Did you know that from a small pendant to the chair you sit on, anything can be a 3D printed object? A 3D printer is a lot different from the normal printers we use. 3D printing materials are the raw materials we use to make objects.
Normal manufacturing involves using solid chunks or liquid form of the material. However, 3D printed objects are made with the same being in filament, powder or liquid form. Let’s take a look at these materials that are commonly in use today.
What are the Various Types of 3D Printing Materials Used?
3D printing takes place through several technologies. The oldest one uses an extruder that pours the material on the surface. It uses a UV light like laser beam to solidify the material and harden it so that you get the desired object.
Mostly, the materials you can use include the following:
Most of these materials are in filament (extremely thin strands) form. Metal is usually in powder form while some materials are in resin or liquid form. The 3D printing materials we’ll be looking at belong to either of these 3 categories.
3D Printer Filament
Filaments are very thin strands of wire. The FDM 3D printers use filament form of raw materials to print objects. These filaments are usually 1.75-2.85 mm thick. Plastic is the key material for making 3D printing filaments. You can blend materials like carbon, wood, glass or ceramic for high-end filaments.
Let’s take a look at some of the 3D printer plastic materials.
Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-modified is a form of plastic that is durable, user-friendly and odourless. The glycol makes the material glossier, stronger, recyclable and corrosion-resistant. The material is FDA-approved for making water bottles and food containers. Since you can sanitize the material easily, you can make good quality face shields with it too.
Thermoplastic Polyurethane is a flexible filament with high density, durability and tensile strength. It is easy to extrude and prints at a speed of approximately 30 mm/s. The materials is neither soluble in water nor food safe. You can mostly use it to make phone covers, rubber mats, toys and seals.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is one of the most common and popular plastics used to make toys. In fact, the famous LEGO bricks are made of ABS. It has a glossy texture and has a good hardness, tensile strength, durability, shock resistance and flexibility. Common uses include automotive parts, phone covers, prototypes and musical instruments.
Polylactic Acid is a plastic made from renewable resources like corn starch, sugarcane and tapioca roots. This makes it biodegradable and hence food safe. PLA material is known for its flexibility, elasticity and durability. Being cheaper than PETG, its common uses are making wrappers, food containers, laptop stands, mobile covers, prototypes, toys and cosmetic prints.
If you’re wondering how I included wood here, let me tell you a secret. Wood filament is actually 70% PLA and 30% wood! One of the major advantages of this material over pure wood is that it doesn’t rot, is lighter, cuts lesser trees and still gives the look and feel of wood. You can make furniture, serving bowls, bracelets, sculptures and fences with it.
High Impact Polystyrene is made of polystyrene plastic and polybutadiene rubber, the latter being more flexible and elastic. The material is impact-resistant, durable, water resistant, food safe, dissolvable, lightweight and heat resistant. To top it all, it costs lesser. The most common applications are food packaging, toys, refrigerator liners and vending cups.
This is the strongest 3D printing filament that you can use. It has high temperature resistance, impact resistance, tensile strength, insulation properties and flame retardant. These properties make it the most common material for making bullet-proof glass. The industries using this material include automobiles, transportation, electrical, telecommunication and construction.
Metal 3D Printer Materials
Plastics may be the most widely used 3D printing materials, but not the only ones. Metals are also used – mostly in the form of powdered alloys. SLM and DMLS are the 3D printers that use metal powders and laser beam to create products. Following are some of the alloys popular in metal 3D printing:
The material is known for high tensile strength, ductility, weldability, corrosion resistance, lightweight, durability and printability. Being inexpensive too, industries like dental, jewellery, tools, military, automotive, implants, construction and decoration use it.
This metal and its alloys are known for being lightweight and extremely strong. They are resistant to corrosion, heat and chemicals. Moreover, they are biocompatible and have a low thermal expansion. These properties make it the most popular material used in the aircraft industry.
Just as the name suggests, it is steel that is used for manufacturing tools. These tools can be useful for cutting, moulding or stamping. this is due to its hardness, heat-resistant properties, abrasion-resistance, high ductility and weldability.
This is a nickel-based alloy that is known for its ability to use in extreme environments. It has high resistance to corrosion and heat, which gives it excellent mechanical properties. For this reason, it is suitable for using in turbines and rockets.
Best Resin 3D Printer Materials
In 3D printing, resins are liquid materials that solidify to create products. The material is used in stereolithography and DLP printers. The extruder pours out the liquid while the UV light solidifies it to finish making the object.
Following are some of the most common resins used in 3D printing:
These are similar to ABS and known for its smooth, paintable surface, water resistance as well as low cost. It has a matte finish and a yellowish-tinge. The most common items made with standard resins include toys, prototypes and visual models.
Bio-based Photopolymer Resins
As the name suggests, photopolymer resins are made of plant-based materials like vegetable oil or PLA monomers. Hence, they are biodegradable, food-safe and eco-friendly. They are stronger than standard resins and are resistant to moisture, scratches and temperature. Common uses of these materials include coating, composites, laminates, adhesives and potting compounds.
Most resins are not moisture-resistant, which is why you need alcohol to clean them. This is the reason why we also call them “water-washable” resins, meaning that you can easily clean them with water. They are stronger than standard resins, have a smooth & dry surface and work well with colour pigments. The most common uses include prototyping and 3D figures.
Used in the stereolithographic printers, mammoth resins provide a high-quality finishing. You can spray-paint the objects or leave it in the natural state. They’re can make really complicated and high-quality show models as well as master moulds.
Using the Mosaic Palette 2 for 3D Printing
You’ve seen some amazing varieties of 3D printing materials for creating various items. However, what if you want to use more than one of those for a single object? That’s where you use the Mosaic Palette 2. The device allows you to load up to 4 filaments and then blends them into a single material. However, you do not use flexible filaments here.
The end result of using this palette is that you’ll get a multi-coloured object. Common uses of these palettes include making visually appealing models and education-purpose prototypes.
How much do these 3D Printing Materials Cost?
The cost of 3D printing materials vary. It starts from at least $10 per kg but may go up to even $300 per kg, depending on the quality you’re looking for.
On an average, 1 kg of TPU costs $35. Carbon-infused filaments start from $45 per kg. The price of ABS and PLA starts from $25 per kilo and may go up to $75 when infused with other materials. The most expensive plastic filament is polycarbonate since it is the strongest and costs between $75 and $100 per kg.
If you’re looking for SLA resins, a litre can cost you approximately $40. The price can go up to $150-$300 for high-end speciality resins.
Coming to metal powders, the price of stainless steel may go up to $50 per kg while titanium costs between $10 and $20 per kg. On the other hand, Inconel 625 starts from $130, if you’re looking for a bulk purchase that it. Other nickel-based alloys are also expensive enough due to its properties.
How Would You Choose the 3D Printing Materials for Usage?
If you’re a manufacturer, then your choice should strictly depend on what products you’re dealing with. If quality is your priority, you can go for resins over filaments. On the other hand, if you have a low budget, filaments are a better choice. Metals are mostly for industrial use than show models.
For beginners, filaments are the easiest and cheapest choice of 3D printing materials. You can make prototypes, 3D figures and models with a wide variety of filaments. In the end, you need to make your choice on the basis of what you want to make, the type of printer you have and your budget.