Friday, 7 March 2014

-=( filament market thoughts and pla production )=-

As some of you know the filament market in Australia is somewhat interesting/weird

- On one hand we have various small companies imprting filament and reselling it and making a mere several dollars per spool.

- On another hand we have one or two big companies that dominate the import brands market for those who want cheap filament because they use a lot of it (like me).

- Then there is the one and only producer in Australia that produces PLA at $48 to $50/kg, the reason they are the only one is because NatureworksLLC's Australian distributor has an exclusive arrangement with this company to only sell them pla resin and no one else, aside from raising legal questions if anyone wonders down the track why Australian produced pla is more expensive than anywhere else in the world and priced so that importing yourself is not economically viable by comparison... you know why.

as a result the first question i ask is what does it cost by comparison to get Chinese produced pla the answer is around $10/kg or roughly double and a bit more the cost of natureworks pla we should have access to, so we are left with the only other option aside from buying it on the spool and that is to polymerize it ourselves and extrude it into our own filament,

as i see it there are basic rough 4 steps to it
1 - mix raw materials dextrose + water + bacteria to ferment lactic acid
2 - heat and apply vacuum to remove water to polymerise the lactic acid ( catalyst may be nessary )
3 - collect powdered remains and further dry
4 - run through extruder to get something hopefully resembling filament

there is a lot of detail to go into about each step and i will as i go through them currently i am going through the first bit, i am on my third test batch and so far there is what looks to be some sort of gooey jelly like substance suspended in the water which i suspect is the lactic acid but i'll know better int he morning (it's friday ngiht atm)

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