What Is The Most Popular Material For 3D Printing
Without a doubt, the most popular material that a 3D printer uses is still plastic. Plastic is the most commonly used 3D printing material across the world on a domestic level. Most home 3D printers will only print plastic in one form or another.
The plastic that is used in 3D printing comes in a variety of forms. The most common types are PLA, ABS and SLA resins.
PLA (Poly Lactic Acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) are both used as a filament that is fed through an FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) 3D printer using a nozzle. It is transferred directly onto a print bed where it is formed into its final shape.
SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus) is a different form of 3D printing where resin is used instead of a filament. With SLA 3D printing, a laser is used to cure liquid resin into hardened plastic.
For a complete overview of how SLA differs from traditional filament 3D printing, read our complete FDM vs SLA 3D Printing Comparison.
What Other Materials Can You Use With A 3D Printer?
Just because plastic is the most commonly used material for 3D printing doesn’t mean it is the only material that can be 3D printed. As technology is improving, so is our ability to 3D print using other materials.
Metal is becoming increasingly popular with 3D printers, and is relatively friendly to print with. When 3D printing with metal, you are actually using a filament consisting of small metal shavings and PLA. This combination allows you to 3D print metal much like you would a normal PLA filament.
Once printed, metal models take on the appearance and physical properties of the metal shavings that were used in the filament. This can range from steel to copper to aluminium.
Graphene is a hugely impressive material, being one of the thinnest and strongest materials in existence. So it is amazing to hear that it is 3D printable. Printing with Graphene however isn’t an easy task, and not one that you or I can participate in.
The problem is that to create a Graphene filament you have to combine multiple layers of Graphene, which forms Graphite. This is less than ideal to print with. Instead, many companies have looked to combine Graphene with other substances, much like the way metal is 3D printed as detailed above.
There are a few companies that are exploring 3D printing with Graphene, so watch this space for news on this exciting material!
3D printing with concrete could be a game-changer for the building industry. Traditional methods of laying concrete can be expensive, as it is very hard to control where liquid concrete will flow.
Being able to control this via 3D printing could hugely reduce the cost of building with concrete. And this is exactly what some companies who are revolutionising the ability to 3D print houses are doing.
To read more about 3D printed houses, view our guide on when 3D printed houses will be available to buy.
Which 3D Printing Material Is The Strongest
Polycarbonate (PC) is without a doubt the strongest material that you can 3D print on a regular filament 3D printer. But what is Polycarbonate? Well, it is a form of thermoplastic that is extremely durable and heat resistant.
When compared to other strong 3D printable materials such as Nylon and ABS, Polycarbonate wins out across the board. It is both stronger and more heat resistant than ABS plastic. And it has more tensile strength than Nylon.
Due to its extreme strength and durability, it can be hard to 3D print this material without proper preparation.
First of all, you need to have an extremely hot print bed of around 140 – 150°C. You’ll also need an extremely hot nozzle of around 300°C. This is because PC has a high melting temperature of around 135°C.
Finally, when 3D printing PC, moisture and ambient temperature aren’t your friend. You will need to ensure you provide a dry environment so moisture doesn’t work into the PC. If it does it will prevent your model from being as transparent as it could be. And the lack of a consistent ambient temperature can cause PC to crack or warp.
A Complete List of All 3D Printable Materials
Below is a complete list of most of the materials that can be 3D printed. This list is ever-growing and will be updated as new materials and technology are developed.
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is one of the most common 3D printed materials and is an extremely durable form of plastic.
Alumide is a form of Aluminium that has been combined with nylon. When printed it features the appearance of Aluminium, with the strength and flexibility of nylon.
- Carbon Fibre
Carbon Fibre is a relatively new addition to the list of 3D printable materials. It can be hard to print, but the results are strong and lightweight.
Much like wood, ceramic can be combined with other substances to form a ceramic filament or resin. This can be 3D printed and then cooked in a kiln to form strong ceramic objects.
Cobalt or Cobalt-Chromium is widely known as a superalloy. This means it can withstand high temperatures and high amounts of stress
Some companies have explored 3D printing with concrete to make building houses faster and more efficient.
HDPE (High-density polyethylene) is a light but very durable plastic. It is generally stronger than the already strong ABS.
3D printed metal works much like Ceramic and Wood. Metal shavings can be combined with PLA to print convincing metal objects.
Nylon is a form of plastic that is treated to become a flexible fabric. 3D printed nylon will closer resemble plastic than fabric.
Paper can be 3D printed, but much like a sheet of paper is very fragile.
PC (polycarbonate) is an extremely strong material which is both extremely heat resistant and one of the strongest printable materials.
PLA (Polylactic Acid) is a plastic commonly used across a lot of home 3D printing. It is one of the easiest materials to 3D print and is relatively low-cost compared to other materials
PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) is another form of plastic that is commonly used for items that are in contact with food.
PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol) is PET that has been mixed with glycol. Much like PET, this material is often used for food packaging.
Sandstone can be printed to form a delicate yet convincing stone 3D print. Due to its fragile nature, it is often only used in conceptual models.
- SLA Resins
SLA (Stereolithography) resins can produce some extremely detailed 3D models thanks to being printed from a resin rather than a filament. These are often used in more detailed models, but lacks the durability found in filament 3D prints.
Wax can be printed much like resin using SLA 3D printers. It is often used to create molds due to its flexibility.
Wood filament is a combination of small wood particles which have been combined with PLA to form a wood-like 3D print. Depending on the type of wood used in the filament, you can replicate different woods such as Bamboo and Oak.