3D Printing Materials
There are many different materials involved in the 3D printing process and they are as wide and varied as the products that are made with the process itself. 3D printing has become very versatile and users are now able to select a printer, based on the characteristics of their product (design) and the 3D printing materials they want to use.
For a 3D print to become a reality, it requires planning and when the design is sent to the printer, the process of printing the product can begin. However, the industry is constantly evolving and that means that the list of 3D printing materials is growing each year. So what materials are available?
Currently, polymers (thermoplastics) are the most common print material used in 3D printing. It is also the most diverse material on the market and so, it is used to print a wide range of objects ranging from toys to car parts. Polymers are available in any color on spools that come with either a matte or shiny texture.
With a wide range of properties available, it is clear to see just why polymers are a popular material to print with. It has firmness and flexibility, providing an affordable option to manufacturers.Thermoplastic filaments are used by 3D printers with the FDM technology, which means the plastic is melted and then, layer by layer, a design becomes reality. The following plastics are used:
Polyastic Acid is an eco-friendly printing option and it contains natural products such as corn starch or sugar cane, making it biodegradable. It comes in both hard and soft form and it is believed that this plastic really will change the way in which the industry moves forward.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is known to have an incredible level of strength and it offers a high level of firmness and flexibility. It comes in a wide range of colours that makes it suitable for a wide range of applications.
Nylon (Polyamide) offers a high level of strength and flexibility, allowing the creation of intricate levels of detail on a finished product, This is ideal for pieces that have to be joined, such as interlocking parts. It is therefore used to print fasteners and handles for toy cars.
Polycarbonate is not as common as the other plastics that have been mentioned but it is only suitable for those printers that have a printhead and build plate which operate at high temperatures. It is commonly used to make low-cost fasteners and molding trays.
Metal 3D Printing Materials
Metal is an increasingly popular 3D printing material and is often used by aerospace and automotive manufacturers. Metal, when used in the 3D printing, process can create strong products efficiently for a wide range of uses. The technology is moving to the point where it is now possible to print with metal in higher volumes.
This is used in the printing of utensils and cooking items as well as all other products that are susceptible to water exposure.
This is used to create vases (decoration), machine parts and many other fixtures
It is now possible to print rings, bracelets and necklaces using gold in 3D printing.
This is ideal for those products that require a high level of strength.
This is ideal for those products that require some element of strength but needs to be thin.
If you are looking into 3D printing metal or other strong parts, it is wisely to also consider high performance thermoplastics. 3D printing PEEK is for example a popular alternative for metal, mainly because it is more attractive in terms of pricing and affordability.
Powder 3D Printing Materials
As 3D printers are becoming more and more advanced, there are also more printing technologies handling different kind of material forms. Powdered materials are used to construct products, where it is melted and then distributed in layers until the required thickness is achieved along with the texture and the patterns. Materials such as steel and copper are easier to transport in powder form and they are easier to shape. In the same way as plastic, powder has to be heated to the point where it can be evenly distributed layer by layer.
This is a mixture of polyamide and gray aluminum and it is used to make exceptionally strong 3D printed models. It has a sandy appearance, the powder is used for industrial models.
PEEK 3D printing materials
More and more companies are using PEEK 3D printing materials. Within the 3D industry, PEEK is one of the top notch 3D printing filaments, otherwise known is polyether ether ketone. It is a colorless, organic thermoplastic polymer that achieves some of the best results out of all thermoplastics worldwide. It is part of the polyaryletherketone (PAEK) family.
PEEK 3D printing materials have a wide range of unique qualities. All of these make PEEK a very interesting filament choice for a number of different industries around the world such as Medical, Aerospace, Oil and Gas Industry and Automotive. It is the ideal choice for low-volume production and specialist designs where it is difficult to create prototypes using metal and traditional techniques.