Recommended higher-end non-Markforged 3D printers for high temp materials?

I considered asking this in the recent thread Why is Onyx so popular?, but this seems like a different topic, though it is related. I’m curious about teams’ experiences with higher-end printers that aren’t Markforged, specifically for the purpose of printing strong high-temperature plastics like polycarbonate. I see options out there… Ultimaker, Raise3D, AirWolf3D, Fusion3, Flashforge, (Makerbot Method?). Anyone have a printer like this that they love? Or are they all high-maintenance? (Or… would you go the Prusa + upgrades + enclosure route? instead of a more expensive turnkey option?)

We are able to print CF-nylon pretty well with a Prusa i3 after upgrading to a hardened nozzle and all-metal hot end (which I think comes standard now maybe?). That’s a pretty low-cost approach.

I spent a bunch of time trying to pick out a (relatively cheap) printer for my employer to print PEI/Ultem (400deg nozzle). Unfortunately the one we chose kinda sucks, so I won’t recommend it here, but I’m interested in the answers to this thread.

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I print a ton of what I call mid temp stuff on different Ultimaker’s. This is all stuff that can be printed on printers you mentioned above…I just believe Ultimaker has a much better package for managing that.

This is a good article that you have probably already stumbled upon for light reading on how it can be done on a hobby system. But you aren’t asking about hobby. I assume you have 10k to spend based on printers you have mentioned above. The problem is that that isn’t really reliable high temp printing money. Sure you could spring for a Intamsys but I don’t think you will be very happy with it…at least I’m not.

You have Roboze who is doing a recent push to be a bigger player in that market with varying results. You have 3dxtech who is launching their new printer I am excited to get my hands on. But those are both 100k options that MAY work okay. So what does it take to be good-good? You have to look at Essentium and Stratays. Their parts are good. Robust machines that make your wallets less robust.

I have been down this rabbit hole and I know what you want. You want these strong, high temp robot parts. Functional components that have organic shapes, gearbox plates that need to hold decent tolerances or brackets that connect your mechanisms. You won’t have very much success. Although people have proven that you can extrude high temp material from hobby printers in general shapes, they don’t show complex geometries. You see relatively small parts with minimal features, no support required, and minimal tolerance.

Look into CPE+ from Ultimaker, alternative CF nylon filaments on the market, and the other PC/TPU/SEBS/etc.

If you want to the high temp stuff on hobby printers just to do it and you believe its cool, then 100% go for it! I just don’t want you to spend thousands on a setup you think will yield ONYX level robot parts.

If you do decide to look into more CF nylon material to replace MF alternatives, feel free to shoot me a message with questions. CPE+/PC as the easier ones. Lehvoss, KIMYA, etc have some nice options but are much harder to print functional parts.

-Ronnie

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We’re pretty happy with MF/Onyx - we have a couple of their printers, including a new one that also does the continuous fiberglass that we haven’t tried due to COVID.

I’m mainly doing additional research for advising oue school who may soon buy equipment for a newly constructed CTE space. We have older Makerbots for PLA/ABS on one end, and the two Markforged printers on the other end currently. Several students have gotten pretty good at using these, and I was curious about the value of something like an Ultimaker S5 maybe for some different materials (PC in particular is intriguing) with which to experiment. But it seems like larger, precisely-dimensioned, complex PC parts aren’t really on the menu with printers under 6 figures… A “middle” printer like the S5 still might be worthwhile for other things (e.g. nylon, flexibles, PC-ABS blend 3DXTech sells). Thanks for sharing your experience, @RonnieS.

If you don’t have an S5, I would highly recommend the pro bundle for 10k. Can use it to keep exotic material dry. And you can absolutely print the PC robot parts. That is what I would consider mid grade. The next level would be PEI, Ultem, etc…

-Ronnie

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We have a Method X… Actually, we bought the premium package and are on our third Method X. The nicest thing I can say without going into a dissertation on our issues with it is that it’s a pile of garbage. I’ve gotten very few basic and easy things to even print on it.

They over engineered it to death with many points of failure especially the second nozzle. If you even choose to use the support material you’ll need to buy / build a wash tank to dissolve it if you’re going to use it for ABS.

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We have an Airwolf Axiom Direct Drive printer that is rated for high temp. We use it for PLA, ABS, and Polycarbonate. Extruder goes up to 315C and the Bed goes up to 140 C.

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How reliable is it? When I looked into these a few years ago the reviews from people that had them for more than a few weeks were a dog’s breakfast.

Direct drive is the KEY, originally they had the filament drive motor on the back and it had to extruder the filament through approximately 24 inch long Bowden tube. Since we upgraded to the direct drive it is pretty good, better than our new makerbots but not as good as our Markforged.

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I’ve done a bunch of research into this and the answer is you’ll get what you pay for.

Essentially, if you want CF Nylon - you’re in luck. Whatever you buy, dry it out properly, stick it in a truly airtight container ( with dessicant) hot out of the oven. Run the filament through a pneumatic fiitting hole in wall of your airtight box into ptfe tube all the way to your extruder (to keep filament dry). Print onto a bed of G11 that has been sanded with 120/180 grit (wear an N2 minimum mask, gloves and clean everything down properly afterward… don’t mess with glass fibers…) and then lay a thin layer of PVP gluestick onto the bed (elmer’s for eg) and you can press print and walk away. Bed adhesion will be excellent. Dimensional tolerancing will depend on filament, printer and slicer settings, which you can dial in with time, energy and rolls of filament. Lots of people recommend 3DXTech as some of the best filament in the business. Treed CF Nylon also have a very good reputation.

G11: McMaster-Carr
For airtight containers we use superlock, which are made in Thailand - and are perfectly airtight (dessicant will stay dry for >1year)

One of the reasons markforged prints so nicely is they dry it properly and then ship it in mylar moisture barrier bags that keep it truly dry. They also use a better dessicant than most - using what I think is a molecular sieve dessicant rather than a silica gel (more aggressive adsorption). Anything else will need to be dried prior to use. It’s also one material in one printer on their slicer - so they’ve dialed in the settings perfectly for you, and limit the choices you can make to give consistent results (eg # of walls and infill types and percentages).

If you are looking for stronger materials (PC (not easy / blended), PEI, PEEK , you’ll need a printer heated chamber for most of them, and you will get what you pay for. I’m currently working on a funmat ht conversion to Duet deal with the warped bed to get mesh levelling and a few other features. It has taken a ridiculous amount of time - I live in hope that it will be worth it.

I’ve heard the funmat enhanced version is better than the original we got, however, don’t kid yourself that it is going to compete with printers that cost 75-100KUSD. Maybe with the stratasys patent on heated chambers expiring we will see more great cost effective printers for high temp materials, but for example 3DXTech’s printer was supposed to be released over a year ago and I don’t think they are shipping yet. High temp is tricky.

I would say PEEK and the other high temp filaments out of the range of most printers. At least for larger structural parts. Though for small parts there might be an occasional success. PEKK is more possible. 340-360 print and 120 on the bed will work for small parts. Though to get max performance out of PEKK requires annealing. CF-nylon is probably the most interesting for low cost FRC printing.

I recently swapped out the extruder on my ender 3 pro to an all metal hotend so I could print NylonX and I’m pretty happy with the results. If you go that route I would make an enclosure for the printer.