Picking the Right 3D Printing Material with OptiMatter
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on May 30, 2016 |

The desktop 3D printing industry is evolving to produce printers and materials that more closely resemble those manufactured by industrial companies. At the same time, due to the size and relative newness of some of the businesses involved in this space, it may be difficult to track the quality of their products and determine which products are right for a given application. 

When it comes to desktop 3D printing materials, a startup named 3D Matter has been doing its best to track the space, providing detailed reports about the qualities of various 3D printing filaments. The research consultancy has just gone a step beyond its free reports and produced a new tool to help users of desktop 3D printers to navigate the increasingly populated world of materials and choose the best materials for a desired application.

OptiMatter presentation from 3D Matter on Vimeo.

OptiMatter is billed as a “materials optimization tool” that allows users to compare different 3D printing materials across brands and materials. The free version is basically a demo to entice users to purchase one of the more robust plans, letting users match generic PLA and PET materials at different types of infills and layer thicknesses; however, even the basic output for these generic comparisons yields a lot of useful information. Using ASTM standards, the results provide physical performance characteristics across both the X-/Y- and Z-axes, such as elongation at break, maximum stress, impact resistance and more. 

With the “Full” plan, at $29 per month, users are able to expand the aforementioned “Optimization” feature to compare a growing number of filaments that currently include 3D Fuel Algae PLA, 3D Printlife EnviroABS, ColorFabb Copperfill, ColorFabb PLA/PHA, ColorFabb XT, Esun ABS, Esun PLA, Formfutura ABSEasyFil, Formfutura ABSpro, Formfutura ClearScent, Formfutura HDglass, Formlabs Standard, Formlabs Tough, MadeSolid FlexSolid, MakerBot ABS, MakerBot PLA, NinjaFlex NinjaFlex, NinjaFlex SemiFlex, Oo-kuma TrueFlex, Orbi-Tech SmartABS, Polymaker PolyFlex, Polymaker PolyMax, Push Plastic PremiumPLA, Recreus FilaFlex, RepRapper ABS, RepRapper PLA, Taulman 3D 618, Taulman 3D 645, Village Plastics ABS, and Village Plastics PLA.

Apologies for the long list, but it does reflect the large variety of materials that the online software can compare. The mention of MadeSolid and Formlabs materials also demonstrates that OptiMatter is not limited to filaments and explores photopolymer resins, as well. Interestingly, the site also lists EOS PA 2200, indicating that the platform might even branch out from desktop materials to industrial-grade materials. 

In addition to this material comparison, users can optimize a print with a given material, dragging the sliders associated with various physical characteristics to achieve the results they desire for a given print. Then, the tool will generate the best print settings for a specific material or series of materials. Therefore, if impact resistance is what a user is after, they can set a high impact resistance in the Optimization area of the tool, pick a brand of filament, and see how they might best achieve that impact resistance, say, with a higher infill percentage. 

While the “Full” plan allows for an unlimited number of material matchups and optimizations, OptiMatter will soon be releasing a “Flexible” plan, which allows users to pay $3 per month for one material matchup. More interestingly, it’s also possible to license the OptiMatter API for embedding the tool on one’s site, which might be useful for a 3D printing service bureau or 3D model repository. 

Founded by Arthur Sebert, an engineer from Ecole des Ponts Paristech, 3D Matter has already established some reputation for filament research. The free studies already published by the firm give a bit of background into how 3D Matter tests each material, lending credence to the OptiMatter software. Though OptiMatter is currently designed for users with an engineering background, 3D Matter has said that a new, simplified version will be released for novice users.

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