Carbon Fiber PLA Filament Comparisons

3D printers have made a lot of impressive advancements in both software and hardware in a very short time frame thanks to a strong community that has a creative mindset, always searching for ways to improve things further. Perhaps one of the greatest advancements made comes from what is known as exotic filaments. These are typically a hybrid of sorts, like carbon fiber PLA, stainless steel ABS, etc.

I’ve been using Carbon Fiber PLA for quite some time now, it gives me a much better print quality than standard filaments, and it is a lot stronger so I can use a lot less infill, which is terrific for things such as my DJI Inspire 1 build.

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Recyclable Spool, 100% cardboard

My go to for the longest time has been ProtoPasta Carbon Fiber PLA, but at $40.00 for .5kg spools, it got expensive. I decided it was time to look for alternatives and give them a shot; that is when I found out that Hatchbox, my long running brand of choice for standard PLA and ABS filaments, actually has a spool of Carbon Fiber PLA of their own. Still priced at $40.00 but 1kg, double that of ProtoPasta’s, I was curious at the difference in quality, and my results had me very surprised.

I decided to print out one of the same pieces for the motor mounts on my drone build using my new spool of Hatchbox to see if it was comparable in both weight and finish. I did not expect the results to be 100% identical, because different “recipes” for filament can effect things ever so slightly, but that is exactly what I got. Two pieces with the exact same print settings, the exact same weight down to an accuracy of .1 gram, and the exact same finish quality that makes me so fond of this type of filament.

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I don’t currently have the means to scientifically test tensile strength of printed parts, that is something I’m looking in to in the future. I can tell you however, that I’ve actually stood on top of every part I’ve printed. If I, a 185lb man, can’t break these parts, some of which only have 20% infill, I think that is definitely note-worthy for both brands.

Both brands can go through an annealing process to make them stronger, but I chose not to. The models were designed with perfect tolerances, and annealing would shrink them ever so slightly and would not work for the majority of what I do.

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Hatchbox 1kg spool

So having said all of this, have I completely switched to Hatchbox? For the carbon fiber PLA, yes. The price is too good for the amount you get in comparison. Protopasta is still a damn fine company and I’ll definitely have a go at reviewing their other lines of exotic filaments, but the rate at which I use this type of spool in particular, it makes sense financially to go with Hatchbox.

Please always use a highly abrasion-resistant nozzle when using exotic filaments, as these can damage soft metals such as brass over time.

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AWS Pocket Scale 1Kg Review

3D Printing out parts for a drone is a very cool experience. You get the satisfaction of knowing something you built can fly! If you’re anything like me though, you wont just stop there. Once you’ve flown it, you’ll probably wonder how you can improve it. Of course with any quadcopter one of the best improvements you can make is weight reduction. With a bit of prototyping and redesigning of parts that can safely be trimmed down (definitely not impact-withstanding parts!) you can easily improve flight time, and every gram saved will be worth it. So how do you get a good idea of your gloriously redesigned weight reduced awesomeness?  Enter the American Weigh Scales 1000gram digital pocket scale.

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For less than $10USD on Amazon you can get this highly accurate scale and start making things lighter.

As the name suggests, the scale itself is small enough to fit comfortably in your front pocket, making this an easy addition to any field kit for a day of flying. The case has a clasping lid to keep the scale bed nice and protected and has all the instructions printed on the inside of the lid should you ever forget how to zero out the scale or what some of the features are.

Speaking of features, one of the interesting things this scale can do is tare weighing, which is essentially placing a container on the scale, pressing the Tare key which then zeros out the scale allowing you to subtract the weight of the container from the calculated weight, which would be a handy feature for the kitchen, or other recreational activities (Dude, I don’t judge, party on!).

As this is a high precision scale, it is not without the need for occasional re-calibration. It is recommended to have a set of weights to recalibrate. This scale in particular uses a 500 gram weight to calibrate so make sure you pick one of those up as well. They can be had for very cheap. I bought a set of these which come with a nice protective case.

Measurements are taken in 0.1 gram increments.

Scale takes two AAA batteries (included).

Backed by a 10 year warranty.

 

Project: Inspire 1

This one has been a long time coming! I’ve always wanted an aerial video and photography drone but the cost is a little too steep for my needs at the moment. A good guy by the name of CdRsKuLL over at DIY RC has done all the modeling to build yourself a very good copy of DJI’s Inspire 1 drone, but for a huge discount. You can pretty much buy a new 3D printer, all the hardware, all the electronics, the filament, and still pay less. Inspire 1 sells for ~$2000, mind you.

So yesterday I begun the rigorous process of printing out all the frame structure needed for the build. I’m using Protopasta Carbon Fiber PLA and it is remarkable how strong and smooth these prints are coming out!

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I expect all the prints to be completed by the end of tomorrow, so long as I stay diligent in starting prints after one ends. You can expect a full time-lapse of every part being printed and a full build log here.

Stay tuned! It’s about to get really interesting!

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