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3D Printing Materials Ultimate Guide 2022

Spencer Hill 3d model
Spencer Hill 16:13 11-24
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What is 3D printing material?

3D printing materials are an important material basis for the development of 3D printing technology. To some extent, the development of materials determines whether 3D printing can be used more widely.

What is 3D printing material?

At present, 3D printing materials mainly include engineering plastics, photosensitive resins, rubber materials, metal materials, and ceramic materials. In addition, food materials such as colored gypsum materials, artificial bone meal, cell biological raw materials, and granulated sugar have also been applied in the field of 3D printing.

In this post we can classify 3D printer materials in 4 categories:

  • Polymer Material: Nylon (PA), Rubber, PAL Material, ABS Material
  • Metal Material: Stainless Steel, Aluminum Alloy, Titanium Alloy, Copper, Cobalt Chromium Alloy
  • Photosensitive Resin Material: Rigid Resin, Flexible Resin, Elastic Resin, High Toughness Resin, Dental Mould Resin, Jewelry Resin, Washable Resin
  • Inorganic Non-metallic Materials: Ceramic, Plaster

What material does a FDM 3D printer use?

1.1. PLA

PLA (Polylactic acid polylactic acid) can be used in many fields such as extrusion, injection molding, film drawing, and spinning. Also is the most popular 3D printing material for 3D printing enthusiasts.

It is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources such as corn, sugar beet, cassava and sugar cane. Therefore, PLA-based 3D printing materials are more environmentally friendly than other plastic materials, and are even called "green plastics".

PLA biodegradable process

Properties

PLA material has good gloss and transparency, comparable to films made of polystyrene, which other biodegradable products cannot provide.

It also has the best tensile strength and elongation. It can be produced by various common processing methods, such as: melt extrusion molding, injection molding, blown film molding, foam molding and vacuum molding, It has similar forming conditions to widely used polymers, and it also has the same printing properties as conventional films. In this way, polylactic acid can be made into various application products according to the needs of different industries.

PLA filament has good air permeability, oxygen permeability and carbon dioxide permeability, and it also has the characteristic of isolating odor. Polylactic acid is the only biodegradable plastic with excellent antibacterial and anti-mildew properties.

Pros

  • Very easy to print. The material usually flowed out of the 3D printer's nozzle without any issues such as warping or nozzle clogging.
  • PLA printing temperature is relatively low compared to other 3D print materials, making it more versatile and easy to print.
  • It provides high-quality surface detail for 3D printing.
  • PLA material does not emit a bad smell when extruded.

Printing parameters

Density 1.03 ~ 1.11 kg/m3
Heat distortion temperature 85℃
Melting temperature 230℃
Tensile strength 35-53 MPa
Elongation 30%
Young's modulus 1.7-3 GPa

An example of PLA filament is the Ender-PLA+.

Ender-PLA+

1.2. ABS

ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is the second most popular FDM printing material after PLA. The thermoplastic is cheap, durable, stretchy, lightweight and easy to extrude, making it ideal for 3D printing. Currently, Lego toys use this material.

Properties

The appearance of ABS is opaque ivory pellets, non-toxic, tasteless, low water absorption, its products can be painted into various colors, and has a high gloss of 90%.

ABS has excellent mechanical properties, its impact strength is good, and it can be used at extremely low temperatures.

ABS is an amorphous polymer with no obvious melting point.

Cons

  • In the process of printing ABS, the platform must also be heated. The purpose is to prevent the first printed layer from cooling down too quickly, avoiding warping and shrinkage.
  • Another disadvantage of ABS is that, compared with other materials, the release of toxic substances in ABS during the printing process is much higher than PLA.
  • Therefore, when printing ABS, the printer needs to be placed in a well-ventilated area, or the printer uses a closed chassis and is equipped with an air purification device.
  • ABS is not anti-ultraviolet, ABS is easy to age under thermal oxygen conditions, burning ABS plastics is easy to cause air pollution, and ABS is poor in dissolution resistance.

Printing parameters

Density 1.24 kg/m3
Glass transition temperature 85℃
Melting temperature 175℃
Tensile strength 63-70 MPa
Young's modulus 2.1-3.6GPa

An example of ABS filament is the CR-ABS filament.

CR-ABS filament

1.3. PETG

The difference between PETG and PET is only a letter "G", which represents the ethylene glycol added to the material. It is a clean thermoplastic amorphous plastic, modified from PET to be stronger and more durable.

Pros

  • Layers look good and smooth
  • Food safe and can even be sterilized
  • Strong prints
  • Recyclable
  • Good heat and pressure resistance
  • Moisture resistance 
  • Remains good and strong even when overheated during printing
  • Moderate difficulty
  • Printing temperature is between PLA and ABS
  • Low shrinkage

Cons

  • Less PETG change than PLA and ABS
  • Wrinkles more easily
  • UV light sensitive
  • Softens at 176°F (around 80°C) 
  • Discoloration in print (from transparent to hazy or translucent) 

An example of PETG filament is the CR-PETG filament.

CR-PETG filament

What material does a Resin 3D printer use?

2.1. Rigid Resin

Rigid Resin printing molding Higher precision and more stable curings,Delicate and smooth product surface. Compared with the traditional rigid resin, standard Rigid Resin Plus is more stronger- bending strength increased by 2.72 times.

Properties

  • High impact and shatter-resistance
  • Durable and sturdy
  • Best for creating sturdy functional parts
  • Not recommended for models with thin walls
  • Print removal can be a little difficult compared to Standard Resin

An example of Rigid Resin is the Standard Rigid Resin Plus.

Standard Rigid Resin Plus

2.2. Water-washing resin

Is a photosensitive resin that can be washed with water, and it does not need alcohol to clean up, which is convenient for post-processing. Water washable photosensitive resin has the characteristics of low viscosity, washable and high precision. It can be used in animation hand-made, craft decoration and other fields.

Properties

The 3D printed model with Water-washing resin can be washed with water, good fluidity, high precision, environmental protection, wide compatibility, high cost performance, smooth surface of the finished product, short curing time

Pros

  • Low odor, can be washed directly
  • Low viscosity, good fluidity
  • Rich colors can be customized

An example of Water-washing resin is the Water Washable Resin Plus.

Water Washable Resin Plus

3D printer material cost

3D printing materials are not expensive, but you need consider this when you buying 3D printers. Because different type of printers use different materials. Basically the 3D printer material cost is about $15 - $35, which is relatively cost-effective.

If you want to reduce the 3D printer material cost, it's recommeded to:

1. Reduce filling rate

Reducing the filling density of the model can effectively reduce the cost of printing. In the process of 3D printing, the higher the filling density of the printed model, the more consumables will be consumed for printing, and the corresponding cost will be higher.

2. Optimized design

Optimizing the design of the model can effectively reduce the cost of printing. 3D printing models often have a lot of connection surface designs, and because of the integrated characteristics of 3D printing, the connection surfaces of 3D printing models often lead to more expenditure on consumables, but when we optimize the design of the connection surface and process it into the entire U When making a smooth transition, we can print out the required model and save the cost of 3D printing.

3. Reduce model support part

Reducing the support of the model can effectively reduce the cost of the printing process. The support part of the model mainly appears in the part with a large hanging angle. The more supports, the higher the consumption cost.

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