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Polymaker is a name that comes up all the time in 3d printing discussions around premium printing materials. They are a well-known manufacturer of specialist filaments, but that premium reputation does come with a premium price tag. For this reason, a lot of people have heard of Polymaker but not actually used their materials.

 

So what is it actually like to print with?

 

To find out, I ordered their flexible variety of printing material that they call PolyFlex.

 

What fascinated me was while some people in the 3d printing community might regard the filament as an “exotic material,” the specifications for printing is a lot like what you would expect from any regular filament.

 

Just take a look. See anything out of the ordinary? No, me neither.

 

Now, of course, this is flexible stuff. Not every printer, or extruder, rather, is going to deal with it well. That is the nature of flex filament, not this particular brand.

 

According to the company it does not require a heated bed. All the same, I used one anyway and in my experience, yes, this can make it more difficult to remove. If you lose adhesion, however, then you can get your printer into a literal tangle that is even more difficult to remove, so choose your poison wisely.

 

A warning on the Polymaker website tells us that this filament likes to absorb moisture from the atmosphere. Fortunately, where I live in Canada is pretty dry, even if there is snow falling. Hopefully my experiences were realistic and not clouded (sorry) by any dampness accidentally introduced to the material by me.

 

Printing with PolyFlex

 

For this test I chose to use the reliable and flexible (sorry) Prusa i3 Mk2. While the Prusa is not perfectly suited to printing with flexible materials, in that there are no modifications or specialist extruders fitted, the Mk2 does cope well regardless. Prusa Control does have a filament profile for TPU that gets the job done, even if the output is a little stringy.

 

Going in, as you can gather, I was not expecting 100% clean results out of the gate. Flexible filaments are notorious for failed prints, be it tangled extruder, blobs on surfaces, under or over extrusion, or stringing.

 

To mitigate (but not entirely solve) these issues, PolyFlex is a little firmer than some of the varieties you might have gotten used to, and the formulation is developed for ease of printing.

 

In order to have something reliable to compare this experiment to, I started out by printing my Maker Hacks logo. This logo has been printed in all kinds of 3d printing materials, as well as been laser cut, CNC’ed, and goodness knows what else.

 

As you can see, the results were extremely encouraging, considering this was a completely untuned experiment. I basically loaded the filament, chose the Prusa Control defaults, added the STL and output Gcode.

 

Now that is not a torture test by any means. What it does show, though, is this material can print clean, solid, sharp lined prints. I am sure with some slicer profile tinkering I could have got a lot closer to perfection, but rather than string this out (again, sorry) I moved on to the next test.

 

I needed some cable management on my CR-10 S5 because it keeps pulling it’s own stepper motor cable out of it’s socket as the bed moves back. Somehow I need to keep those cables out of the machine travel path. Looking over Thingiverse I remembered Printrbot had some cable management designs for this purpose, so I printed off the examples especially for flexible materials.

 

Stringing is more apparent in this print, but still layer adhesion is good, surfaces are clean, and those strings are so fine I imagine a blast from my hot air gun will tidy them up in no time flat.

 

This is a good test because, after all, the whole point of the flexible printing experiment is to print things that stretch and, well, flex!

 

 

Flexibility is great with this filament material, but stretch is not very elastic. Obviously it is stretchier than PLA or ABS, but the main attribute of this print was bend and rubbery softness rather than stretchability, at least using this model with these slicer settings.

 

So with soft, bouncy, but rigid outcomes, what might it be good for?

 

I happen to have a friend who lost a finger (it would be a good bet that most people heavily involved in the maker community knows at least one person who got too close to a power tool or moving blade, right?). He needs a prosthetic and had a model already in mind. Perfect match?

 

I happen to have a friend who lost a finger (it would be a good bet that most people heavily involved in the maker community knows at least one person who got too close to a power tool or moving blade, right?). He needs a prosthetic and had a model already in mind. Perfect match?

 

Again, some apparent stringing, but surfaces were quite clean, which is especially important on a printed item that is expected to be “worn”. That tough, rubbery output is also important for something that will be used for gripping, and also will see some abrasion.

 

Conclusion

So would I buy it again? That’s the real question and it is not necessarily a straightforward question to answer.

 

First of all, it’s not an easy filament to get a hold of where I live in Canada.

 

In comparison, regular TPU and TPE is ready available locally. For what this cost me, the equivalent of just under $100 CAD, I have a wealth of options even in Calgary itself, both unbranded and branded.

 

While I am happy with the performance, keeping in mind this was an entirely default slicer profile, I have to rule out purchasing in future because there are just as good options for literally half the price, that I could pick up today. If someone locally started selling it, and for ⅓ of the price, I might reconsider it!