Most Common Materials Used in 3D Printing


You’ve probably read lots about 3D printing in recent years, and this is because the niche is exploding right now. While it started with huge printers in manufacturing and the commercial sector, investment and advancements have ensured that society is starting to see 3D printers in homes. But what are the most common materials used in 3D printing? 

Plastic

Especially for those playing around at home, plastic is perhaps the most popular material right now. As a diverse and flexible material, people are using it to print toys, action figures, and all sorts of other products around the home. One of the great things about plastic is that it comes in all sorts of colours (as well as a clear colour). What’s more, it has smoothness, flexibility, and stability. Not to mention that it suits people on a budget.


While some people use polylactic acid (PLA), other plastic options include PVA (polyvinyl alcohol plastic), ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), and PC (polycarbonate). 

Nylon

Although another form of plastic, it’s impossible to leave nylon from this list since it’s responsible for many different products as well as accessories and clothing. For those with complex and intricate plans, nylon works for both FFF and FDM 3D printers. Nylon is durable, hardly warps, is strong and flexible, and can be coloured easily. 


On the other hand, it doesn’t last as long as other materials and doesn’t cope well with water as a hygroscopic material. Furthermore, prints are often less precise than desired because of the shrinkage during cooling. 

Resin

Like plastic, the word ‘resin’ is like Pandora’s box because there are numerous types of resin and ways to use the material in 3D printing. Alongside tough resins, you’ll find castable resins, flexible resins, and many others. Thankfully, resin doesn’t suffer from shrinkage, it’s a strong material, and the end products are also resistant to chemicals. 


Sadly, resins are more common in commercial projects because of the cost. Not many people dabbling in 3D printing at home want to invest in resins. What’s more, the filament expires and has photo-reactivity, and this means that storage is essential. 

Metal

Yet another generic term considering the number of metals used in 3D printing, but the industry is now learning more and more about using metal in the 3D printing process. While stainless steel is useful for cooking utensils, some people use gold to make jewellery. That’s right - people are now printing their own jewellery. What’s more, other options include bronze, aluminium, nickel, and even titanium! Amiga Engineering offers 3D printing in Titanium, and they are one in a few that offers 3D printing in multiple metal options. 


In particular, titanium has gotten lots of attention recently because of the strength-to-weight ratio. With most metals, strength leads to weight. The stronger the metal, the heavier the metal. However, titanium manages to find the balance perfectly because it has strength as well as a low weight. Additionally, titanium is good because it has corrosion resistance, flexibility, quick production, non-toxicity, and more.

Carbon Fibre

Finally, carbon fibre is a type of composite, and its purpose in 3D printing isn’t as a core material but to coat plastic materials. Essentially, the role of carbon fibre is to make plastic even stronger. If you want strength from plastic, this is the way to go, and it’s the best route to compete against metal in terms of strength. 


 As 3D printing continues to improve, the outdated carbon fibre layup process is likely to be replaced by 3D carbon fibre printing. It’s faster, cost-effective, and an overall better solution. 


Although these are the most common 3D printing materials, you may also see paper, nitinol, graphene (and graphite), and ceramics used.

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