Are you always experiencing printing failures, possibly not related to the printer or print settings, but rather the filament you're using? Most common filaments are sensitive to moisture and require proper storage. The rule of thumb for storing filament materials is keeping them dry, away from dust, heat and sunlight. Using storage bags, containers, racks, and desiccants can effectively protect 3D printing materials from degradation. This article will provide you with 5 useful methods on how to properly store your 3D printer filament.
Why Proper Filament Storage Is Important?
(Right: good result; left: stringing 3D print)
Most commonly used 3D printer filaments for FFF/FDM 3D printing, such as PLA, PETG, Nylon, and TPU are hygroscopic materials. This means that these materials readily absorb moisture from the air when left unprotected, leading to various issues like degradation, low-quality 3D prints, and damage to the printer. Resolving these issues requires time for troubleshooting and extra costs for machine repairs. Therefore, proper 3D print filament storage is crucial, as it ensures print quality and extends the lifespan of your printer. This article offers useful methods, including those that are cost-effective and easy, to help you store filaments correctly.
When using wet filament, the following issues may occur:
- Filament goes brittle: Wet filament tends to break easily, resulting in decreased performance.
- Color fading: Moisture causes the filament to lose its original vibrant color, causing the color difference.
- Poor print surface quality: Problems will happen like stringy 3D prints, gaps in 3D print layers, bad overhangs and bridges.
- Crackling noises from the hot end: There are popping sounds, bubbling, and steaming, indicating moisture evaporation within the filament, when it is fed into the hot end for heating.
- Nozzle clogging: Absorption of moisture and impurities causes filament diameter expansion, leading to a nozzle clog. It's necessary to clean or replace the component. Measuring filament diameter with a caliper can check if there are significant deviations from its initial diameter.
Best Way to Store 3D Printing Filament
1. Gallon Storage Bags
Thick zip bags are easily obtainable in your kitchen, and this is the lowest-cost and simplest method for storing your filaments. It's best to use one-gallon plastic storage bags that can hold a spool of 1kg filament. Then, placing one or two packets of silica gel desiccant inside can enhance the drying effect. Finally, labeling the storage bags with the date allows for clearer checking during follow-up checks.
2. Vacuum Storage Bags
Vacuum seal bags are also easily available, and commonly used for storing clothes and blankets. They tend to cost more than zip bags but are more durable and environmentally friendly as they can be reused. Usually, these vacuum seal bags come with a vacuum pump. You'll need to place the filament and desiccant inside, then remove the air, effectively separating the filament from external moisture and dust. You need to check the bag's size before buying to ensure it fits your material's dimensions.
3. Cereal Storage Boxes
Plastic cereal storage boxes, aside from their use for storing cereal, are also suitable for organizing 3D printer filaments. Typically, the largest cereal boxe is suitable for accommodating a single spool of material. They often come with a sealable lid, effectively keeping moisture and dust away. The advantage of using cereal boxes for storage is that each box can hold one spool, making it convenient and portable. However, it may require a lot of boxes for storage, especially if you have a large inventory of filament.
4. Large Storage Container
A large transparent plastic container with a seal cover enables you to store multiple spools at once, but is less portable compared to other storage methods. To save space, the container's sturdy structure allows for stackable storage. To prevent filament degradation, desiccants and a hygrometer offer double protection for your materials. This ensures effective prevention of moisture and dust, facilitating routine checks without the need for moving or opening of them.
5. Wall Racks
Storing the filaments neatly on an open-style filament rack in the workshop has the benefit of immediate visibility of colors and easy access. You can customize or directly create a 3D-printed filament rack. However, if your workshop experiences higher humidity or encounters rainy seasons, this open rack can lead to filament degradation. You might consider combining it with the storage methods mentioned above. For instance, place the filament in storage bags or cereal boxes before displaying them on the rack. The drier the filament, the better the printing quality.
Best 3D Printer to Improve Print Quality
For achieving better printing quality, 3D printing consumables need to be kept away from moisture and dust, but more importantly, it relies on a reliable 3D printer. Anycubic is an established manufacturer in the 3D printing industry, offering affordable and high-quality desktop 3D printers and materials in numerous countries and regions worldwide. In 2023, Anycubic launched the Kobra 2 series of high-speed printers:
- Kobra 2 Neo - Budget-friendly fast 3D printer for beginners
- Kobra 2 Pro - Fastest and smart 3D printer in Kobra 2 series
- Kobra 2 Plus - Most balanced fast 3D printer
- Kobra 2 Max - Flaship's Largest-format fast 3D printer
Comparison guide for the Kobra 2 series.
Generally, filament exposed to air without protection can degrade within one to two months. But with proper storage, it can last up to 12 months. Storing filaments correctly when not in use can be done in various ways, such as using sealed containers, bags, or wall racks. You can also DIY storage by combining these organizers according to your preferences and needs. Don't forget that desiccants and hygrometers serve as great tools for providing dual protection for your materials. Finally, it's important to conduct regular inspections of your stored materials, checking the internal humidity and the label date, examining whether the filament has become more brittle, and using a caliper to measure filament diameter. If unfortunately your filament gets wet, there are simple methods to dry it, like using an oven, a food dehydrator, or a filament dryer box.