This guide gives you an insight in the most used 3D printing materials in 2019. For each material, we’ve listed the properties, applications and their corresponding technologies.
3D Printing Materials
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The mechanical properties of metal and the the design flexibility of 3D Printing are a great team. From tooling to implants and from manifolds to engine parts, any metal application that involves complexity can benefit from 3D printing.
Polymer powders are processed via Powder Bed Fusion 3D printers. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) are the most used technologies in this section.
In the past, photosensitive polymer resin was mainly used for visual prototypes and vacuum casting molds. This has changed with the introduction of new technologies and it is now possible to print end-use parts reflecting common engineering requirements with resin.
This section contains an overview of filament for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or also known as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). Every filament type has a short introduction about the general properties of a material. But please keep in mind that these properties vary considerably per brand. It’s best to check a products detail page for all specifications and technical data sheets.
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PLA is the most popular desktop 3D printing material. PLA filament is generally considered affordable, easy to print and comes in many different colors.
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is an petroleum-based polymer. ABS filament is a commonly used 3D printing material which is known for its ductility and high temperature resistance. In addition it can be post-processed with acetone to provide a smooth and shiny surface finish.
PETG combines the ease of use of PLA with the strength and durability of ABS. It’s known for its clarity and impact resistance. PETG filament is FDA approved but please keep in mind that an object printed with PETG on a normal desktop 3D printer is not automatically food safe. Especially when you’ve previously used the same printer to print other types of filament.
Nylon is a strong, rigid and flexible 3D printing material. It is very sensitive to moisture which makes it difficult to print and store. Nylon filament has a very high inter-layer adhesion which makes it a perfect choice for functional parts like connectors and living-hinges.
Thermoplastic Polyurethane aka TPU is also very flexible. TPU filament is used for multiple different consumer products like phone cases, footwear and watch bands. TPU has a decent level of chemical resistance. It is oil & grease resistant and is fairly tough against abrasions.
Polycarbonate filament is known as an extremely tough and durable 3D printing material which is also very resistant to temperature.
HIPS stands for high impact polystyrene. HIPS filament is often used as a support material for ABS since it has the same print settings as ABS and can be dissolved using Limonene.
Polypropylene (PP) is a strong and ductile material. Polypropylene filament has the ability to elongate without breaking when compared to other 3D printing materials.
PEEK is a high strength, chemically resistant and impact resistant material that requires a very high print temperature. It is an industrial 3D printing material that can even substitute certain metals in terms of durability. PEEK filament has many applications including those in aerospace, oil and the packaging industries.
ULTEM is a subclass of Polyetherimide (PEI) materials, like PEEK. ULTEM gains a large amount of strength in combination with glass fiber reinforcement, making it one of the strongest 3D printing materials out there. ULTEM filament has been used by various companies to replace previously metal parts.
Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) is a water soluble 3D printing material which is perfect to use as support. This makes it very useful for complex designs where support removal can be damaging or tricky. Aside from its water solubility, PVA filament also absorbs moisture. This means storage can be slightly cumbersome.