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3D printing Materials
Material science is as important as the 3D printer
technology to the success of the 3D printing world. It’s been
a long time since 3D printing has graduated from its focal
point of plastics only and are expanding to other materials
like ceramic, titanium, and even chocolate. In some areas
3D printing has made tremendous leaps to create
new materials that are created exclusively for 3D printing.
In my never ending passion to learn more about the 3D
Printing Materials world, I’ve put together a list of materials.
Plastic is the most common material used in 3D printing
because of its low cost and it’s easy to use, it’s also the
easiest to melt and can solidify at low temperatures. Two
common 3D printable plastics are ABS and PLA.
ABS is rigid plastic produced from petroleum.
ABS plastic is less crumbly comparing it to other
plastics like PLA. It requires higher extruder
temperature. A heated printing surface is
recommended to prevent warping of the 3D
printed material. While printing ABS, there is
usually a smell of hot plastic. It’s better to store
ABS spool in an airtight container because ABS
moisture magnet that could lead to breakage in
the build. ABS is the cheapest material.
However, it is not recyclable and is known not to
be environmentally friendly. ABS plastic is
available in many colors.
PLA Polylactic acid or polylactide
PLA is biodegradable plastic material. It’s made from
renewable resources such as cornstarch, sugar cane,
tapioca roots, or potato starch, which makes it the most
environmentally friendly 3D printing material. Just like
ABS, It’s commonly used desktop 3D printing material.
PLA doesn’t need a heated bed, unlike ABS. It’s odorless
and has less warping issues. It’s offered in many colors.It
can also be recycled.
(check out: Speed modeling of Kylo Ren)
Flexible Plastic (TPE)
Polyethylene terephthalate material has the same
printability of ABS and PLA but with more flexibility. The
filament is transparent, lightweight, stiff and impact
resistant. The material is commonly used in the
production of automotive parts, household appliances,
medical supplies and smart phone covers.
Polyamide is biocompatible plastic material. It’s
made from renewable resources such as
cornstarch. It’s very strong, durable and flexible.
Nylon is less crumbly and stronger than ABS and
PLA. It can be used to make models that will be
in contact with food. It has a slight smell but not
as strong as the smell of ABS. The nylon material
must be dried before printing and to prevent
warping, printing on cardboard is necessary.
Glow in the dark plastic is available as PLA
and ABS filaments. The filament is made with
phosphorus dye, the same material that’s
used to make sticky star and glowsticks. 3D
printing with glow filament is the same as
printing standard PLA or ABS.
Glow in the Dark Plastic
Wood filament is similar to PLA and can be
printed between 175 ºC and 250 ºC. The final
object will look and smell like wood. Just like
wood, the final object can be cut and painted.
Copper filament is printed with a
desktop 3D printer. It’s similar to
printing with actual copper but
much easier. The weight of the
material is three times heavier
than regular PLA filament.
Copper filament will print on
both heated and non-heated
build platforms. The material
has no warping issues.
Using powder to 3D print is popular but usually used in a larger
company space because of the size of the machines and it requires
special handling techniques.
One of the few materials that offer full-color capabilities. It works by laying down
thin layers of powder and selectively binding this powder together to produce
solid parts. The final product is a hard, brittle material that is great for figurines,
visual models, and life-like models. the material doesn’t work well for any model
that has a hanging structure since it’s likely to break easily. Also, not best suited
for models that will be used for daily handling nor to functional parts. Models
made with full-color sandstone are not recyclable, not food safe and will fade if
it’s exposed to water. The material is heatproof to 60 ºC/140 ºF degrees.
Flexible and Strong Plastic
Strong and flexible plastic is printed with nylon powder. It is
very flexible, it can be used to make iphone cases and jewelry.
It’s is not recyclable and it’s not food-safe. The material is
heatproof to 80 ºC/176 ºF degrees.
Porcelain is a unique material. Porcelain is printed with
ceramic powder using the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
technique. Firing and glazing technique are used to produce
the final products. Porcelain is food, dishwasher, and oven safe.
The material is recyclable and very heat resistant.
Metallic Plastic (Alumide)
Alumide is printed using selective laser sintering (SLS). Products printed in
alumide are a mix of polyamide powder and fine aluminum particles. The
material is strong but crumbly and usually used to make jewelry. Metallic
plastic is heatproof to 78 C/172 degrees
Resin is a liquid material, Stereolithography (SLA) and Digital Light Processing
(DLP) processes uses resin. It is used to create complex and solid forms that
are incredibly detailed with a smooth surface in white, black or transparent
colors. The items are printed upside-down as it rises out of the liquid.
Brass, Bronze, Platinum, Silver and Gold
Brass, bronze, silver and gold are printed the same way. The model is
printed in wax then to solidify into a mold, a liquid plaster is poured
and then the metal object is cast and polished. This material is suitable
for sculptures, jewelry, and functional mechanical parts.
Steel is printed by depositing a liquid binder onto steel powder
then infused with bronze. The material is very strong. The material
is suitable for very large objects, jewelry, spare parts, full
functional parts. It’s not food-safe and not recyclable. The material
is heatproof to 831 ºC/1528 ºF.
Products are printed with aluminum powder using the selective laser
process. The material is very strong and it’s used to make tools, gadgets and