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.
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.
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.
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.