3D Printing Technology: What Materials Can We 3D Print So Far!
The printable materials available for additive manufacturing are as diverse as the possible 3D printer projects. That said, you can imagine the plethora of choices you have with materials when creating parts using 3D printers.
Whether you are printing a flexible part, or the one requiring smooth textures or strong ones, 3D printing allows you to achieve varying results. Thanks to the different kinds of materials available currently. And, this number is only surging with time.
So, let’s take a look at the materials that we can 3D print with right now!
Anyone with 3D printing experience knows that plastics are the most common material in additive manufacturing. Used widely to bring to life a number of cool things to 3d print that have various applications, including 3D printed toys, jewelry, household fixtures, etc, plastics are highly diverse.
Plus, the material comes in different forms and colors. From being firm to flexible to colorful to smooth, plastic provides unlimited possibilities with printing.
Also, this is the most affordable option, especially for home users and enthusiasts. Some of the popular plastics used with FDM machines are Polylactic acid (PLA), Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic (PVA), and Polycarbonate (PC).
While PLA is the most eco-friendly choice for users and is easy to print, ABS is stronger and more resistant to heat and temperature. On the other hand, PVA is best for making supports as it melts away in the water. PCs requiring high temperatures for printing have limited use for beginners. It is mostly popular for making plastic fasteners, molding trays etc.
Another popular 3D printer materials are 3D resins. These are liquid photopolymers which can exhibit superior resolution and similar mechanical properties to best conventional plastics. These liquid polymers are sensitive to light. Hence, when exposed to the UV rays, the liquid resins harden, forming 3D printed objects.
Typically, these are available in three different types. The one is the high-detail resins which are great for printing small models requiring intricate detail.
Then there is the paintable resin for making objects needing smoother surfaces. The last one is the transparent resin which is stronger than the other counterparts and is the most popular material for SLA printers.
If Resins are the material for you, then we highly recommend this Engineering 3Dresyns with similar and even better properties than the best engineering plastics in the market right now, it has the most incredible mechanical properties and a folding endurance even at <1 mm thickness.
3D printers also work with powdered materials. Using the additive manufacturing processes, the powder particles are melted and sintered in layers over layers to create the final part. These powder materials come from a variety of sources.
And, the two most common of these are Nylon offering strength, flexibility and high resistance to heat, and Alumide that comprises polyamide and grey aluminium.
Using the alumide powder, users can create stronger 3D-printed models. Hence, it is popular within industries and businesses creating end parts and prototypes for specific applications.
Apart from alumide, there are other metals available in powdered form too. Such as steel, copper etc.
As you may expect, metals are the second most popular material after plastic. However, one cannot create metal parts from just any 3D printer. There are certain metal 3D printing processes specially designed to create metal parts.
And, one such 3D printing process is the direct metal laser sintering, aka DMLS. Embarrassed by manufacturers across different niches, these materials are best for printing air-travel equipment, automobile parts, medical tools and more.
Some of the examples of metals popular with 3D printing are Stainless-steel, aluminium, nickel, bronze, gold and titanium.
Composites such as carbon fiber are becoming very popular with plastic 3D printing. Working as a top coat over plastics, these composites provide more durability and a smoother finish to the printed parts.
In short, these composites are a little stronger than the usual plastics. These composites offer a cheaper, convenient and faster alternative to metal.
This material is known for its high strength and great conductivity. Hence, if you wish to print parts that are flexible, this is the way to go. This material comes into play when building solar panels too.
In short, graphite is the most flexible 3D printable material out there.
Apart from the listed materials, there are many other choices too. Such as Nitinol, a very common material for printing medical implants and is super elastic. The other popular material is graphene for 3D printing.
This pure carbon-based material was first discovered not so long ago in 2004. And, it is a electrically conductive choice as a material used commonly for laboratory tests. This material is lighter in weight and still very strong.
We all know that the whole 3D printing process can be very confusing: going from 3D modeling to choosing the right material to 3D printing, there is no one size fits all approach.
We all use different Free 3D Modeling software to create our models, use completely different materials that will suit the models best, as well as use different 3D printers and different 3D printing technologies. So it’s perfectly normal to feel lost and it can sometimes seem difficult to create a perfect print.
Thanks to the advancement in technology, 3D printing is becoming an integral part of many industrial applications, which has helped create a variety of differen functional materials. And, the number will only grow in the future.