3D printing emerged onto the market several years ago. While it is still a relatively novel technology, it is incredibly useful in several industries. From arts and crafts to medical advancements, 3D printing has quickly become one of the optimal resources around the world.
If you are investing in a 3D printer or if you want to start using your existing unit, it’s essential to know which materials are best suited for specific projects.
The Best Materials You Can 3D Print With
As with any project, choosing the correct 3D printing materials will depend on the final product’s purpose. For example, you wouldn’t want to use the same material for a food-based item as you would for a visual arts project, right?
As such, having an assortment of materials, depending on your needs, can be the best option when it comes time to start 3D printing. When selecting materials, you need to make sure the materials are environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, it seems like conscious consumerism is a foreign concept to Americans. Take a look at this article for more information on the importance of promoting environmental sustainability.
If you were to look at the composition of most items in your household, you’d find that they are primarily made from thermoplastics, which makes plastic one of the most popular materials for 3D printing. You’ll also find that plastics are one of the least expensive materials for both personal and professional projects, which makes it ideal for household tasks, as well.
Instead of investing thousands of dollars into prototypes made from metal, for example, professionals will use plastics to create functional items to showcase the properties of a project’s final version.
Another advantage of using plastic for 3D printing is that it works exceptionally close to the manufacturing processes used to create a final product. Most items are made using a process called injection molding, and plastic is one of the top 3D printing materials that operate similarly.
As one of the best types of plastic for an assortment of projects, ABS is highly durable and reliable. In turn, this makes it ideal for a variety of prototypes and finished products. You can also easily find ABS filament in an assortment of colors, which makes it even simpler to produce highly creative products.
With that said, know that if ABS is overheated, it tends to produce toxic fumes, so the plastic should only be heated up to 250 degrees Celsius.
Another essential thing to make a note of with ABS plastic is that it is highly likely to warp while cooling. Therefore, you will want to make sure it is kept in a controlled environment for the highest quality finished product.
Overall, it is durable, lightweight, flexible, and allows you to print at a relatively high resolution for most architectural and DIY projects.
PLA is by far the most popular material used to 3D print food-safe products. It is made from a derivative of cornstarch, tapioca, or sugar cane. When it is heated, unlike ABS, PLA has a sweet and safe smell, which makes it convenient for beginners to put to good use, especially if you don’t want to be exposed to toxic fumes.
You’ll also find that it’s one of the most comfortable materials to use while 3D printing. However, it is substantially less durable than ABS and is very likely to be affected by heat.
Fortunately, you can find PLA materials in an assortment of colors, similar to ABS. However, there are also different composites to consider, as well. Often, you can find PLA filament that emulates the appearance of metal or wood.
Also referred to as nylon, polyamide is another popular 3D printing material that is frequently used in the medical field. It is also ideal for engineering and artistic projects.
When you 3D print an item with nylon, it starts with a rough surface, but you have the ability to smooth it down to create a more seamless appeal. It’s one of the better options for projects that require a lot of mechanical strength.
Still, it’s important to note that this material will degrade if exposed to high humidity, similar to other thermoplastics. Polyamide is relatively flexible and is also chemically resistant, which makes it great for tooling, visual arts, and medical applications alike.
When you start shopping for 3D printing materials, you’ll find that PEEK is one of the most expensive, especially as it is typically reserved for aerospace, medical, and automotive applications, according to makerindustry.com.
Its highly resistant nature and incredible durability make it the most reliable 3D printing material you can get your hands on, especially as it is also bio-compatible. You’ll find that PEEK is resistant to temperature, chemicals, repeated stress, gamma radiation, and X-rays, making it exceptionally easy to manufacture.
Designers will also be able to heat this material to 400 degrees Celsius, compared to others that aren’t recommended to be heated past half that amount. With that said, due to the high heat needed to create items with this material, it is best used by professionals and should not be used for DIY or personal projects.
When you start to look for materials for your 3D printer, you’ll be glad to know there are plenty to choose from, from food-safe items to articles specifically recommended for aerospace parts. Knowing what materials are best for your project can help you to make the most out of your budget to create functional products.
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