NinjaTek has long been synonymous with 3D printing due to the widespread use of NinjaFlex flexible 3D printing filaments. Around 2015 the company developed two new filaments, Cheetah and Armadillo, followed by the electrically conductive, flexible material Eel. Now NinjaTek has released a new filament called Chinchilla, a 75-A durometer series of thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs). 3DPrint.com was able to pick up the new material and test it.
While Cheetah was meant for quick printing and Armadillo was as tough and stiff as its namesake, chinchilla has the honor of being extremely soft like a chinchilla. Chinchilla feels soft, but has the added benefit of being easy to print. Almost all flexible filaments can be difficult and usually require a direct drive extruder and relatively slow print speeds. However, chinchilla can print with direct drive and bowden extruders. It is also said to offer “rebound, impact resistance, and durability and a matte finish that results in smoother, longer-lasting printed parts”.
When it was loaded into an Ultimaker 2+, it came out immediately. There were no problems pulling the filament up into the feed tube which I had seen in the past with a standard flexible material. It then extruded smoothly out of the head without clogging. The real test, however, would be to actually print something.
The machine I was using happened to have a broken Z switch that I didn’t learn until after I had already loaded the footage. I was immediately concerned that the chinchilla would dry out as I was waiting for a replacement Z-axis sensor as I didn’t have a suitable storage solution. Fortunately, I was told by the NinjaTek people that this material doesn’t require silica packs or dehumidification.
After putting the machine into operation, I was curious to see whether the material had withstood the same environmental conditions as a PLA coil. I straightened the bed hoping it was close enough for proper adhesion, knowing that flexible filaments sometimes have trouble getting the first layer to stick.
When I started printing a model of bracelet supplied by NinjaTek, I was amazed that the first print went smoothly. There was no problem with bed adhesion. The filament didn’t get tangled on the spool, which can happen with just about any material in a tight, sloppy build like mine, but is more common with loose, spaghetti-like elastomeric filaments. I easily took the tape off the bed and examined it. The fill didn’t seem complete on the top layers, but that was probably due to the print settings.
To further test the machine, I printed a bike handle that was also provided to me by NinjaTek. Here, too, the object adhered perfectly to the bed. There was a bit of a rough surface texture on parts of the handle that might have something to do with the pressure settings. Even so, it was soft and squishy, and conjured up the possibilities for ergonomic designs for bike grips, helmet pads, and more.
The reason for the armband and bike handle files was because the company believes the soft, rubbery material will prove successful in wearables, sports, medical devices, and prostheses. In particular, the team believes that a simple but very useful application can be in patient-specific sheaths for prosthetics, an area that has so far been little explored. Chinchilla has been validated against the EpiDerm skin model using independent third-party testing, which means it is safe for skin contact.
“The 3D printing market was valued at $ 13.7 billion last year and is projected to grow to $ 63.46 billion by 2026, showing strong interest and consumer demand,” said Sean Gablehouse , Business Manager at NinjaTek. “Chinchilla is specifically designed to meet this demand and the quality and usability concerns of 3D printing enthusiasts.”
Next, I tested the material on some models I had chosen myself, including a sandal to demonstrate the wearable options and some toys to demonstrate the possibilities for my son. This time around, however, I ran into issues with the filament that seemed to have something to do with the adhesion of the first layer.
Since the material profile was not yet available on the Cura marketplace, I had to nail down the settings. There have been some issues that I am sure other users would not experience when a material profile is made available for Cura or any other slicer software. The most obvious thing was that I was using retraction settings that were double what they should have been. I had drawn these figures from NinjaTek Armadillo, a rigid 75D filament that has exactly the opposite physical properties as the 75A chinchilla.
Decreasing the retraction distance from 6.5mm to 0mm and the retraction speed from 35mm / s to 15mm / s was the first step in addressing my problems. Next, I increased the printing temperature from 225 ° C to 240 ° C and decreased the printing speed from 25mm / s to 18mm / s.This resulted in the same near-perfect prints that I had previously made. In the end, I was able to get things right, which I can’t say for every filament I’ve tested.
In addition to the new material, NinjaTek has launched a new website that includes all of the NinjaTek products, as well as training resources and case studies. In a community area, users of these products can also make connections, share tips and projects.
In addition, the company is launching a chinchilla 3D printing competition that will begin May 1, 2021 and will last through July 31, 2021. Participants will submit a picture and / or video of new items made with the material. First through fourth prize winners will be announced on August 16, 2021 and will take home a variety of NinjaTek gear. The main prize receives four coils of chinchilla as well as individual coils of NinjaFlex, Cheetah and Armadillo as well as a NinjaTek t-shirt. Register for the competition here.
It’s worth noting that Fenner Precision Polymers was acquired by the French Michelin group in 2018, which means that the French tire maker has expanded its reach in both polymer and metal 3D printing. While Fenner can bring his know-how in the manufacture of precision belts for industrial processes to his filament line, Michelin is one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world. In the end, this certainly lends itself to a better product.
From this author’s experience, the expertise in the latest material from NinjaTek is evident. Not only does Chinchilla provide an extremely simple user experience, it also results in velvety-soft, durable prints that are certainly much better suited for wearables and other skin products that previous filaments simply weren’t suitable for.