What Materials Can Be Used in a 3D Printer?

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What Materials Can Be Used in a 3D Printer?

The 3D printing industry has been growing at a fast rate with the unveiling of new advancements as each year passes. Likewise, this has seen the development of new 3D printing machines that are used in printing different types of materials, including composites, metals, plastics, among many others.

Therefore, you nowadays have a broad range of materials to choose from in the 3D printing industry. Each of these different materials incorporates their unique set of features, weaknesses as well as strengths.

Additionally, there are also other factors you need to consider, such as texture, material type, and cost to avoid mistakes when using a 3D printer.

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Here is a detailed review of some of the materials you can use with your 3D printer:

Ceramics

It is among the newest materials used in 3D printers. Unlike plastic and metal, ceramics are more durable because they can resist extreme pressure and heat without warping or breaking. Furthermore, it is not susceptible to corrosion, similar to what is usually experienced with plastics and some metals. The use of ceramics is widespread in Digital Light Processing (DLP), Stereolithography (SLA), and Binder Jetting technology.

The typical traits of this material include a broad range of color resistance to lye, acid, and heat, as well as high-precision components with a glossy and smooth surface. However, it does have some drawbacks, and these include it is ideal for kilning and glazing processes, not suitable for the assembly process, and to melt it, you need extremely high temperatures.

Polyamide or nylon

This synthetic thermoplastic linear polyamide is the most popular plastic material. It is durable, flexible, resistant to corrosion, and produces low friction; hence, why it is a common choice for 3D printing filament. Additionally, it also is a common material used in the manufacture of accessories and clothes.

Nylon is an excellent choice when you are looking to create fragile and complex geometries. Its primary use is as a filament in Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) or Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printers. Despite being cheap, nylon is acknowledged as among the most robust plastic materials.

Its distinctive traits include very little warpage, a remarkable strength to flexibility ratio, very durable plus it can be colored or dyed with ease. Nevertheless, its downsides are its suitability to 3D printers varies, has a 12-months shelf life, its hydroscopic thus needs to be kept dry, and it can shrink during cooling hence making it less precise.

PETG/PET

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is one of the commonly used plastics similar to nylon. It is usually used is in the thermoforming processes and can be blended with other materials such as glass fiber to produce engineering resins.

On the other hand, you can also use PETG, a reformed type of PET in a 3D printer, with the G meaning “glycol-modified.” This modification subsequently makes the filament easier to use, clearer, and less brittle in comparison to PET. Additionally, this filament is also suitable for FFF or FDM technologies.

The distinct attributes of this material are it is durable, it can be sterilized, plus it is recyclable and impact-resistant. Likewise, it has an excellent layer adhesion and incorporates a combined functionality of PLA that is easy to use as well as ABS, which is sturdier and temperature resistant. Nonetheless, its main weaknesses are it is susceptible to scratching, needs to undergo more testing with 3D printing parameters, and UV light tends to weaken it.

Polylactic Acid (PLA)

Polylactic Acid, also known as green plastic, is made from renewable materials, including cornstarch and sugarcane. Its use is widespread among secondary and primary schools, as printing with it is easy plus is safe to use. Furthermore, you can also use this material in FDM desktop printing.

The unique features integrated into this material are it is available in different colors, you can print it on a cold surface, and it is easy to print thanks to its low warping. Moreover, it allows you to print with sharper corners and features in comparison to ABS material. However, it has one main drawback, and that is, it is not very robust hence can easily deform when subjected to high temperatures.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

It is a thermoplastic often used as a filament in a 3D printer. Additionally, this material is frequently used in household or personal 3D printing; hence, why it usually is the most preferred option for many 3D printers.

Some of its distinct traits include being mechanically robust, longer lifespan in comparison to nylon and are available in a broad range of colors. Moreover, it is inexpensive and very accessible compared to other 3D printing materials. Nonetheless, its drawbacks include it tends to warp if cooled during printing, it needs to have a heated bed during printing and produces harmful fumes with terrible smell at extremely high temperatures.

Metals

3D printers use various metals, including stainless steel, nickel steel, gold, titanium, aluminum, and bronze. The printing entails directly binding the metal dust and then firing it to form a hard part. This process can eventually replace post-processing as well as casting by instantly turning materials into a metal part that is functional and can either be machined or electropolished to apply the finishing. An excellent illustration of this application includes prototyping as well as the use in making jewelry, medical gadgets, and other custom objects.

Nitinol

It is a titanium and nickel alloy, which is often used in most medical implants thanks to the remarkable attributes of these two metals, that is, its ability to change shapes and superelasticity. For example, nitinol is used in making tents and catheter wires as it bends more than any other material.

Because nitinol is quite tricky to create as well as complicated to machine, 3D printers allow you to experiment with medial products like never before. Additionally, thanks to its malleable nature, you can fold it up, and it will still be able to return to its original shape.

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Conclusion

With the proper knowledge of the materials used in 3D printers, you now are better placed to choose a suitable material to ensure the 3D printing process runs smoothly. Moreover, with the continued growth of this industry, many more materials will start becoming compatible with numerous 3D printers and used for making prototypes. Therefore, you should expect much more from 3D printing technology.

About the Author Dan

Just a random guy who likes to build things. Providing tool knowledge, appliance/device testing tips, and DIY project info in an easy-to read & non-intimidating style.