3D printing is a revolutionary technology that has revolutionized the way we create objects. It is used to create objects from a variety of materials, including plastics, metals, and even wood. The most common 3D printing materials are ABS, PLA, and their various blends. ABS is a low-cost material that is ideal for printing strong and durable parts that can withstand high temperatures.
PLA is the reference material for most users due to its ease of use, dimensional accuracy, and low cost. HIPS is a lightweight material that is most commonly used as a soluble support structure for ABS models. PET and PETG filaments are known for their ease of printing, smooth surface finish, and water resistance. Nylon is a hard, semi-flexible material that offers high impact and abrasion resistance.
Carbon fiber filaments contain short fibers that are infused into a PLA or ABS base material to help increase strength and stiffness. ASA is a common alternative to ABS and is ideal for outdoor applications due to its high resistance to UV rays, temperature, and impacts. Polypropylene is ideal for high cycle and low strength applications due to its fatigue resistance, semi-flexible, and lightweight characteristics. Wood filaments combine a PLA base material with cork, wood powder or other derivatives, giving the models a real wood look and feel.
Metal 3D printing filament is a type of FFF filament made of a metal-polymer composite. PLA (polylactic acid) is one of the most widely used printing materials due to its versatility. It is made from renewable sources such as sugar cane, which helps keep the price low. It is a very tolerant material with a low probability of deformation and good reuse. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is the second major plastic used in 3D printing.
It has a higher heat resistance than PLA but can be melted and reused if necessary. HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) has a transition temperature of 212°F and is most commonly used as a support material. PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) is also used as a support material but it dissolves completely in warm water. Nylon is an ideal choice for creating objects that can withstand shocks due to its toughness, abrasion resistance, and good degree of flexibility. However, it tends to absorb moisture from its environment which can deform the finished product and compromise its structural integrity.
Carbon fiber filament usually consists of PLA or ABS with strong fibers that improve its stability while remaining lightweight. Polycarbonate (sometimes called PC) filament is transparent, tough material that is suitable for high temperature applications due to its very high transition temperature (around 302°F). ASA stands for Acrylic Styrene Acrylonitrile and it's commonly used in outdoor applications because it's highly resistant to high temperatures and UV rays. Cobalt chrome is used in high-performance 3D printing applications due to its strength and resistance to temperature and corrosion. Inconel is another superalloy composed mainly of nickel and chromium which can be shaped using direct laser sintering of metal (also known as selective laser melting).
The medical sector has found uses for 3D printing in the creation of implants and bespoke devices as well as wax 3D prints.