At monkeypuzzle.co.uk we believe in visiting our 3D printing suppliers wherever they are – whether it’s Holland, Spain, Germany or China. A few days ago we met up with two filament suppliers in China and we had detailed discussions with the factory managers and quality control staff.
First of all we saw their commitment to quality – as soon as the filament is produced they shrink wrap it so that the filament can’t be damaged by dampness in the air. One way of producing cheap filament is to recycle off-cuts and poor quality raw materials but our suppliers never do this and otherwise customers’ 3D printers could get clogged up or have stringy filament. A factory manager explained that every time he’s a had a comment about filament quality it’s been because the customer has the printer on too low a temperature setting.
We are able to get such good prices because we make large orders of PLA or ABS filament – this gives some economy of scale but it also keeps down the shipping costs to the UK. On our visit to Guangdong we were impressed by how keen the factory was to keep down the shipping costs and avoid the expense (and carbon emissions) of air-freighting. They also keep down costs by having 4 different lines producing the filament at the same time which means the operational guys are fully utilised, which allows us to sell high quality filament more cheaply. It also means that an order can be manufactured even if it contains lots of different colours. Their Pantone colour matching is excellent.
One way for us to reduce the chance of your spool of 3D printer filament getting tangled is to make sure that it is wound systematically – our suppliers do that with automatic winding devices. They also have a measuring instrument to made sure that the thickness of the filament is consistent and the variation is very small – typically it is set to be within 0.02mm of the specification.
We have looked at many 3D printer suppliers and work only with the top ones – and the best way to ensure high quality is to work in partnership with your suppliers – ideally having looked closely at their factory – and that’s exactly what we do.