When it comes to working with 3D printing materials – let us tell you that there is an
overwhelming array of choices to be accessed. From nylon and polycarbonate to polypropylene
and ABS—once you are start educating yourself about the materials, the better informed you
become in this regard. The key to perfect selection would be to consider what the materials are
(or are not) capable of doing – and what exactly their pros and cons are. Here is a brief guide to
help you sail through confusions or uncertainties.
Polyamide or nylon leads the pack of 3D materials widely used for rendering durable prints. It is
a hard semi-flexible material backed by high abrasion resistance. It has not really been a long
time since it has been employed for 3D printing but has earned steady popularity since its
inception, quite simply because of its abrasion resistance properties. Additionally, it’s cost-
effective because it is used in several industries.
However, one of the cons of nylon is that it requires very high temperature to print. It is
recommended for 3D printing utensils that are in constant touch of food.
PVA is another material which is frequently used for complex prints. Polyvinyl alcohol can be
used in standard 3D printer extruder for the formation of parts that provide support to other
objects. It is widely known for its solubility in water and is primarily used as a support material.
It melts at about at about 200 degrees Celsius—the only con being – it can generate harmful
chemicals if heated beyond a certain temperature.
Polycarbonate – once again – like nylon is known for its high durability and resistance. So, it is
deemed an ideal choice for tough environments.
PLA or Polylactic acid refers to a polymer plastic which is etched from biological materials
including sugarcane and cornstarch. Backed by a host of properties like resilience and durability,
this material melts at between 180 – 200 degrees Celsius. The temperature in this case varies –
depending on the materials that have been added for color and texture. The material is not duly
water resistant and has a weak defense against chemicals. It should be noted that it starts melting
at temperatures above 60 degree Celsius and is suitable for use in low cost 3D printers.
It is biodegradable. PLA is not safe for food and is kind of brittle thereby rendering the print
vulnerable to damage.
The PLA base is often used as a support for wood filaments – another 3D printing material.
Wood filament- notably- is not really made up of wood but is a combination of fine wood
particles and PLA. The finished product ends up replicating a wood. Different types of wooden
particles including mahogany, bamboo and ebony are employed. Some of immediate benefits to
be derived are highly attractive wood-like finish—ideal for faux-wood carvings. However, the
requirement of sanding and other treatments to achieve the desired look is often regarded as a
ABS remains a suitable 3D printing material for home printers. In fact, the discussion or
discourse on PLA remains incomplete without the mention of ABS. ABS is made from spaghetti
like filament and made available in diverse color options. When it comes to low cost 3D printers,
PLA is often preferred more because it is stickier. If the print base is covered in a blue printer’s
tape or white glue then PLA sticks well to the print base. The need for a heated print base is also
PLA is also employed for the creation of metal filament. Metal filaments are made available in
various finishes including brass, bronze, steel and copper—all of which are finely ground and
combined with PLA and polymer glue. They look a lot like PLA but after you’re done polishing
them they end up replicating metals. They have the feel of metals as well.
Metal filament is expensive and you will need to conduct several experiments before figuring out
the right setting for the 3D printer. However, it is compatible with any printer whatsoever. If
you’re working on figurines and metal sculptures then this one should be your choice.
Carbon Fiber Mix
As its name suggests, this material combines the mixture of carbon fiber and other materials like
nylon or PLA to offer you an end-product backed by strength, rigidity and low-weight. However,
it should be remembered that carbon fibers make for abrasive materials that actually wear off the
hot ends of extruders fast! It is primarily used for rendering structural prints that need to be both
lightweight and strong!