As mentioned above, we are reviewing most of BigRep’s filament offerings. Today, we’ll be looking at PLX, a PLA-derived material that’s designed to be especially versatile. BigRep claims that the printer’s settings can be adjusted to print PLX very quickly or to produce “beautifully smooth surface finishes,” all while boasting mechanical properties that rival ABS. If all of that is true, this should be some amazing material. Let the tests begin!
As with all other filaments we have received from BigRep, the PLX is professionally packaged and neatly wound. There are no tangles to untangle and there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable deviations in roundness. It loaded onto the Ultimaker S5 using the standard PLA setup with no issues; all prints were done at 200°C for the hotend and 60°C for the bed.
The trusty Benchy gets us started with printing at the default 0.15mm layer profile for PLA in Cura.
That is a very good demonstration. Every feature is crisp and smooth. There are no signs of problems on the bow overhangs and all pillars are clean. The material is quite shiny so what looks like blemishes are just reflections. That’s one of the reasons why I prefer more matte colors, but that’s beside the point. This is an excellent first impression. Let’s move on to the all-in-one 3D printer test.
Again, an excellent result. Look how straight the corners of the pillars are. There were only very faint strings on the pillars that were easily removed with a light touch of the fingers. The top surfaces are incredibly smooth and solid. The overhangs don’t start to deteriorate until 70° or higher, which is as good as the best I’ve seen. I don’t normally remove the support (underneath the floating L shape) when I print this model because it’s included in the model and therefore can’t be adjusted; that means that the gap between the support and the model is static and will not work as well for all materials and print settings. In short, it is often incredibly difficult to remove the support material from this model without breaking the print. But the surfaces turned out so well that I decided to give it a try, after taking a few photos of course. As you can see, the support came out and the part survived. There is a bit of a scar on the top surface where it was removed, but that’s mostly related to the same issue of support not being adjustable in the cut parameters. The only problem is that the jumpers are sagging a bit, so let’s see how PLX handles the jumper test.
He did good. It’s not terrible, but we’ve seen better. Most bridges are flat on top with a slight sag on the bottom, though several are fairly flat on the bottom as well. Bridging is one of those tricks that usually requires a few tweaks for each material to get consistent results and I’m working with most of the default print settings for these tests so there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Layer adhesion was tested by printing three vertical drawbars and applying weight to each one until it broke. They were broken at 63lbs, 65lbs and 68lbs for an average of 65.3lbs. That’s pretty good performance, especially for a material that prints so easily.
I also tested for heat deflection by comparing the dimensions of a printed bar to its dimensions after going through an annealing cycle in my furnace.
- Original dimensions: 20.5mm x 120.4mm x 5.95mm
- Dimensions after annealing: 20.3mm x 119.2mm x 6mm
It shrunk about a millimeter in the longest dimension and became a hair thicker in the Z axis, both of which represent a change of less than 1%. That means PLX is quite heat resistant and can be used in a wide range of applications.
Finally, I wanted to test their claims of being able to print quickly and being able to get smooth walls with this material, but I wanted to prove both in a single print. He needed a large item that also had a lot of detail, so the Cthulhu Dice Tower fit the bill. It is 200mm high and has many different textures and shapes. To print it quickly, I increased the infill print speeds, increased the line width of the solid layer, made it mostly hollow with very little infill, and went with 0.2mm layers. To make it look nice, I lowered the outer wall print speeds and the outer wall line width.
This thing took just 14 hours to print and it’s absolutely gorgeous. The smallest details are fully captured and the surfaces are like satin. I was planning on painting it but almost didn’t want to because it looks as good as it is. It will haunt my game cabinet until I make up my mind. So yes, you can print quickly with this material and you can get impressive prints, even at the same time. Also, the supports (generated in Cura) came off with very little effort.
I’m a big fan of PLX. It prints just as easily as PLA with standard print settings and delivers top-notch results. I had no peeling or warping pieces and each print came out great. I generally avoid the use of supports as much as possible but they are totally manageable with this material. And being able to reduce print times by printing faster is a great value-add for manufacturers of all sizes. BigRep knocked it out of the park with PLX.
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