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Exploring magnetic PLA and other 3d printer filaments


3D printed motor stator with magnetic PLA

Question of the day: Can the reduced magnetism of 3D-printable magnetic PLA from Proto Pasta actually resolve efficiency issues by reducing eddy currents in a 3D printed motor? It’s an interesting question posed by Christoph Laimer during his extensive experiment using magnetic PLA to print the stator core for a 3D printed brushless motor. In fact, he even poses the question of whether the stator core can be printed with non-magentic PLA (since the magnetic PLA is truly much less "magnetic" than standard iron alloys and, yet, still functioned beautiful and efficently in his 3D printed brushless motor). 

Eddy currents are a byproduct of rotation of a magnetic field. In conventional motors, harder iron alloys produce more eddy currents than softer alloys. Therefore, Christoph’s theory that the reduced ferromagnetism of Proto Pasta’s magnetic PLA could have a positive effect on the motor’s efficiency is worth exploring in detail in another post. In the mean time, check out the details and results of his very successful attempt to 3D print a viable motor, and come back here to comment on your thoughts about eddy currents and magnetic PLA.

Christoph has written a series of five articles on testing and using magnetic PLA. Look for these articles on the makeSEA wiki:

Magnetic PLA is just one of many tpes of filament available to consumers in the 3d desktop space. In fact, since Christoph experimented with magnetic PLA there have been so many new types of filament available to the consumer market, it's hard to test them all. We recently tested a new conductive PLA, which we found more efficient but harder to work with. 

If you have used or tested any of the conductive filaments, please share your experience with us.

Why 3D printing will change the world: reason 13

Before and after experimentation with the motor.

If you are reading this, you probably don’t need to be persuaded that 3D printing is changing the world in many ways. Its effect on manufacturing, shipping, inventory, and really the world economy as a whole is greater than we can imagine; not to mention the social and humanitarian good it can do by making medical devices and basic life serving technology and goods available more quickly and at a much lower cost.

3D printing provides a much more efficient way to prototype and produce goods when compared to traditional manufacturing methods that can be slow to develop and tend to create a lot of waste product. In the chain of processes that deliver the final goods, there is 3D printing’s significant effect on prototyping.

3D printing technology (also known as additive manufacturing) was introduced in the 1980s, and until very recently, the technology has remained out of the hands of most individuals unless they had access to an industrial machine. That means, unless you were a lead engineer at a large manufacturer, you probably would never print a prototype of anything, let alone some idea or concept you were curious about. The availability of 3D print technology to consumers has changed that. Opportunities for invention, exploration and creativity that spring from 3D print technology are leading to out-of-the-box trials and prototypes that were previously cost-prohibitive. These same opportunities can, and in many cases are, being used in the classroom.

3D printing in education is vital for today’s students who will enter a job market that values different skills not fostered in previous generations. 3D Printing can be used to teach strategies that will develop future in-demand skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Not only will 3D printing help develop these skills, it also promotes creative (including artistic) and analytical thinking.

3D printing is unleashing conceptual designs from the minds of students, amatuers, professional 3D designers and engineers worldwide. And that is a good thing. It allows for trial and error and ultimately success. As was the case when Christoph first set out to 3D print a brushless motor. V0 failed, a failure that couldn’t be predicted from the CAD modeling alone. Printing and testing the model was something that couldn’t have been easily accomplished at home in years past. With the help of his 3D printer, Christoph was able to print, test and ultimately create a fully workable brushless motor, and has since gone on to create so many other amazing pieces.

For a great list of ways 3D printing is changing the world - 175 ways to be exact - visit and read their comprehensive article. Good read!

So, cheers to 3D printing and those adventurous enough to try their hand at it!

We are competing for the Capgemini Innovators Race 50 grant award to help fund our 3D printing initiative in education.

This funding will help pay for courseware, materials, and printers for students in public schools. We are currently doing a pilot project with 150 high school students split into 30 five-person teams, using makeSEA to collaborate on a build of the motor/generator and study of electricity over a 10 week period. We want to expand this program to many more students and classrooms, and this funding is key.

We need your help to win - all you have to do is click! Please take a moment to vote for us, here:

Click "Login to Vote" Then, be sure to actually click "VOTE"

Thanks to all of you for your support!

Burning up

Airflow gaps for 3D printed motor with ABS material

Heat is an important consideration when working with 3D printable ABS and PTEG materials. Even though both filaments have solid strength and a melting temperature of around 250˚, it's important to keep heat gain in mind, particularly when you are using it as an enclosure for the rotating stator of a brushless motor.

For makeSEA's 3D printed brushless motor, Christoph chose to allow ample space between the stator and rotor for sufficient cooling air flow. Fortunately the necessary space wasn't so big that it compromised the size/usability of the motor. What are the other options for dealing with heat gain in a project like this?

The devil is in the details

makeSEA 3D printed rotor with magnets

When Christoph designed, printed and load tested version 1 (the second version) of the makeSEA brushless motor, he had some concerns about how many RPMs the rotor could sustain without breaking apart. As you know, 3D printing is not an exact science, and even the smallest anomaly or detail can cause wobble that at the very least, negatively effects efficiency and at the worse, results in magnetic projectiles careening through your workspace.

This brings up another question; he mentioned that the strength limits of the PLA and PTEG he used to print the rotor are worth exploring, particularly in relation to the weight of the magnets and RPMs. I'm curious if any makeSEA members want to share their own findings. If so, please do so below. But remember what they say: It's all fun until someone loses an eye, so be careful out there. 

If you want to check out how efficient Christoph's 3D printed motor was in the end, check out his extensive entry on the makeSEA 3D printed brushless motor on the reference wiki.

A viable, efficient 3D printed motor? Yes we can.

makeSEA 3D printable burshless motor  makeSEA motor rotor  makeSEA motor torque test





This was actually a dream of ours: to design a 3D-printable motor that can be printed on most basic 3D printer models and is powerful and efficient enough for common applications.

The design came from the amazing technical and exploratory mind of our Senior Maker, Christoph Laimer. And it was tricky. You can read all about the foibles of version 0 soon; incredibly valuable trials that led to the successful creation of version 1.

The four elegant components are printed with PTEG, PLA and magnetic PLA, and are paired with a steel shaft, a couple screws and bearings, magnets, and finally copper wire. The result is a relatively small motor (52mm diameter and 54mm length) that boasts 60% efficiency and enough power to run a small- to mid-size RC vehicle.

The makeSEA reference wiki has all the details on Christoph’s 3D printable brushless motor design, including a link to download a makeSEA rights managed version of the STL file.

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