What Is PETG, And Why Is It So Commonly Used?
PETG, or polyethylene terephthalate glycol, is a thermoplastic much like many of the materials used in FDM 3D printers. Thermoplastics like PETG are used in 3D printers because they are incredibly versatile materials. When heated, they can be formed into any shape that the designer desires and as it cools it hardens and maintains the shape it was molded into. This process is also easily repeatable so recycled thermoplastics can be melted down and formed into something else without too much effort.
PETG itselfs has a myriad of properties that make it a favorable choice for all kinds of applications. PETG is rigid and strong, so it's resistant to impacts and high pressures. It's also resistant to harsh chemicals like acids and bases, not to mention that it is both heat and UV resistant as well as waterproof. Overall, PETG’s many resistances make it a great material for anything that is being made to be exposed to the elements for extended periods of time and won’t begin to break down even under the harshest of conditions.
PETG is also very affordable so it's no wonder that it’s being used in all sorts of applications across multiple industries. If you look around your house now, you are very likely to find something made of PETG laying around.
Another great benefit of PETG is that it is non toxic and food safe. This allows it to be used in countless products across the food and beverage industry. Water and soda bottles are made from it as well as the plastic take out containers you get from your favorite restaurant. The recyclability of this material makes it an even better choice for the packaging of any sort of consumable products.
PETG is also used in the medical field for things like medical device packaging and medical implants. Because the structure of PETG is so rigid, it can withstand all of the chemicals and processes used to sterilize medical instruments. This makes it a great choice for use in any kind of medical instrument and its strength and resistance to harsh environments allows it to maintain shape and remain strong long after it has been put inside of someone.
Does PETG Need An Enclosure When Being Printed?
PETG has become so popular because it’s easy to use, cheap to produce, and doesn’t require much work to maintain. However, PETG can be prone to warping caused by sudden changes in temperature. Because of this, though you might not need an enclosure to produce quality prints, you will undoubtedly notice the positive effects of using an enclosure when printing with PETG.
The main benefit of using an enclosure while printing is that the enclosure maintains a stable environment for your model to be printed in. Enclosures do a better job of maintaining a constant temperature both on the surface you are printing on and in the air around the rest of the print. This makes things like warping and shrinking a lot less likely to occur, and therefore the quality of your print will be much higher.
Enclosures also prevent dust and other small particles from entering the environment and causing problems with your print. Though I’m sure most people aren’t using their 3D printers in particularly dirty places, any small particles like dust or the water from a sneeze can make their way onto the object currently being printed. This can cause the layers of your print not to adhere to each other properly, meaning that your print won’t be nearly as strong as it should be.
Overall, an enclosure will easily and undoubtedly improve the quality and consistency of your prints. However, suppose you are against using an enclosure for any reason. In that case, it certainly is not a necessity, and there are many other ways to ensure that you produce quality prints without the use of an enclosure.
How Can I Ensure That I Produce High-Quality PETG Prints Without An Enclosure?
Even if you decide to go without an enclosure, despite the many benefits, there are certain things you can do to make sure that your PETG prints are of the highest quality possible.
Firstly, you’ll want to make sure that your temperature settings are set correctly. Temperature is incredibly important for the quality of your prints, so you might need to do a bit of experimentation.
PETG prints the best when the extruder temperature is set somewhere between 210 and 250 degrees Celsius, but there is room for error in this range. As a general rule, if the print comes out droopy and saggy, the temperature is set too hot, and if the layers of your print aren’t adhering properly, it's most likely too cold. Once you know if you’re too hot or too cold, try adjusting the setting by 5 degrees in the appropriate direction. Doing a few test prints and figuring the best temperature will ensure that any future prints you make will be of the best quality possible.
Temperature is also important when it comes to the building platform. Though you by no means need a heated building platform to make successful PETG prints, it can help improve the quality of the final product. Ideally, your building platform should be set to anywhere from 50 to 75 degrees Celsius.
Another way to ensure you produce quality PETG prints is by making sure that your PETG filament is dry. One of the few drawbacks to PETG is that it is hygroscopic. This simply means that it actively absorbs water from the air around it. Storing PETG in a particularly wet or humid environment can cause your PETG to get saturated with water. This will no doubt have a negative effect on the quality of your prints.
To address this, simply be more careful and proactive in the way you store your PETG. Keeping your PETG in an enclosed container will help prevent the absorption of water. You can even vacuum seal your PETG if you really want to be safe. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer or an appropriately sized container for the job, dehumidifiers and silica gel beads can help suck the moisture out of the air before your PETG has a chance to. If all else fails, a filament dryer can dry out your PETG as you’re using it, to ensure that no extra moisture is left inside upon use.