieve a smooth surface. After polishing is important to ensure the surface of your model is dry before applying any paints otherwise the alcohol will remain inside the model and damage the part over time. 

Drying your model in a convection oven at 40 °C for 1 hour will ensure complete solvent evaporation and surface hardening.

Once the surface has been polished and hardened, PolySmooth™ adheres well to a variety of paints including: Acrylic, Oil, Eggshell, Emulsion, Watercolor, Cellulose (<50% thinners, sprayed with an airbrush at 7psi) and Powder.

Joining

Parts printed in PolySmooth™ can be joined with a variety of techniques

Glue
Gluing parts printed in PolySmooth™ is simple, with your choice of CA, Super Glue, Gorilla Glue and Two Part Epoxies. Two part epoxy is in our experience the best glue for PolySmooth™. We also recommend sanding contact surfaces with a coarse sandpaper to increase the surface area for the glue, this will result in a stronger join.

Alcohol Welding
The alcohol solubility of PolySmooth™ presents new welding and bonding possibilities. 

We recommend first sanding the surface of your intended join with a coarse sand paper to increase surface area and create a key for the two surfaces to bond. When alcohol is applied to the surface of two PolySmooth™ surfaces, the alcohol will melt and can fuse the surfaces together into one strong piece. 

Additionally users can experiment with dissolving PolySmooth™ in isopropyl alcohol to create a glue that can be applied for joining and bonding.


Trouble Shooting


Poor surface quality

PolySmooth™ is a relatively easy material to print beautiful models. Please consider these notes if the surface quality of your models is rough or textured 

Improving surface quality.

  • PolySmooth™ is a hygroscopic material that will absorb moisture over time, this can be prevented by printing with a dry box. An easy way to test for moisture content in a spool of filament is to extrude the filament, if you hear a distinct popping sound your filament has likely absorbed moisture. As the filament is extruded, the moisture will expand and rupture in the filament creating a rough and inconsistent extrusion. So keeping your filament dry through preventative measures is important to maintain the best printing results.
  • If your extruder temperature is too low during printing, the PolySmooth™ filament won't extrude properly, leaving gaps within the model. Printing with the correct nozzle temperature will solve this issue.
  • If your extruder temperature is too high during printing, the filament can sag when printing steep unsupported overhangs. We recommend printing with the cooling fan ON to achieve the best underside surface quality. Printing with a lower nozzle temperature can also improve overhang surface quality.
  • If your nozzle is partially blocked the filament will have difficulty extruding. Click here for trouble shooting tips regarding blocked nozzles.
  • Slowing down your printing speeds can help to minimize vibration and improve printing quality.

Blocked Nozzle / Filament Jam

When 3D Printing it is possible to encounter filament jams or nozzle blockages, these blockages can be caused due to a variety of reasons.

Causes and Steps to Prevent Nozzle Blockage and filament jams.
In all of these cases if the filament cannot pass through the extruder, the extruder gear will continue to try push the filament and will eventually 'chew out' the filament. If you hear a clicking or clunking sound coming from the extruder, this is a good sign that the filament is jammed or will be if ignored. 

Cleaning a PolySmooth™ Nozzle Blockage
If the nozzle is blocked with PolySmooth™ one of the most successful solutions is to feed a tougher / harder and higher temperature material (for example PC) through the extruder. In most cases, the properties of the tougher material and its higher printing temperature help to purge and remove the clogged PolySmooth™ plastic. It is important when feeding the tougher material at its required printing temperature, for PC this is 250°C and to push the filament into the extruder during this process.

If you cannot remove the blockage of PolySmooth™ plastic from the nozzle, we recommend swapping to a spare nozzle.

Heat Creep

What is heat creep?

Some users have difficulty printing low temperature filaments like PolySmooth™ due to a problem known as heat creep. In essence this issue is caused when heat creeps up the extruder to the extruder gear and softens the filament. Rather than the gear gripping and pushing the filament through the hot end, it will chew the filament out.

Heat creep affects lower temperature materials like PLA, PETG and PolySmooth™ due to their low softening temperature of 60 - 80°C and the issue is more prominent on printers designed to print high temperature materials, dual extruder printers where a section of filament sits idle for long times or cheap 3D printers with poorly designed extruders.

Solutions to preventing heat creep.

The first step is to make sure the extruder fan is ON and cooling the extruder as intended. If the printer is enclosed, printing with all front doors and top hatches open may help to prevent the filament from softening near the extruder gear.

This issue is also more common when printing parts models with retraction. The filament will feed past the extruder gear multiple times with each retraction, this makes it far easier for the extruder gear to ‘chew out’ the filament. Printing simple parts with little or no retraction are more likely to be successful as the filament will only be passing the gear once.

Stringing / Oozing

PolySmooth™ flow excellently, which can sometimes lead to stringing left behind as the extruder moves between points. By controlling the flow of the material we can minimize and prevent oozing and stringing.

Minimizing and preventing stringing.

  • If the spool has absorbed moisture, the moisture will affect the flow rate and viscosity of the material causing unwanted stringing and wisps.
  • Printing with a cooler nozzle temperature will in many cases help to reduce unwanted oozing as the plastic will flow and solidify at a different rate.
  • By increasing the retraction length or retraction speed in your slicer settings, the extruder will withdraw a short distance filament from the nozzle, helping to prevent oozing when the extruder travels between points.

Warping

PolySmooth™ can be printed easily on most machines with excellent dimensional stability. In some cases it is possible for PolySmooth™ materials to warp or lift, lets look at what can cause PolySmooth™ to warp or lift off the bed.

Preventing warping.

  • Printing with a heated bed at 70°C can help to improve adhesion and heat up the surrounding environment, ultimately minimizing warping and improving printing consistency. 
  • The most common reason for PolySmooth™ parts to warp or lift during the print is due to insufficient bed adhesion or an incorrect nozzle height. If the first layer of extruded plastic is not sticking to the bed, a small amount of small residual stress will be enough to lift the part off the bed. It is important to ensure your nozzle height and bed is leveled correctly, you are using the correct printing surfaces for PolySmooth™.
  • Drafts, cool air from air conditioners and low environmental temperatures in winter can cause the material to behave differently and will print with internal stress. An enclosure with a closed front door can help to maintain the right printing environment for users having difficulty with parts warping

Poor Layer Adhesion

Causes and steps to improve poor layer adhesion.

  • If the filament is under-extruding during printing there will be inconsistencies and gaps between the layer, compromising  mechanical strength and layer adhesion. It is important to ensure you are printing the PolySmooth™ filament at the right nozzle temperature to ensure consistent flow and to minimize drag or tension which may prevent the filament from feeding.
  • Poor layer adhesion can also be caused when printing with a PolySmooth™ spoiled with moisture. When the filament passes through the hot end, the moisture erupts creating bubbles in the extruded plastic, compromising  the parts mechanical properties. If a spool of filament has absorbed moisture, it can be dried however it is important to store the PolySmooth™ correctly and prevent this issue from occurring.

Parts difficult to remove from platform

While excellent adhesion between the bed and part is important to achieve a successful print, sometimes it can be difficult to remove models if your adhesion is too good.

Causes and steps to improve print removal experience

  • Some print surfaces are designed to maintain adhesion with the part when the bed is heated and self-release when the part is cool. Try removing the models when the heated bed is hot or cold to see what method best suits your printing surface.
  • Your heated bed may be operating too hot or your nozzle temperature may be too close to the bed. You can try making slight adjustments to the heated bed temperature or nozzle height if this improves your user experience. Of course this is a fine balance as adhesion between the print and platform is important to achieve successful prints.

Filament Links

Polymaker PolySmooth™ Introduction
Buy PolySmooth™

Polymaker Polysher™ Introduction
Buy Polysher™

PolyDissolve™ S1 Introduction
Buy PolyDissolve™ S1 soluble support material for Polysmooth™.

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