Some of the most common materials used are the thermoplastics or commonly known as filament. Some of them include ABS, PLA, PEEK, PETG, etc. These filaments are employed by FDM/FFF printers.
Another material used is the Resin. Resins are employed by SLA printers.
Composites are materials made by infusing two types of materials in order to extract the best qualities of the primary materials.
Another type of material exists- Metals. This category is majorly utilized for the industrial production processes. These cannot be employed by the consumer or prosumer printers.
The kind of material you want to use will rely on your needs for the print.
This guide will help you pick the most appropriate material for your prints.
3D filaments are special types of plastic, known as thermoplastics. Once heated to the right temperature, these filaments become flexible. This quality enables these filaments to be employed for 3D-printing.
It is readily affordable, strong and light-weight. ABS filament is available in an exceeding extensive variety of colours.
There are concerns about the fumes that ABS emit when reaching its melting point. If you are worried about the toxicity of ABS fumes, there are alternatives like PLA.
As ABS’s melting point is 220°C to 250°C, it's advisable to use a heated printing bed and an indoor build space to regulate the cooling of this material and stop warping.
The ABS is utilized in printing technologies like:
- Binder Jetting
It is most commonly used in architectural models, DIY projects and toys. Lego Bricks are manufactured using ABS
Poly Lactic Acid is made from organic materials, namely cornstarch and sugarcane. It produces a sweet aroma when heated. Comparatively it is easier to use than the ABS and is less prone to warping. However, it is prone to clogging the printer nozzle while printing.
It is less sturdy than ABS as well as, the PLA attracts moisture which can be difficult to deal with during the cooling process.
Unlike the ABS, this filament is biodegradable. PLA print temperature range: 180°C – 230°C (low)
PLA can be utilized in printing technologies like:
PLA filament uses include medical stitching and surgical implants. Also, PLA includes food packaging, disposable tableware, and diapers.
However, PLA is less durable than ABS and vulnerable to heat. So, for any sort of engineering parts, you’ll be happier with ABS. Also PLA is affordable.
Nylon or Polyamide
Polyamide is the synonym of Nylon Filament. This synthetic filament is better at strength and durability in comparison with the ABS and PLA.
Alongside, it is more flexible, wear-resistant, light and less brittle than the ABS and PLA. One major attribute includes this can be re-melted and used again without the loss of bond.
Contrary to the pros, this filament emits harmful fumes when melted and needs high temperatures for the same. Also storing this filament needs special attention as it absorbs moisture easily.
Nylon print temperature range: 210°C – 250°C (high)
Polyamide can be utilized in printing technologies like:
Nylon degrades from humidity within the surrounding air – if you would like to use it for home 3D printing, better store it in airtight containers or bags.
It’s particularly used in manufacturing various consumer products, tools, mechanical components, machine parts, structural parts, containers as it's not at all expensive.
PEEK is very immune to stress, temperature, and chemicals. Parts made up of PEEK are often exposed to X-ray and gamma radiation. In spite of its robustness, the material is simple to machine and fabricate.
On the opposite hand, the temperature that your 3D printer has got to stir up to 400°C so as to extrude this type of filament.
Besides being expensive, this might not be recommended for you for safety concerns. But on the brighter side, this filament is biocompatible
PEEK can be utilized in printing technologies like:
PEEK 3D printing materials are utilized in the foremost demanding applications the automotive, aerospace, chemical and medical industries can muster which features medical instruments but also semiconductor components.
PET is a cheap filament, readily available and is utilized in FDM printing technology.
This filament is stable and doesn’t emit harmful or unpleasant odors. Also, it is recyclable which makes it bio-compatible. The PET is approved by the FDA and hence is food safe filament.
The various key features of the filament include it being water and shrink resistant. It doesn’t absorb moisture from the air, making it difficult for wrapping.
PET print temperature range: 210°C – 230°C. Although it has so many pros, it is not an easy filament to deal with for beginners.
PET doesn't require a heated bed. This material features a glossy finish and is food safe which makes it a well-liked choice for several consumer products. Store PET 3D printing materials in vacuum bags or containers to guard against humidity.
Polyethylene Terephthalate is commonly used for manufacturing plastic bottles.
PETG is a variant of PET that has been combined with glycol to realize a variety of desirable effects for 3D printing services like high transparency.
It is used as a food-safe 3D printing material. When using for home 3D printing, store this material in vacuum bags or containers to guard against humidity.
Not too cheap but it can be utilized in printing technology like FDM.
ULTEM is commonly found in high-performance applications. Plastics of this family are highly immune to stress, temperature, and chemicals, while at an equivalent they also excel by their simple machining and fabrication.
Your 3D printer has got to stir up to 400°C so as to extrude these 3D printing materials. Hence this is often a job that ought to not be done reception for safety concerns and may be outsourced to an expert 3D printing service.
It is biocompatible and heat resistant but expensive on the contrary. It is utilized in the following printing technologies:
ULTEM 3D printing materials are utilized in a number of the foremost demanding applications within the automotive, aerospace, chemical and medical industries due to its robustness.
You'll find the filament being utilized in electrical connectors, medical instruments, and chip test sockets.
High Impact Polystyrene is a biodegradable material and is bright and white in colour. HIPS work as great support material in FDM technology. Also, its words in SLA printing technology because it dissolves in the chemical Limonene.
HIPS print temperature range: 230°C – 250°C. to boast about this filament, it is easily available and isn’t expensive at all.
The food industry uses it widely for packaging.
HIPS when paired with ABS becomes an outstanding dual extrusion support structure. It is not toxic even when used in close contact with. However, you may face adhesion and curling issues.
This affordable filament, Polyvinyl Alcohol is typically used as a support material when printing with ABS or PLA. This filament is a biodegradable, non-toxic material that easily dissolves in tap water.
It is water soluble and has a good durability. However, it can be more difficult to locate than the other filament. Controversially this filament makes printing easy. PVA print temperature range: 190°C – 220°C (low)
Composites are filaments made from over one material to require advantage of their best properties.
PLA, for instance, offers all types of composites, from wood to metal. Other composites are geared towards specific industries or functions, like engineering, as an example.
New addition to the filament market was observed lately. The conductive 3D printing material enables a lot of newer design opportunities for the manufacturing community.
Conductive filament is accustomed to create touch sensors in applications that require human interface devices
Conductive 3D printer filament is typically based in either PLA or ABS plastics. Each of which brings the advantages and problems of the initial material to the table.
However, this is quite an expensive filament utilized in FDM printing technology.
The filament is not very flexible or durable and is expensive. Also, it shrinks to some extent while the cooling down process. Conductive PLA temperature range: 215°C – 230°C
Metal/ Plastic Filament
Metal Filaments are literally thermoplastic that have been mixed with low amounts of metal. These 3D printing materials allow you to 3D print components that have the visual properties of the 3D printed metal.
This material includes PLA mixed with metallic powders. Aluminum, brass, bronze, copper, and stainless steel are amongst popular material choices. Metal print temperature range varies depending upon the filament. However, it ranges around 195°C – 220°C
This filament is durable and doesn’t need a preheated printer bed. It is not soluble and barely shrinks during the cooling process. However, it is not easy to deal with for beginners.
To remember, the metal filament is heavier than other thermoplastics.
Beware that your 3D printed parts would require post-processing to urge the specified metal appearance. Also, make certain your printer nozzle can handle the filament.
Metal filament is utilized for manufacturing hardware products, jewelry items, statues, replicas of artifacts, and much more.
Alumide may be a variation of nylon that has been combined with aluminium particles. In terms of durability and physical properties, this material is extremely almost like nylon. The difference is found within the shiny, durable and porous surface finish.
Components printed with Alumide have a superb size accuracy, are tough and suitable for future use. Alumide is quite suitable for various post-processing techniques like polishing or coating.
However, it isn’t a cheap filament and is used in FDM printing technology.
This filament includes a mixture of recycled woods with a special binding polymer. The outcome of the print, doesn’t just look like wood, but smells like one too. It is commonly used for décor, ornate boxes, tables and chairs.
However, it is easily breakable and isn’t flexible. It's weaker when compared to PLA.
Wood print temperature range: 200°C – 260°C
Metal 3D printing has become especially popular within the aerospace, automotive and medical industries for the flexibility to provide complex designs that don’t require additional welding or machining.
Due to its lightness and flexibility, aluminium is now one amongst the foremost popular 3D printing materials found with a wide selection of applications. It's used primarily as different aluminium-based alloys.
Components made up of aluminium can feature thin walls and sophisticated geometries.
They're highly immune to mechanical stress and high temperatures. Attributes of aluminium makes it suitable for low-cost prototypes, functional models like motors, within the automotive and aerospace industries. It is heat and corrosion resistant.
It is utilized in printing technologies like:
- Direct Metal Deposition
- Binder Jetting
Used in high-performance applications, cobalt-chromium is usually called a “superalloy”. This material is usually utilized in medical applications and also the components for the aerospace industry, like turbines or jet engines.
It stands out for excellent properties like strength, but also its temperature and corrosion resistance, yet still suitable for components with fine features. It also is biocompatible.
Being expensive, this superalloy is used in printing technologies like:
- Direct Metal Laser Sintering
Copper and Bronze
These 3D printing materials are found in electrical engineering due to their conductivity. But they also draw an outsized following within the arts and crafts community.
Technologies in which it is utilized:
- Lost Wax Casting
- Powder Bed Fusion
- Direct Metal Deposition
Inconel is a superalloy produced to face up to the foremost extreme environments. It is primarily composed of nickel and chrome for it's high-temperature resistance.
Together with its resilience to extreme pressure, it's the right material to manufacture aeroplane black boxes or maybe parts of rocket engines.
More commonly, these properties also are employed for varied applications within the oil, and chemical industries.
Because of its strength, it's hard to machine this material. Therefore, Direct Metal Laser Sintering is one among the well-liked methods to shape it.
Nickel alloys are popular technical applications. Nickel-base alloy components made using 3D printing are stronger and more durable in comparison to nickel-base alloy parts made using traditional techniques like casting.
This, in turn, allows engineers to form the components thinner, leading to, for instance, more fuel-efficient airplanes.
There are many sorts of alloys that combine nickel’s properties with those of other metals, like Monel or Inconel.
Printing technology used is Powder Bed Fusion and Direct Metal Deposition.
Gold, Silver & Platinum
Most companies using powder bed fusion technology can 3D print with precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum. The challenge here, alongside maintaining the materials aesthetic properties, is to form sure that none of the valuable powder is lost.
That’s why, you'll mostly find parts that were made using the better to regulate lost wax casting technique. Precious metals for 3D printing are usually utilized for manufacturing materials for jewellery, medical and electronics applications.
Counting on the technology used, a number of these materials are also cast.
This is the most expensive. Common applications include jewellery and dentistry.
Stainless Steel is extremely strong and may be utilized in an outsized variety of industrial and even artistic or design applications. This sort of steel alloy, which also contains cobalt and nickel, is especially hard to break, while also boasting excellent elastic and magnetic properties. Additionally, it offers corrosion free properties
In case you favor another colour, you'll plate it to offer it the looks of. This material is employed mostly for industrial applications.
Direct Metal Deposition and Binder Jetting are two technologies that can be utilized.
Titanium is certainly one among the foremost versatile, because it is both strong and lightweight. Supported in technologies like powder bed fusion and binder jetting processes.
You will mostly find it in high-performance medical applications, for instance, to create personalized prostheses. Titanium is utilized for manufacturing parts and prototypes for the aerospace, automotive, and tooling industries.
It belongs to a family of highly reactive 3D printing materials, which suggests it can easily explode when it's in powder form. Thus, it must be 3D printed in a vacuum or in an argon gas atmosphere. Also, it is highly expensive.
When a ceramic part has been printed off it's then changed into solid pottery in a furnace. The water evaporates and therefore the particles melt into one another, setting the shape and increasing the strength of a given component.
For a glossy finish, it's covered in glaze then put within the kiln a second time.
Ceramic 3D prints are often made using FDM to more sophisticated methods like SLA. Wannabe potters can choose from sorts of glass, porcelain, and carbide.
Ceramics are better to print with as it is heat resistant and hard-wearing material for 3D printing. This material nowadays is mostly utilized in the arts, for tableware and dental implants.
It is moderately expensive
Wax 3D prints are usually not the end product, but an important stage within the production process. They're accustomed to produce moulds with stunningly high resolution for the lost wax casting technique of metal components.
It's often employed to make customizable jewellery at a relatively low price.
The second industry that uses this type of 3D printing materials is that the dentistry industry.
It is supported by SLA and PolyJet technology and is quite affordable.
With Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL) good old copy paper from the office store round the corner has found its niche in 3D printing. SDL parts have a wood-like feel and are fully coloured, making them a well-liked choice for architectural and other conceptual models.
On the downside, SDL parts are less durable than parts made from other 3D printing materials and you won’t get an equivalent level of detail like materials like PolyJet Resins or gypsum.
The main attributes include that it's easy to recycle and is cost-effective.
Photopolymers are a variety of liquid resins that solidify to plastic components and prototypes when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) or light. The 2 main technologies today are SLA (Stereolithography) and PolyJet.
SLA works employing a UV laser that traces the form of an object onto the surface of a photopolymer vat and therefore the resin congeals to make a layer of the thing. This operation is repeated for each layer until the thing is complete.
PolyJet, follows a different approach where a printer head jets a drop of resin onto a bed that's instantly cured by an attached UV lamp.
SLA printers deliver a layer height of about 0.1 mm at the best, while PolyJet can 3D print as fine as 16 microns.
Although both methods are similar and use similar raw 3D printing materials, they differ widely in how these 3D printing materials are often harnessed. All photopolymers are vulnerable to sunlight.
Sandstone is one among the technologies in this 3D printing materials guide ready to create spectacular full-colour parts in one process.
To enhance the standard of the colors and add strength the part is coated with a protective layer of epoxy resins because sandstone parts that are exposed to water will discolour and leave you with a muddy white model. Also, components made up of this material are as fragile as porcelain.
Allowances for the material’s weakness should be made already during the planning process.
Taking into consideration the finicky nature of sandstone, it comes as no surprise that it's mostly used for architectural models, conceptual prototypes and art projects.
The following technologies support sandstone printing:
- Binder Jetting
- Powder Bed Jetting
Resins are a superb choice for functional and concept models. This material is especially suited to producing large parts during a short span of your time, while still maintaining a high degree of detail.
Also, high-temperature resins are a cheap means to produce injection moulds for small-scale production of prototypes.
The SLA resins stems are popular because of its superior speed and accuracy. The downside is that resin remains substantially costlier than other items in this 3D printing materials guide.
SLA 3D printers are available commercially and also for home and little office use. They provide a stimulating range of semi-professional 3D printing materials.
PolyJet Resins are honestly the simplest choice for colour prototypes of consumer products, for testing with consumer groups.
Counting on the 3D printing materials chosen and therefore the desired application, it's possible to produce functional models using these materials, like form and fit testing.
Also, PolyJet Resins are the sole 3D printing materials ready to simulate over-moulded parts.
Some sorts of PolyJet resin are suitable for mould-making. Others are used for high-resolution parts that are an ideal fit for visual prototypes, models and props.