Tag Archives: ABS

First Filabot Recycled ABS Print

The fine folks at Filabot were kind enough to send me a sample of their Recycled ABS filament so that I can put it through its paces. My first print is an upgraded Seej Battle Pennon with a cylindrical finial, which you can download for free at The Forge.

Pennon, Rounded

Note to other manufacturers, I’ll be happy to take a look at your product and give it a fair evaluation on this blog. email me if you’d like to get the ball rolling.

Filabot’s located behind the Tofu Curtain in idyllic Vermont. I have strong attachments to that state; I went to college there, got my first real job there, met the lovely and talented Mrs. Zheng3 there, returned there after years in Toronto and Chicago, and frankly expected to end my days chopping wood in the Green Mountain State before life’s capricious winds required a move back to the wilds of the American Midwest.

So I know and love the local culture of Vermont, and it surprises me not in the least that a Vermont entrepreneur would be among the first to start a service recycling ABS plastic for 3D printing. Filabot embodies good-ol’ Yankee frugality blended with hippy-dippy save-the-earthism and a splash of tech savvy for flavor.

Here’s Filabot’s dealio: you buy a pound of their recycled ABS and they send it to you with a prepaid shipping label in the box. When you’re done with the spool, send it back to them with as many failed prints as you can cram in there.

They complete the cycle by pureéing your fails and feeding them back into a Filabot to be made into new filament.

The box of filament arrived a few days ago, and perhaps surprisingly for a package shipped from Vermont, did not smell of patchouli. Just a 3d-printed spool of filament held together with zip ties. Nice touch on printing your own spools, Filabot. Dollars to donuts that cardboard is recycled too.

Filabot Spool 1

I’m presuming that this spool is Filabot’s Orange ABS. Note that the color gets a little inconsistent further down the spool. I don’t expect this to be a problem for me, since many of my models get a post-print spray-painting and those that don’t are utilitarian in nature.

Filabot Spool 1

I’ll be printing with this spool until it’s gone so I can really beat on this filament and see what it can and can’t do. So far, the filament is smooth and consistent in texture. No bubbles or lumps.

I suspect it’s a little more brittle than other ABSes I’ve used. I’ll give it a few dozen more meters of printing before I make that judgement call, though.

All three parts of the flag printed smoothly with no extrusion problems in my Replicator1. I went with an extrusion temperature of 250°, a little hotter than Filabot’s recommended 230°-240° range. This filament doesn’t smell any worse than traditional ABS when it’s melting, which is to say it’s not bad at all. I’ve used ABSes that are flat-out stank, so this was a pleasant surprise.

So! Stay tuned for more prints with Filabot’s recycled filament. Bloxen are next in the queue.

What should my first layer look like?

Your 3D printer just arrived. The nearest hackerspace is 100 miles away. You’re all ready to start printing, but all you really know about the technology is what you’ve seen on YouTube videos and breathless reports on Wired, or the Colbert Report.

They never show you the bottom of the print in any of those venues. It’s always Stanford bunny this or Colbert head that, and that’s all well and good but there’s no one around to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

first layer

I was happily printing failbottom models for months before I went to Maker Faire in Detroit and saw a proper print done by some experts.

The stringy bottom on the first two prints is mostly caused by having an off-kilter heated build platform. Make sure your heated build platform is as level as possible before you start printing.

MakerBot Replicator 1
ABS, 240° C
HBP 110° C, with painters’ tape

(These are prints of my Magic: The Gathering Fungus Tokens, available for free download in The Forge.)

MakerBot’s leveling script never seems to work perfectly for me, but since I’m printing small objects anyway I just make sure the HBP is locally level in my printing footprint. There’s no need for the corners of the platform to be 100% level if the center’s good enough.

I often start a print and let it run for a single layer to let the print heads get to their destination. Then I abort the print, remove any plastic from the HBP, and use ReplicatorG’s homing function to home the Z-axis to minimum.

(In ReplicatorG, go to Machine->Control Panel and select the Homing menu to do this.)

Then it’s a matter of twiddling the thumbscrews on the HBP until the nozzle passes MakerBot’s business card test. When you slide a business card between the nozzle and the HBP and the surface of the card just catches on the nozzle, you’ve got it.

It takes some time to get a knack for it, so don’t despair. I find it works best when the nozzle makes an indented scratch along the card’s face.

The first company to ship an auto-leveling build platform gets a fistful of cash from me.

It’s possible to get a mirror-smooth base when printing on kapton, but I’m mostly printing with ABS on painters’ tape right now. More on that in a subsequent post.

Sweet ABSynthe

ABSynthe is a simple brew of filament scraps and acetone. Brush it on your build platform and your ABS prints will be a lot more likely to hold fast for the duration of a print.

You’ve probably got some ABS filament ramen or failed prints scattered around your workspace. Chop them up and drop them into a jar of acetone. Feel like Walt from Breaking Bad disposing of the evidence.

Don’t overthink it, just add enough acetone to make a thin syrup. Huff not the ABSynthe.

I mix my ABSynthe in an (empty) 3.6 ounce jar of Proraso Pre-shave Cream. It’s a convenient size and the plastic top won’t dissolve from the acetone fumes. Plus, it’s imported from Italy.


She’s-a-make-a-you print-a stick-a-real nice-a.

Dip a paper towel in the ABSynthe and smear it across your HBP.

Getting ABS prints to stick to a heated build platform can be an art. I’ve had excellent results with some ABS spools, where they melt just enough to stick throughout the duration of a print, but some plastics just don’t like my kapton tape. They end up going for a ride around the platform and I’m left with a big bag of fail.

Note that I’ve pretty much given up covering my entire HBP with kapton. I realized I was mostly printing fairly small things, and it didn’t make sense to spend the time ironing out all the bubbles and rending my garments when the kapton bunched up.

So I just lay one strip down the center of the HBP and I’m a much more relaxed person now.


That schmutz on the kapton is the ABSynthe. I haven’t had a print slip off the platform since I started doing this. I’m generally printing ABS at 120°C.