MRRF: Tasty Filament from Proto-Pasta

Alongside printers from all walks of manufacturing, one can naturally expect to find people selling different kinds of filament at a 3D printing festival. One of these purveyors of plastic was Proto-pasta out of Vancouver, WA. Proto-pasta prides themselves on unique offerings and complete transparency about their manufacturing processes.

Almost all of their filaments are either PLA or HTPLA with something special added during extrusion. The menu includes steel, iron, carbon, and finely ground coffee. The coffee filament was one of our favorites for sure. The print they brought with them looked solidified light roast and had a transparent kind of lollipop quality to it. I couldn’t detect the coffee scent due to allergies, but [Alex] assured me that printing with this filament will make your house or hackerspace smell terrific.

[Alex] was giving away samples of their stainless steel composite PLA. This one can be polished to a smooth shine with a series of papers that run from 400 to 8,000-grit. Another of their newer offerings is PLA infused with magnetic iron particles. Prints made with this stuff can be rusted to achieve an antique, steampunk, or shabby chic aesthetic.

Proto-pasta also has an electrically conductive composite carbon PLA. This one is great for capacitive applications like making a custom, ergonomic stylus or your own game controller. According to the site, the resistivity of printed parts is 30 ohms per centimeter as measured perpendicular to the layers, and 115 ohms along the layers.

Have you made anything awesome with conductive or magnetic filament? Have you had any problems with unorthodox filaments? Let us know in the comments.

21 thoughts on “MRRF: Tasty Filament from Proto-Pasta

    1. I’m still a bit dubious of how filled these can get and still print using PLA extrusion technology. There may be upper limits to it, shrinkage issues, etc. But that said, there are some incredible examples of similar techniques using photopolymers that are then thermally burned out as a post processing step.

      https://www.llnl.gov/news/lawrence-livermore-mit-researchers-develop-new-ultralight-ultrastiff-3d-printed-materials

      “They used polymer as a template to fabricate the microlattices, which were then coated with a thin-film of metal ranging from 200 to 500 nanometers thick. The polymer core was then thermally removed, leaving a hollow-tube metal strut, resulting in ultralight weight metal lattice materials.”

      “The team repeated the process with polymer microlattices, but instead of coating it with metal, ceramic was used to produce a thin-film coating about 50 nanometers thick. The density of this ceramic micro-architected material is similar to aerogel.”

      “Lastly, the team produced a third ultrastiff micro-architected material using a slightly different process. They loaded a polymer with ceramic nanoparticles to build a polymer-ceramic hybrid microlattice. The polymer was removed thermally, allowing the ceramic particles to densify into a solid.”

  1. Coffee? Made me wonder if this is a late April Fool’s. I checked their website, and I guess it’s real, but also immediately ran into a suspicious statement:

    “HTPLA prints similar to standard PLA but is “Hella Tough” and can be “Heat Treated” for “Higher Temperature” resistance.”

    I can understand putting “Hella Tough” in quotes, but why “Heat Treated” and “Higher Temperature”? Usually when common terms are needlessly put in quotes like this, I read it as weasel disclaimer, like this:

    “We’re not using these terms according to their normal definitions, and unless we explicitly clarify their meaning elsewhere, they could mean anything – or nothing at all. So we’re not liable if it doesn’t work as you expect, or even if our claims are entirely false.”

    Hmm.

    1. This filament can be baked at a low temp to crystallize it after printing, leading to higher temp tolerances. It’s a popular one on Reddit to make coffee mugs from the stuff, after food safing it.

      These guys seem to be the real deal, making lots of high quality specialty filaments.

      1. Geesh should I warn people wanting to working there, staff numbers in decline (?) as not only might they recycle plastics into filaments but, making coffee mugs from the staff puts a whole new paradigm into play, Yowsa !
        (yes an edit function would help [Hackaday admins] with a 3min or so timer like phys.org, I’d prefer 5min, being on 20+ forums prefer “just a wee bit more time” scots accent included).

      1. Didn’t notice that, you’re right. Since the material is called “HTPLA”, they may be reinforcing associations of what the “HT” prefix means. But that could be done with just the capitalization, sans quotes. And that would avoid confusion, both with weasel disclaimers, and with other places they use quotations to represent a clearly subjective opinion (like calling a filament “the best” in the world).

    2. These guys seem to be the real deal when it comes to making high quality speciality filaments.

      It’s popular on the 3D printing subreddit to make coffee mugs out of this stuff, which can be baked at low temps to crystallize it, and increase its temp tolerance, then coated for food safe.

      I haven’t tried it yet myself, but it’s on my 3D printing bucket list.

  2. Silver. As in Ag. As in the one of the few oxides that don’t impede or resists electron flow (and doesn’t degrade Form Factor or Function). Check it out. Of course there will be some “pseudo-scientific” types that will start getting all “holier then thou” pertaining to the O2 versus O1 or O3. However these are the types of people that we couldn’t care less for…and will post shortly.

    1. Isn’t it wonderful when less intelligent people attempt to converse on subjects they know nothing about? And I really enjoy when they use copyrighted material as a response. Priceless idiocy.

  3. I think the electrically conductive plastics are the most exciting to me. Imagine printing your own high voltage capacitors by alternating conductive and non-conductive layers.

  4. Don’t forget, before you load any speciality-filaments in your FDM printer, go get a new nozzle, preferably hardened stainless steel or the brand new tungsten nozzle.
    This stuff with metals or carbon, just like Glow-In-The-Dark filament, is highly abrasive, eating up your standard brass nozzles like crazy.

  5. I once bought conductive ABS. It sucked, since it hade so high resistance and was reather crappy mechanically (I don’t remember which brand it was). Perhaps it could work in the right application.
    I have also been involved in trying to print bronzefill and brassfill (PLA with bronze or brass respectively), which looks very nice, but is extremely hard to print, due to all the heat creeping. Clogs the nozzle like hell and is very expensive.

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