Does 3D Filament Expire? [Storage Solutions]

by Mike Brooks | Last Updated: September 29, 2021

Does 3D filament expire? Yes! 3D printer filaments do expire.

Does 3D Filament Expire

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If you print 3D files for a long time and realize that print quality is low or experience a total print failure, consider inspecting your filament material for filament degradation.

Additionally, nozzle blockages and sputtering are manifestations of filament decay.

3D printer filaments expire if not taken care of properly. Most filaments have no specific expiry date.

You need to store filament spools appropriately in silica packets (view on Amazon) or in an airtight container to prevent them from absorbing environmental moisture.

Keeping moisture away from 3D printer filaments is a sure way to avoid expired filaments in your store.

Water and humidity remain the biggest enemies of filament spools in the 3D printing industry.

Does 3D Filament Expire?

Let’s see what are the main causes 3D filaments expire.

1. Shelf Life

Most manufacturers don’t fix a formal 3D printer filament expiry date. Therefore, filament shelf life depends on environmental factors such as high temperatures and the filament’s moisture-absorbent capabilities.

2. Reasons for 3D Filaments Deterioration

You may damage different 3D printer filament materials for different reasons. Thus, 3D printer filaments may decay due to one of the following reasons or a combination of these factors:

3. How to Store Different Types of 3D Filaments

PLA is the common name for Polylactic Acid. It is a biodegradable plastic that can absorb moisture if exposed to the environment.

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If it absorbs water, the filament outside the surface becomes the first to brittle up, causing swelling of the 3D printed object.

PLA filament is not water-soluble but has a higher moisture absorbent rate. So, the secret to keeping long-lasting filaments is to practice safe and proper PLA filament storage.

The absorbed water causes the filament diameter to increase, causing the 3D print to have extended dimensions. The old filament becomes brittle and may break when subjected to little force.

PLA deteriorates when exposed to UV light.

Thus, extreme exposure to outdoor conditions like UV light causes the 3D print to shed its color. This color fading makes the object lose its original appearance and other physical properties.

PLA has a low glass transition temperature of between 60-65 degrees centigrade. So, if you expose the PLA 3D printer filament to a higher printing temperature, the object will warp, resulting in failed prints.

That’s why PLA filament needs a cool basement for printing while other 3D printers mostly used heated beds.

ABS filament is one of the most popular 3D printer filaments in the market. It remains a thermoplastic that is easily molded by heating, and the plastic hardens evenly as it cools.

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Additionally, ABS has higher temperature resistance qualities. Also, ABS has a high filament’s glass transition heat temperature compared to PLA filament.

Its glass transition temperature stands between230-250 degrees centigrade. This is a high-temperature range by any standard, making the ABS filament require a heated 3D printer filament bed.

When ABS filament color turns dull, faded, and yellowish, it means the filament is deteriorating.

If you expose ABS filaments to decay agents like UV light and high humidity levels, it starts to degrade. Thus, absorbed moisture causes damage to the ABS filament.

Faded ABS filament signifies that the ABS plastic is damaged and is no longer ideal for use. When you print ABS old filament, hairline gaps develop between 3D printed object layers. These layers are bad because molds and bacteria tend to invade and thrive inside them.

Eventually, molds and bacteria multiply in the hairline gaps making printed layers separate over time, causing visible object damage.

PETG is made to be less sensitive and last longer compared to other filament types. You can’t tell that PETG filament has expired by merely looking at it.

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Also, PETG filament remains an advancement of the earlier filaments like PLA and ABS, allowing it to enjoy unique qualities that make it very strong and can’t be easily damaged.

PETG can be exposed to a humid outdoor environment for an extended period but still be effectively used for up to a year

What Happens When a 3D Filament Expires?

When moisture gets trapped inside a filament, it affects the filament qualities such as durability, color, and object finish.

Color will appear with spots and smears, and the object will lose its durability. Additionally, the brittle filament is caused by bubbles or gaps that appear when the filament is heated.

The object’s finish looks dull compared to the colorful and robust looks it had before the decay. Notably, moisture remains the leading filament damage as it provides the right environment for bacteria activity to increase.

Therefore, different filament types expire for different reasons and at different rates, but moisture provides the most formidable challenge across the board.

How to Correct Damaged Filaments That Absorb Moisture

You may use an oven to get the moisture out of 3D printer filaments.

You will need to adjust your 3D printer temperature below the glass transition temperature of the plastic that has absorbed too much moisture.

Secondly, bake the plastic for about 4-6 hours, and the oven will dry up the filament’s moisture. Thirdly, you need to consider safe storage for the filament once you have removed the moisture.

Can You Prevent 3D Filaments From Expiring?

Yes! You can prevent your 3D printer filaments from expiring. Here are some things you can do to keep your printer filament in top shape:

If you want to save your filament from damage so that it can last longer, then keep the filament away from moisture. Also, you will save your money if you avoid filament damage.

You may spend this money well on something else that may lengthen your filament expiry date, such as buying a storage vacuum-sealed bag.

Additionally, Good storage of filaments helps to extend their shelf life. You can store filaments in an airtight container to prevent them from absorbing moisture from the air.

Also, you can use a desiccant that absorbs moisture that enters the container.

Another method of ensuring you keep your printer filament from expiry is buying the right quantities from manufacturers. Avoid keeping extra printer filament that you don’t plan to use soon.

It would help if you started buying printer filaments that you intend to use for a particular project. This ensures you don’t run the risk of the extra printer filaments getting damaged, and in the process, you reduce storage costs.

Can You Print With Old 3D Filaments?

Yes! You can comfortably print using an old 3D printer filament. However, you will be required to take special precautions before you 3D print using old filaments.

First, you need to ensure that the printer filament is adequately dried up using a filament dryer to eliminate any moisture it has absorbed. Secondly, you need to observe the filament glass transition heat.

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The correct glass transition temperature is a requirement that prevents the printer filament from melting and warping during the drying process.

How Fast Does Moisture Breakdown 3D Filaments?

The time it takes filament materials to break down varies between filaments.

PLA is manufactured using cornstarch and sugarcane, making it a popular plant-based plastic material. As a plant-based plastic filament, PLA remains biodegradable.

If PLA is exposed to water, it can decompose.

By contrast, ABS is a petroleum-based filament and is not readily affected by humid conditions in the environment. Thus, ABS can retain its structure and form under humid conditions as it doesn’t absorb water quickly.

It is important to note that as much as PLA filaments break down faster compared to ABS filament when exposed to water, it is not a weak filament as this may sound.

PLA withstands moisture to a certain level before it gets damaged.

How Long Does a 3D Printed Object Last?

How Long Do 3D Printer Filaments Last?

3D printer filaments can last longer, but this will depend on your usage and the filament type. Additionally, several other factors come into play to determine the filament life span.

If you leave your filaments to degrade due to poor storage, then your filaments will not last long. Another factor that determines how long a filament may stay is your filament usage.

For example, if you print large and thicker 3D objects, you tend to use more filament than someone who prints smaller objects.

Also, the design of the 3D print determines the quantity of printer filament. It impacts directly on the percentage of your plastic infill.

3D Printed Objects Shelf Life

Some types of 3D prints have a longer life than others. Here is how 3D objects made from different types of filament fare when it comes to how long they can last:

a) PLA Filament Shelf Life

PLA is a plant-based biodegradable filament, and this means it will decay after years of use. However, the deteriorating process may take such a long time to a point where it won’t affect the way it functions.

PLA 3D-printed objects get damaged when exposed to extreme heat, UV-light, and humidity. However, in standard settings, PLA-printed objects can take up to 15 years to get damaged.

After years of room pressure, high temperatures, and other factors, PLA prints become brittle, weak, and easy to break down.

b) ABS Filament Shelf Life

ABS filament is a more durable plastic than the PLA filament. Therefore, you need to expect more robust 3D printed objects to be manufactured from ABS Filaments compared to PLA filaments.

Additionally, ABS has a print temperature resistance and more shatter resistance compared to the PLA filament. However, ABS is a rigid filament to print, making it less popular compared to the PLA.

With these qualities, ABS prints are comparatively long-lasting to PLA 3D prints.

What Is the Right Way to Store 3D Filaments?

3D printing experts agree that moisture poses the biggest threat to the life span of all types of 3D printer filaments.

Additionally, the printer decay process accelerates if moisture combines with other factors such as high temperature, UV light, and biological activity.

Also, experts advise 3D users to use suitable storage methods to prevent the deterioration of filaments.

1. Vacuum Bags

High-quality vacuum bags provide an air-free environment for all your filament types.

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Vacuums bags are helpful if they are correctly used as a method of filament storage.

Moreover, these bags have a valve that helps them suck out the air out.

Also, the vacuum bags have a double-zipper mechanism that locks out air completely.

2. Dry Box

A dry box is used to create a completely moisture-free environment for storing plastic filaments.

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It also consists of cabinets with a dehumidifier mechanism for providing the low humidity needed for perfect filament storage.

3. Storage Boxes

These are transparent storage boxes with closed leads that provide an effective way to store filaments.

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Thus, the idea of the storage boxes to have sealed lids is to prevent new moisture from reaching filaments from outside.

Conclusion

3D filaments expire and how long it takes them to do so depends on many factors. Some of the factors include moisture, high temperatures, and exposure to UV rays.

Keep in mind that proper filament storage keeps it away from these factors and helps to prolong the filament shelf life.

Michael Brooks is the founder of M3DZone.com. He sees a very bright future for 3D printing that's why his mission is to try and make this easy for everyone. Discover your hidden talent and creativity. You can follow here: Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.