3D printing is a garbage in, garbage out process. One of the key factors in ensuring you get great results is keeping your filament dust-free and dry. There are 2 major areas we’re concerned with: moisture and dust.
PLASTICS JUST WANT TO ABSORB MOISTURE
All thermoplastics absorb moisture! And when that plastic is melted, that moisture boils off. This can cause all sorts of issues during printing. This can create surface imperfections such as tiny holes, uneven layers, etc.
Different plastics absorb different amounts of moisture. PLA and ABS don’t absorb too much moisture as a percentage of weight. Other plastics such as nylons, nylon blends, polycarbonate, and acrylic absorb significantly more and must be treated with more care.
TO PREVENT EXCESS MOISTURE
To ensure your PLA and ABS filament remains dry, just return them to a sealed bag with dessiccant after use. The dessiccant will prevent/slow the material from absorbing moisture.
Nylon and more sensitive materials should be stored in an actively dried container. A cheap way to do this is a rubbermaid tub with a foam seal, and put a small dehumidifier inside. This can also be used to recover filament that’s absorbed so much moisture it can’t be printed.
DUST, THE OTHER ENEMY
When left out, dust can and likely will collect on the surface of filament. Over time, in sufficiently dusty environments, this can be drawn into the print head, and eventually cause problems, including a partial head jam. Fortunately this is easy to prevent.
TO GUARD AGAINST DUST ON YOUR FILAMENT
As with moisture, the best prevention for dust on your filament is to properly store your materials (sealed bag and sealed tub). However, if your material is prone to collecting dust, you can still get great printing results by creating a filament wiper that sits right before the material enters the extruder.
Its simple to make your own filament wiper. For example, you can take a piece of coffee filter and a closepin. Just fold the filter over on itself and clamp it in place with a clothespin. The tension of the clothespin should be enough to hold it in place, while allowing the material to enter the extruder without any resistance.
Dry filament (left) vs. improperly stored filament (right)
Large Storage Bins Work Well for Storing Filament