Making things from wood has been something people have done for thousands of years. Decorative effects have been carved into wood and used in churches, and to make intricate shapes for models and toys. However, you can now print your own with a 3d printer.
How to 3d print wood
If you look at a block of wood, you can carve that into a shape, but you can’t use a block of wood and 3d print using it.
Wood filament is made from 30% wood fibre and 70% PLA (Poly Lactic Acid – a plastic derived from vegetable starch.) Early filament used sawdust to print, but that gave the texture of cardboard.
Modern filament uses wood fibre, which gives 3d printed objects the look, feel and even the smell of carved wood.
Wood colours and textures
Depending on the brand: bamboo, birch, cedar, cork, ebony, olive, pine, and even coconut are available to 3d print. Make sure you are buying wood filament and not wood coloured filament, as you don’t want something plastic that looks like wood.
Since the filament is PLA, make sure the temperature of the head is set for PLA, between 170-220C and use a nozzle larger than 0.4mm and a fast feed speed because wood is flammable.
Experiment with the temperature, because the wood fibre can be darkened with a higher temperature, but you may also burn the wood.
The nozzle needs to be kept clean when printing wood filament so the filament can flow properly.
Preheat the plate you are printing to 50-70C and you will need to apply some surface adhesion or the printed model will slide around.
Working with filament
A lot of 3d printing is trial and error. Wood filament is particularly prone to oozing and stringing. If you are using Cura, you can turn on combing, which recalculates the printing so that the filament stays within the design but slows down printing time. If you are using Simplify3d then use both coasting and avoid crossing outline for travel movements to improve the quality of the print.
3d printed wood filament can be sanded and stained just like normal wood as it holds on to the properties of normal wood. You can incorporate different woods into the same print to create a hybrid of colours easily (remember to clean the nozzle every time) and you can use woodworking tools to change the design to fit your purpose as it behaves like wood without the grain.