Does 3D Printer Filament Expire?

Does 3D Printer Filament Expire? A common question by people using 3D printing for every day life.

Imagine you are working on an amazing design everything is done properly. Design also looks perfect and now it is time to print the design. But the result seem quite different from what you expected. You start to wonder what exactly could be the reason. One of the reasons could be your 3D Pinter Filament might has expired or gone bad. Especially if you have not used your printer for a long time it can go expire or go bad.

One of the main reason for 3D Printer Filament to go bad or make it unusable is moisture in the air. What actually happens is that when filament gets heats up during the printing process, it makes the moisture inside filament to boil and comes out instead of filament therefore affecting the quality of Printing.

But this does not mean that you cannot store your 3D Printer filament. If you take proper steps while storing 3D Printer filament the length of time it can be used can easily be extended.

Below we will discuss some of the symptoms that your 3D Printer Filament is getting weaker and what measures you can take to ensure that the length of time it can used extended.

So let us first understand can 3D Printer Filament actually expire/go bad?

Does 3D Printer Filament Expire? OR Go Bad?

In simple words I can say is, yes, 3d Printer can expire and can go bad easily if not taken care properly. Further it is also worth mentioning here that 3D Printer Filaments also have formal expire date from the manufacturer.

Generally when come to know when they have started to use their 3D printer after long period of time they realize the quality is not the same. This can often be frustrating especially if you discover it at the last moment of time when you have to print something really important.

There can be more than one reasons for the 3D Printer Filament to go bad, so let us look at some of the reasons that might cause filament to expire or go bad.

Major Causes of 3D Printer Filament to Expire and Go Bad:

There are plenty of brands available for 3D Printer filaments in the market. It is not possible to discuss each of them individually that is why we will be focusing primarily on the top 3 filament types available:

  1. PLA
  2. ABS
  3. PETG

We will also discuss some of the common reasons for 3D Printer Filament malfunction. Since most of the defects arise from not storing 3D Printer Filament properly we will also discuss about the possible storage solutions.

Moisture:

If you ask me one most important reason why 3D Printers Filaments stop working properly I will for sure go with Moisture. These filaments can easily absorb moisture and later at printing stage this moisture effects printing quality. The material in these filaments is extra quick in absorbing moisture.

Basically what happens is that due to humidity in the air or moisture the outer part of the filaments gets brittle leading exposure to material inside filament too. Sometimes the quality of the prints is affected but this is not the case always. A more clear indication of moisture is you get streaky prints. If the filament continues to get exposure to moisture it can not only lead to filament degradation but in some cases results in breaking of filaments.

So if you are experiencing any of these signs it is time to think of better and dry storage solution for your 3D printer filament.

So let us now further discuss filament types available in the market.

3D Printer Filament Types:

PLA (Polyactic Acid):

The major reason for PLA filament types to not work properly is Moisture. When the level of moisture increase too much PLA filament gets brittle and it can easily be broken even with a little force.

There is not much visible difference between the PLA Filament that is perfect for use and that has absorbed moisture but of course while printing you can easily feel the difference.

Therefore if you are storing PLA Filament in high humid environment always remember that it is super water or moisture absorbent and it will get bad or expire lot sooner than expected.

Generally when PLA Filament absorbs lot of water it gets swelled up and might in some cases ends up by destroying 3D printer Nozzle.

Sometimes you also will listen to sizzling noises due to the reason that when the filament material gets hot the water inside turns into steam resulting in these noises. In addition to these noises the moisture also leads to inconsistent printing.

Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-modified – PETG:

PETG is designed specifically with the main objective to last longer as compare to other filaments. It has copolyester in it which is basically is modified form of polyester. One of the major advantages of the Copolyester filament is its temperature resistance. They are known to have displayed excellent solvency resistance in addition to strong mechanical properties.

Despite of the resistance still if you are going to expose filament to moisture and humidity it can go bad. So like other filaments it also need proper storage. However it is still durable compare to other filaments available in the market.
The best way to store PETG or other filament is in air tight container to keep them safe from moisture.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene):

ABS filament colour is important indication of its functionality. If its plastic has turned into yellowish brown colour or faded it means it has absorbed moisture.

When this faded ABS filament is used for printing it can lead to several little hairline sports between printing layers resulting in dull finishing and separated print layers over time.

Therefore try to store filament in proper storage space. If they are not expose to moisture they can stay fine for longer.

Next question that naturally comes to mind is that is can printing with old filament is possible.

Is it possible to print with Old Filament?

One liner answer to the above question is yes it is possible to print with old filament. However you need to take care of few things to ensure that you will not end up with brittle printing.

The best way to use old filament is to preheat your filament and then let it dry before using. Otherwise it can lead to shutting down of entire 3D printer system or blockage of nozzles in few cases.

If you are using old filament make sure not to expose it to any further moisture or environment. Otherwise chances are that absorbing of further moisture will increase your troubles.

An extra measure that we can take while printing with old filament is to ensure that print temperature is never set to be close to filament glass transition heat.

Next we will discuss few ways to protect filaments from expiring.

How to Prevent 3D Printer Filament from Expiring?

Having discussed the moisture issue that most of the 3D printer filaments have. There are certain steps that you need to take to ensure 3D printer filament works properly during its shelf life?

 Storing 3D Printer Filament Properly:

One and only enemy of 3D printer filaments is moisture. So if you want that your filaments last longer you have to protect them from moisture.

Air tight containers can really help you to protect filaments from moisture. Another important thing is to make sure to use desiccant to absorb any extra moisture that still finds the way in air tight container. Generally silica packets have proven good results for this purpose.

So if you are able to keep your filaments away from moisture and environment for sure they are going to last longer.

Only Buy when You Need:

It is common sense but still I find it worth mentioning. Do not buy extra filaments when you need them. You can keep them stored properly but again why to take the risk of wasting your hard earned money.

Whole sellers and retail sellers of filaments have properly secured storage spaces to protect their filaments from moisture. Since they are easily available at the local retail shops. There is absolutely no sense in buying and keeping extra stock of 3D printer filaments.

3D Printing to be honest is much fun and enjoyable hobby for many. However the printing and filaments are not cheap. Therefore you need to extra careful how you treat your printer and filament.

We will summarize is 3D Printing is excellent hobby and professional requirement these days. But since it is expensive as compare to traditional printing you should understand its usage and storage instructions properly. This is will save you from lot of hustle and trouble.

It is also advisable to read the instructions inside the box when you buy such items. They have lot of useful information about usage and storage.

Related Article: Is PLA Food Safe? 

Here is my suggested list of 3D Printer filament if you want to buy one too.

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