|Business type||Manufacturing Business|
|Ownership||Limited Liability Company (LLC)|
|Annual turnover ($)||40392|
|Location||Southampton, England, GB|
Remember the quality of Lego bricks? Then you can relate to why ABS plastic is one the most popular 3D printing materials for desktop 3D printing today.
It is readily affordable, strong and lightweight. ABS filament comes in a broad range of colors. There have been concerns about the fumes that ABS emit when reaching its melting point. If you worry about the toxicity of ABS fumes, there are alternatives like PLA. As ABS is 3D printed at 220°C to 250°C, it is advisable to use a heated printing bed and an enclosed build space to control the cooling of this material and prevent warping. Also, 3D printing materials like ABS filament degrade from humidity in the surrounding air, so store it in vacuum bags or containers.
Learn more about ABS: ABS Filament for 3D Printing – All You Need to Know
Technologies: FDM, Binder Jetting, SLA, PolyJetting
Properties: Strong, light, high resolution, somewhat flexible
Applications: Architectural models, concept models, DIY projects, manufacturing
Another crowd favorite in our 3D printing materials guide is PLA, a cornstarch derivative (but sugar cane and tapioca varieties can also be found), which makes it biodegradable. It‘s an easy material to 3D print with and emits a pleasantly sweet fragrance when heated. For this reason, many people prefer it over ABS. Moreover, it is a suitable 3D printing material for single-use food contact and it contracts less than ABS when cooling. However, PLA is less durable than ABS and susceptible to heat. So, for any type of engineering parts, you’ll be better off with ABS.
PLA is available in a broad range of colors and also comes in a variety of composites, which can give it the appearance of wood or metal, for example. Like ABS filament, PLA degrades from humidity in the ambient air – store it in vacuum bags or containers.
Don’t miss: 2019 PLA Filament Buyer's Guide
Technologies: FDM, SLA, SLS
Properties: Biodegradable, Food safe
Applications: Concept models, DIY projects, functional models, manufacturing
Given its flexibility and strength, Nylon is the premier choice for a wide range of applications from engineering to the arts. Often it is simply referred to as “white plastic”. Nylon prints have a rough surface that can be polished smooth. Among FDM filaments, the layer bonding of nylon is stronger than all others, making it the ideal 3D printing material for parts that require good tensile and mechanical strength. Like other thermoplastics, Nylon degrades from humidity in the surrounding air – if you want to use it for home 3D printing, better store it in airtight containers or bags.
Technologies: FDM, SLS
Properties: Strong, smooth surface (polished), somewhat flexible, chemically resistant
Applications: Concept models, functional models, medical applications, tooling, visual Arts
Next in our 3D printing materials guide is PET: The material water bottles are made of. This material is the second alternative to ABS. Unlike ABS, PET does not emit odorous fumes when melted but it is just as strong and flexible. More importantly, PET does not require a heated bed. This material has a glossy finish and is food safe which makes it a popular choice for many consumer products. Store PET 3D printing materials in vacuum bags or containers to protect against humidity.
Properties: Strong, food safe, flexible, smooth surface
Applications: DIY projects, manufacturing, functional models
Metal / Plastic Filament -FDM
All of the “metal” filament sold on the market is actually thermoplastic that has been mixed with low amounts of metal. These 3D printing materials allow you to 3D print components that have the optical properties of 3D printed metal. Also, the metal-plastic-filament is heavier than other thermoplastics. Popular composite 3D printing materials include bronze, copper, steel, and iron. Be aware that your 3D printed parts will require post-processing to get the desired metal appearance. Also, be sure your printer nozzle can handle the material.
Properties: Metallic finish
Applications: Visual arts
Stainless steel is characterized by high strength and excellent corrosion resistance. This material is used across a vast range of industries and applications from manufacturing to assistive technology. Examples of 3D printed stainless steels include the extremely corrosion resistant 316L and the heat treatable 17-4 PH Stainless Steel.
As the name suggests, this class of steels is used for a variety of manufacturing tooling. Anything on a production line that cuts, stamps, molds, or forms is probably made out of tool steel. Tool steels can withstand such harsh conditions because of their high hardness, and excellent high heat and abrasion resistance. Because of these properties, tool steels are very difficult and expensive to machine, making them an ideal candidates to be 3D printed. Popular powders and filaments include A2, D2, and H13 Tool Steel.
This metal is strong, incredibly lightweight, and heat and chemical resistant. Normally, titanium is extremely challenging to machine (contributing to its high cost), making it a great candidate for 3D printing. The most common 3D printed titanium is Titanium 64 (Ti-6Al-4V) and is used in situations when a very high strength to weight ratio is beneficial, such as aircraft.
While 3D printers can be used to produce parts out of common metals such as steel, they can also fabricate parts out of superalloys that are uniquely suited for extreme environments. Inconel 625 is a strong, stiff, and very corrosion- and heat-resistant nickel-based superalloy that is often used in places like turbines and rockets. Other types of Inconel, namely Inconel 718, don’t have the same heat resistance that Inconel 625 has. The material is traditionally wildly expensive to machine; conversely, Inconel can be purchased in powder form and 3D printed for a fraction of the cost, opening the door to affordable Inconel components.