Snap to it! With MatX and Scaffold Snap
Following the success of spoolWorks Scaffold and Edge, we're proud to bring you our newest optimised filament pairing: MatX and Scaffold Snap
MatX is a drop-in-replacement for ABS applications that provides generally improved properties across the board, with increased layer adhesion and a much improved surface finish.
Where ABS prints to a dull gloss, MatX has a lovely shiny satin finish. Due to its exceptional flow properties MatX offers highly accurate printing, making it a great material for printing detailed parts with tiny nozzles, right down to our 0.15mm nozzles. As an added bonus, it offers about ten times the weathering resistance and resistance to ultraviolet radiation of ABS, higher long-term heat resistance, and resistance to chemicals like cleaning products.
Scaffold Snap is a new, easy-to-use support material for desktop 3D printing, designed to work perfectly with MatX. These guys go together like peas and carrots, as the saying goes, but to delve into why this is requires a little bit of a chemistry lesson. Bear with us, there are pictures:
MatX (an abbreviation of 'Material X' - MatX's original super-secret pre-release name that somehow stuck) is an ASA-based material composed of little particle-balls of acrylate rubber bound with an acrylonitrile-styrene copolymer chain matrix. Snap is styrene-based support material.
Whereas the copolymer chains of MatX are long, tough and strong, the styrene chains in Snap are short. This makes Snap quite a weak, brittle material that produces easily crushed and removable supports. This is a significant difference from conventional HIPS (High-impact Polystyrene) which is tough, impact resistant and hard to break away. Snap is a very high-flow material which prints smoothly, allowing you to print perfect support structures alongside MatX (and other styrenic materials like ABS too!)
Snap has none of the cross-linking and crystallisation difficulties that plague PVA-based support materials like Scaffold, and can be left in a hot idle nozzle for long periods without causing blockages. This makes it ideal for home dual-extrusion printers like the Ultimaker 3 (but more on that later).
When printed alongside MatX, the two materials adhere together, with Snap firmly supporting MatX. The styrene molecules in Snap form a weak but effective bond with the acrylonitrile-styrene of MatX, meaning that they print cohesively.
Once the print is complete, Snap cools back to its clear, hard, brittle state and can be broken and peeled away from MatX. Snap breaks rather like weak glass, shattering into fine, almost powder-like shards* that can easily be removed from the print. The MatX-Snap interface bond breaks cleanly and easily.
This means smoother underside-surfaces on prints that have been built on Snap supports, as the two materials can be printed closely upon each other yet still break away cleanly. Because Snap breaks into small fine fragments it can even be removed from hard to reach places that would normally only be possible with soluble supports, although you do still need to be able to reach the material with a tool or similar in order to fragment and extract it. This puts even more complex, beautiful geometries within reach.
Snap makes for a much quicker support material removal process than soluble or traditional supports. Once parts are cooled and off the printer the material can be shattered and peeled away in just a few minutes. None of the mess and waiting of soluble supports, and none of the laborious picking and cutting of conventional supports. Print, crush, peel - done.
To test just how easy MatX and Snap are to print together, we used a human guinea-pig in the form of Elzabi, our digital marketing assistant, who had never tried 3D printing with support when we gave her a spool of MatX, a spool of Snap, and an Ultimaker 3 to play with. Essentially we wanted to see if someone comfortable with, but by no means expert in, 3D printing could use these materials without too much trouble.
For her first attempt she simply loaded the two materials onto the printer, used the default support settings in Cura, and hit 'print'. The results were surprisingly decent - the materials worked together, but adhered too strongly. This meant that the supports couldn't be pulled off, and had to be crushed to a powder to remove completely. Far more effort than we were happy with!
The next few tries involved getting to grips with some of those settings that Cura automatically hides, working to get the perfect formula for a satisfying snap and easy peel-away. The resulting slicer profile is available through our wiki, but is essentially as simple as:
- Lowering the support infill density
- Using a support infill pattern like 'concentric' or 'zig-zag'
- Adding, and then increasing the size of, a support interface with a grid pattern
- Lowering the support interface density to between 50% and 75%
- Slightly increasing support X/Y distance and prioritizing it over Z distance
- Everything else was more or less cosmetic fiddling that varied depending on the model to be printed.
*which can be sharp! We highly recommend wearing gloves and safety goggles while breaking it away from your prints.
It really, really does SNAP!
As an added extra-special bonus, our tests reveal that Scaffold Snap even works with spoolWorks Edge, a PETG-based filament. Now you truly can print ALL the things.