3D Printing with Polypropylene (PP) Made Easier With P-Support 279
Polypropylene (PP) may be one of the most well-known and common plastics used globally, but it is very challenging to use as 3D printing material. Despite this, many recognize the payoff of printing with PP because of its strength, biocompatibility, and chemical stability.
To allow for more practical use of PP in 3D printing, a German company called PPprint has developed easier ways of working with PP. One result of these efforts is a filament called P-Support 279. What exactly is P-Support 279 and how does it work?
What is P-Support 279?
P-Support 279 is a filament developed by PPprint specially designed to serve as support for 3D printing with PP filament. Naturally, the company recommends using P-Support 279 with their in-house PP filament brand called P-filament 721.
It is the first commercially available breakaway support material that has been developed for PP. In this regard, P-Support 279 is as useful as PVA for PLA printing or HIPS for ABS printing. The filament is designed as a support material that can be removed easily and cleanly from the finished print. P-Support 279 can also be used as an effective raft or brim to avoid bed adhesion issues.
P-Support 279 prints optimally at extruder settings that are very close to the setting recommended for PP. It exhibits excellent adhesion both with PP and the surface of a typical print bed. It has high stiffness and is not prone to warping, addressing many of the usually encountered by those who are 3D printing with PP.
Another characteristic of P-Support 279 is that it can be removed cleanly from the finished print simply by heating the entire piece to a temperature of 100 C. This is another unique trait that makes P-Support 279 a convenient support material. After heating, P-Support 279 should break away quite easily from the rest of the print. This is a fairly easy process that thankfully does not involve using potentially hazardous solvents.
P-Support 279 is only usable if your 3D printer comes with a dual extruder setup. Dual extruder 3D printers are quite affordable nowadays and you should be able to get one for less than $500 if you’re on a budget.
Why is PP difficult to use in 3D printing?
If you’ve never 3D printed with PP before, you may be wondering why it’s such a big deal to use a special support filament. PP may seem like a convenient material to work with just because it’s a very common plastic. However, it also poses several challenges during the 3D printing process.
PP has two characteristics that make it hard to work with – its poor bed adhesion and its high tendency to warp. In contrast to other thermoplastic polymers, PP has a semi-crystalline molecular structure. This results in a faster accumulation of thermal stress while PP cools, making its warping effects more pronounced and harder to control.
PP can be one of the most frustrating materials to 3D print with. We recommend learning to deal with high-temperature filaments like ABS and Nylon first before attempting to use PP. It requires having a heated bed and specialized bed adhesion solutions. The usual tricks with a glue stick and hairspray might not work well in this case. Some 3D printing brands sell special build plates that are also made with PP to maximize bed adhesion.
A bed enclosure is virtually a requirement when working with PP. This greatly slows down heat loss to the environment and makes warping less likely. For very big 3D printers, it may also be necessary to provide active heating to the enclosure using some lamps or a hairdryer.
The point here is that there is very much a need for a product like P-Support 279. If it can make 3D printing with PP just a bit more reliable, then it’s a product worth exploring.
Tips on using P-Support 279
Delivering on promises can be a struggle for manufacturers of 3D printing filaments simply because there are too many variables in the equation. In the case of P-Support 279, there are two other crucial elements involved – the brand of PP filament and the actual 3D printer model you are using.
Printing with other PPprint products
For this reason, PPprint recommends using the P-Support 279 with their in-house PP filament (P-filament 721) as well as their special build plate (P-surface 141). This combination will ensure that you experience the performance of the PPprint products as the company has intended.
The P-filament 721 PP filament has been optimized for enhanced mechanical stability. It has good layer adhesion and reduced warpage. The material itself has been certified as biocompatible and safe for skin contact applications by DIN EN ISO 10993-5. This should prove valuable for medical applications such as plastic casts and orthopedic implants.
The P-surface 141 build plate is designed specifically to provide good adhesion with both P-filament 721 and P-support 279 filaments. It is a durable build plate that should fit just about all commercial 3D printers. Finished parts can also be removed easily by hand after printing. While PPprint does not divulge what the P-surface 141 is made of, it certainly has a significant portion of PP blend in for maximum bed adhesion.
PPprint recommends an extruder temperature within 200 to 220 C for the P-Support 279 filament. Ideally, the PP filament you are printing with also prints optimally at this temperature range.
A heated bed is necessary for printing with PP, as with the P-support 279 filament. A temperature of 50 to 70 C is recommended for the first two layers. This can then be lowered to 20 C for the succeeding layers. It is recommended to have a bed enclosure when printing with PP.
Removal of P-Support 279
Right after printing has been completed, it is recommended to heat the build plate to 100 C to facilitate removal. At this temperature, the support materials should pop right off with minimal effort and no destruction of finished parts.
The best way to remove the structural supports printed with P-Support 279 is to heat the entire piece to a temperature between 100 to 110 C. This can be done in an oven or by immersion in boiling water. Take note that water can boil below 100 C so simply pouring boiling water over the finished part may not be enough.
The goal is to make the P-Support 279 soft like chewing gum. Support removal is best done while the parts are still hot, so you will definitely need to wear thick, insulated, and waterproof gloves. In the proper conditions, the support material should peel off with very little effort. P-Support 27 should also become fairly flexible at the proper temperature, which should help remove support structures in small openings.
The P-Support 721 filament likely works best within the ecosystem of products that the PPprint company has developed. However, it won’t be surprising to see it used with other PP filaments and generic build plates.
There are not a lot of anecdotal accounts of how well P-Support 721 performs with other materials outside of the PPprint brand. This is likely because of how rarely anyone 3D prints with PP filament – it can be very intimidating. Hopefully, products like P-Support 721 can make PP 3D printing more mainstream.
PP is easily one of the more frustrating filament materials that you can use for 3D printing. It’s extremely prone to warping because of its unusual molecular structure. The results are worth the effort, though. PP is strong, durable, and can withstand extreme temperatures and chemical environments. There is a good reason why PP is a go-to material for food containers and medical devices.
P-Support 271 is a unique product. Right now, it is the only product designed specifically to make 3D printing with PP easier. If you’ve had difficulties with PP, we highly recommend buying even just a single spool of P-Support 271 to try it out.