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New High Tech Filaments from Proto-Pasta

Frankly, we all want 3D printers to make anything out of any material. The folks at ProtoPlant are helping us get there with their line of fortified filaments for desktop 3D printers. They make PLA and ABS filaments that are stronger and more heat resistant than normal. We spoke to the inventors of this filament as they were fundraising on Kickstarter. Here’s what they had to say!

Practical 3DP: What does ProtoPlant Inc do?
ProtoPlant:
We design and build prototypes and one-off custom fixtures and equipment for manufacturers and aerospace companies.

P3DP: What is Proto-Pasta and what are its applications?
PP: Proto-Pasta is a new line of FFF filaments for consumer grade 3D printers.  We tried very hard to offer some materials that are just not available to consumers.
  1. Carbon Fiber PLA is, in a word, stiff.  It resists bending more than standard PLA,  It is not lighter or stronger but this added stiffness makes parts that feel really solid and that are hard to deform or bend.  It prints very well with good adhesion and without clogging nozzles.
  2. High Temp PLA becomes less soft than normal PLA at elevated temperatures.  It is similar to ABS in temperature resistance after it has been annealed for a few minutes at 80C.  It also prints very easily and seems to bridge better than normal PLA. It is a solid color, not translucent like normal PLA.
  3. Polycarbonate ABS makes tough parts with much higher impact resistance than either ABS or PLA.  This material is tougher to print with, requiring up to 280C at the hot end and a 120C heated bed.
Proto-pasta
P3DP: Who can benefit most from Proto-Pasta?
PP: Anyone who is interested in experimenting with printing some new materials with their printers and expanding what is practical to make.
P3DP: What’s the coolest thing you’ve been able to print with your filament? The most useful?
PP: We have focused on testing and evaluating our materials, not so much on printing. Some of our beta testers have printed interesting things like bridges and bottle openers.  We have a tester who manufactures split board snowboard bindings who prototyped some parts.
P3DP: Where will Proto-Pasta have the biggest impact?
PP: Proto-Pasta will have the biggest impact in fueling people’s imaginations for 3D printing.  We know there are folks out there looking for new and interesting materials to work with and we are hoping to help fill that need.
P3DP: Have you run Proto-Pasta through a 3Doodler?
PP: Nope, but good idea.
P3DP Note: If you have a 3Doodler and would like to try this filament, contact us! We want to see this happen!
P3DP: Where can we get it?
PP: We are working on rolling out several distributors in the US and UK, more details to come.  We will be also selling it from proto-pasta.com
P3DP: How much does it cost?
PP: Working on that, but somewhere close to the Kickstarter pricing.
P3DP: What is your background? Education?
PP: I have a Mechanical Engineering Technology degree from Montana State University and am a licensed Professional Engineer in Washington State.  My background is in aerospace, designing and manufacturing satellite missions for NASA that study the sun. Aaron has a Computer Science degree from MSU as well.  His background is in virtual reality and 3D graphics.
P3DP: How has Portland/Vancouver’s startup ecosystem helped ProtoPlant?
PP: Portland is an awesome community for creative minds.  My family and I live in Alberta Arts and really enjoy the community.  I have worked with ADX in Portland for inspiration and networking.
P3DP: How does your work make 3D printing more practical or usable?
PP: Our work opens doors into areas where affordable 3D printing may have been cut off before.   We think our users will answer this question.
P3DP: What are you looking forward to being able to print someday?
PP: Nothing specific in mind, but we have had some awesome ideas from backers.  One I thought was super interesting was high performance engine valvetrains.  This backer was looking for a stiffer material to verify valve designs and was very excited about our CF-PLA.
P3DP: What is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen printed?
PP: There are some awesome prosthetic hands and fingers that I think really show off the flexibility and utility of 3D printing.  It is not something that you can really mass produce because people are all different and it really impacts price and people’s lives.
P3DP: What is needed to make 3D printing easily usable by everyone?
PP: There are some things in the works to address this point, but I think that moving toward a less “maker” user experience (like the buccaneer) is a good start.  Hopefully at the same time we can all keep things relatively open source and not too corporate feeling.
P3DP: What materials would you like to print with one day that you cannot today? What would you build with it?
PP: I have some ideas that hopefully you will see on Kickstarter or proto-pasta.com soon!  But I think anything different is awesome, and really respect the work of folks like Taulman.
P3DP: What is some of the interesting research that you are following in the 3DP space?
PP: I love the work being done on delta-robot style printers, along with some rotary stage printers currently funding on KS (no affiliation or cross promotion, just think it is cool)
P3DP: What’s next for ProtoPlant?
PP: We are really hoping to build a reputation as a premium supplier for 3D printing materials and hardware over the next few years.  We love the creativity and newness of this space and are excited to explore what opportunities are there..
P3DP: Anything else you’d like to add?
PP: Maybe just a shout out to Kickstarter and our backers, it is pretty amazing to have this opportunity to bring something we are really interested in to the greater community.
Proto-Pasta is a line of fortified 3D Printer filaments with extra strength and heat resistance, made by ProtoPlant in Vancouver, WA.  You can find more information at their website and their Kickstarter campaign.