There are a wide variety of materials that you can 3D print, and you may have heard or read about 3D printed wood. So is this actually wood, or something else? Let’s dive in and see the exciting possibilities and challenges of 3D printed wood!
What is 3D printed wood, anyway?
If you’re thinking about actual wood being fed into a 3D printer and spitting out a dinner set, we’re not quite there yet! But what is indeed available is wood filament, which is a form of PLA that’s filled with powdered wood. The result looks and feels like a lot like actual wood!
It’s actually still your typical PLA, except the small wood particles give it a typical wooden finish. Most wood filaments are 30% wood and 70% PLA. Because of the added wood, this filament is quite brittle compared to regular PLA, and it can also be a little challenging to print, as we’ll see shortly.
Types of wood filament
The early days of wood filament used PLA filled with sawdust. Those filaments were a step in the right direction, but the wooden filaments available on the market today are far superior and look and feel like real wood. Obviously they will not be quite as strong, but the point of 3D printing with wood is more for aesthetics than strength.
Good wood filaments to use
- 【Parameter】-iSANMATE Wood PLA+ Filament Print Temperature：190℃-225℃. iSANMATE PLA+ filament dimensional: 1.75mm,accuracy +/- 0.03mm, 1KG (2.2LBS).
- 【Wood PLA+】- iSANMATE Wood Filament is made up of 30% wood flour with wood color and texture.Able to make products with woody touch
- 【High Quality】- iSANMATE Wood PLA + filament has superb layer bonding, and strength and toughness are greater than conventional PLA filament. Easy to use
- 【Spool Size】- Spool Diameter:197mm(7.76") ; Spool Width;64mm( 2.52") - Spool Hub Hole Diameter: 57mm(2.24").
- 【Walnut Wood Pla】AMOLEN walnut wood PLA filament add more than 30% real wood fiber, which makes the printed models look like real woodwork. This wood PLA shows a dark brown or chocolate brown...
- 【Premium Quality Filament】The Wood filament 1.75mm PLA Raw materials are from USA. Good shaping, strong toughness, no bubble, no jamming, no warping, melt well, feed smoothly and constantly...
- 【Print Smoothly & Clog Free】AMOLEN high quality PLA Wood filament is tangle & clog free. Printing Temperature 180-200℃; Printing Bed (Optional) 0-60℃; Printing speed: 30-60mm/s; Tips: Layer...
- 【High Compatibility】AMOLEN PLA Filament is perfectly compatible with most of the FDM 3D Printer and 3D Pen, Comgrow Creality Ender, ANYCUBIC, Creality 3D, SUNLU, DO3D, MYNT3D, 3Doodler etc. NOTE:...
- Material: PLA-Rosewood Powder
- Weight: 1 KG (approximately 2.20 lbs) Spool, 1.75mm Filament Diameter (Dimensional Accuracy +/- 0.03mm)
- Recommended Extrusion/Nozzle Temperature: 200°C - 215°C Base Plate/Print Bed Temperature:50°C
- Attention please: Clean the nozzle before printing OR just use a 0.5mm or above nozzle to avoid clog.
- 【High-Grade Matte PLA】This newly launched filaments can output prints with shine-free color and frosted texture, which make it perfect for creation needing low-key, rich and enigmatic...
- 【Easy to Print & More Humanized Design】Easy to print just like normal PLA, more likely to get quality prints with sharp details. Excellent threshold overhang angle. Raft and support are very easy...
- 【Odorless & No Bubble】Developed based on Natural PLA, this Matte PLA filaments deliver excellent printing quality with no odor and low warpage during printing; Complete drying for 24 hours before...
- 【Dimensional Accuracy & Consistency】advanced CCD diameter measuring and self-adaptive control system in the manufacturing guarantee these PLA filaments of 1.75 mm diameter, Accuracy +/- 0.03 mm; 1...
- PREMIER MATERIAL: Made from PLA and 20% bamboo particles. Prints just like normal PLA with gorgeous surface of light wood color and texture. The print even smells like wood.
- HIGH COMPATIBILITY: AMOLEN PLA Filament is compatible with most of the FDM 3D Printer, MakerBot, LulzBot, FlashForge, UP, Printrbot, Solidoodle, Reprap, Mendel, MakerGear.
- HIGH PERFORMANCE: Orderly wrapped, melt well, feed smoothly and constantly without clogging the nozzle or extruder. AMOLEN PLA filament is the choice of engineers, designers, and anyone else into 3D...
- SMOOTHLY PRINT: AMOLEN engineered its Professional 3D Printer filament to strict tolerances and the highest quality standards, ensuring trouble-free operation with your 3D printer and superior...
As you can see, there are a lot of different wood finishes now available, and if you print with the right settings, the end result looks and feels remarkably like real wood. It’s a great way to make decorations and showpieces.
What settings should you use for 3D printed wood?
Wood filament is rather finicky to print, so it may take you a few prints to dial it in.
The printing temperature is very critical when working with wood filament. Most filaments will have a recommended temperature written on them, and that’s what you should use. It’s always good to start in the middle and adjust up or down as necessary.
The temperature you 3D print wood with is a double-edged sword. On one hand, if you are printing too cold, the wood particles can clog up your nozzle.
On the other hand, if you’re printing too hot, the wood fibers can catch fire!
That’s why it’s best to start your optimization at the middle and work up or down. Since these filaments are PLA at the end of the day, the printing range will be between 180 to 210 degrees C.
You can also play with the temperature a little to achieve different finishes. For darker, charred finishes, you can use a higher temperature to slightly burn the wood as it is printed.
Be careful when you do this, as there is a very short distance from charring to fire!
Next up is bed temperature. While you don’t need a heated bed, having a heated bed will definitely improve your 3D printing experience. Heated beds at 50 to 70 degrees C will provide a lot of much-needed adhesion and will help prevent failed prints due to the model sliding off or coming off the bed.
Speed and other settings
Aside from temperature, speed is a setting that you can play with. Wood filaments tend to be oozy and have issues with stringing, so using a slightly faster print speed will help with preventing that.
There is also another setting you can use to help prevent unnecessary oozing:
- In Cura, it’s called combing
- In Simplify3D, it’s called avoid crossing outline for travel movements
What these two settings do is re-map the nozzle movements so that it stays within the perimeter of the print as much as possible. This helps hide any oozing or stringing that can come up from long nozzle travels.
Maintaing your 3D printer after using wood-filled filament
Little bits of wood particles can get stuck in your nozzle after 3D printing with wood, so here are two things that you can do to prolong the life of your nozzle.
- Manually clean the nozzle after every print: use a nozzle cleaner or even a very fine needle to remove any grit from the nozzle and then extrude some regular PLA through the nozzle to pick up and remove any bits
- Use a nozzle bigger that 0.4mm to help prevent clogs in the first place!
Post-processing wood filament 3D prints
When you 3D print with wood filament, you’re probably going to want to do some post processing before you use it as a finished product.
There are a few ways to post-process wood filaments.
Remove unwanted elements and smooth it out
A finished wood print will usually have some stringing that you can cut away using a pair of scissors. Once you’ve removed all the stringing, you can use some sandpaper to smooth out the entire print.
Start with a bigger grit size and work your way down until you have the desired finish.
Wood filament is quite porous, so it will absorb paints and stains very nicely. Use a paint or polish to color your wood filament 3D print as you see fit.
Another way to color your prints is to print the entire model with varying temperatures, so some layers will appear slightly darker than others.
This is a really cool way to give a gradient effect to your entire print!
Other ways to use your 3D printer with wood
Some 3D printers also have attachments that turn them into CNC machines, which you can use to mill and cut blocks of wood into various shapes.
Obviously, this is more of manufacturing by removing rather than additive manufacturing, but since you’re doing it with a 3D printer, we decided to include it here!
Wooden 3D prints are not for total beginners, but once you’ve got your 3D printer dialed in suitably well for PLA, the next challenge to take up can definitely be wood-fill PLA. Modern filaments are much better than the ones I used when I started out 4 years ago, so there’s no better time than now to get started!