Ultimate Plastics Materials Guide for 3d Printing

From creating custom prosthetics to manufacturing a robust automotive part, the 3D printing industry is flourishing the growth across multiple industries. This advancement offers a wide range of printing materials that are more efficient, affordable, and readily available. Out of a wide range of materials, manufacturers heavily use plastic to manufacture several accessories. 

With a growing demand for rapid prototyping and on-demand printing, plastic 3d printing has become a popular choice. Even in plastic, multiple bespoke materials are available for additive manufacturing, bringing in their distinctive characteristics to match the product manufacturing demand. 

On this note, check out the most popular 3d printing plastic materials that transform the entire additive manufacturing industry with their robust applications. 

ABS

ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is among the most popular additive manufacturing material. Several industries including, automotive, consumer appliances, manufacturing, leverage this high-performance material to produce durable products. It’s a thermoplastic that has a base of elastomers which makes this material highly flexible and shock-resistant. 

ABS is a rigid material, and it can easily withstand temperatures of -20ºC to 80ºC. Along with higher strength, ABS is a reusable material, and it’s easier to weld with chemical processes. As this material is also available in powder form, it’s easier to use it with technologies like SLS. A closed chamber 3d printer is ideal for ABS as it limits particle emission while working with this material. 

PLA

PLA or polylactic acid is a widely-used biodegradable material used in several industries, and it’s among the easiest PLA materials to print. While printing with PLA, you don’t need a heated platform as it is easier to print at lower temperatures. PLA material is thermoplastic which means it’s easy and fast to melt and reshape without degrading the mechanical properties. Compared to other plastic materials, PLA is mechanically recyclable. 

PLA is a non-toxic material that does not release any harmful fumes while heating. Due to these characteristics, PLA plastic 3d printing is ideal for food container manufacturers and the medical industry. PLA has excellent mechanical properties compared to conventional polymers like polypropylene.  

ASA

Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate has identical properties to ABS material but, this material comes with excellent UV ray’s resistance. This material is formed by adding a grafted acrylic ester elastomer during copolymerization between acrylonitrile and styrene. Several companies across the industries use ASA as it offers higher thermal stability along and chemical resistance. 

ASA material offers excellent durability and resistance strength, and that’s why manufacturers use this 3d printing filament to produce outdoor accessories. With support structures, automotive manufacturing units have highly intricate geometries utilizing this material. This material is ideal for manufacturing functional prototypes that can withstand a harsh external environment. 

PC or Polycarbonate

PC is a high strength 3d printing material suitable for broad engineering applications. It offers excellent temperature resistance, and it can resist deformation up to 150ºC. Appliance and consumer products manufacturers utilize this material for manufacturing protective screens, optical parts, decorative items and more. As this material can withstand extreme temperature ranging from -150°C to 140°C, the applications of this material are significant. 

To improve Polycarbonate material’s strength and durability, manufacturers also reinforce it with carbon or glass fibers. Reinforcing is much easier with PC compared to other materials as it’s lightweight and more durable. Several companies use this 3d printing filament for their rapid prototyping purpose and comprehensive product testing. 

High-performance polymers

3d printing technology offers manufacturers a full-fledged range of high-performance polymers that come with excellent mechanical characteristics. Some of the robust polymers are ULTEM, PEEK, and PEKK. These filaments offer higher thermal resistance and are lighter in weight compared to other materials. 

Due to their lightweight and highly durable properties, these polymers are common in the aerospace, medical, and automotive industries. However, these polymers cannot print using FDM machines as come materials need heating plates that can reach at least 230°C with extrusion at 350°C. PEEK materials also have an excellent weight-to-strength ratio and are capable of replacing certain metals.

PET

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is among the most popular and widely-used 3d printing plastic material, and it’s best known for creating food containers, plastic bottles, and custom household accessories. It is a rigid material and offers good chemical resistance properties. The most significant advantage of PET material is that it doesn’t release any harmful odours while printing, and it’s fully recyclable. 

PTEG is the most used variant of PET in which the G stands for glycol-modified, which makes the material less brittle and transparent. Compared to the base form, PTEG is much easier to print as it’s flexible and durable in external conditions. PETG is a good alternative between PLA and ABS material. Warping is minimum in this material which makes it suitable for manufacturing accessories that need higher heat resistance. 

TPU

Thermoplastic Polyurethane is a flexible and abrasion-resistant thermoplastic, and it is suitable for both industrial and personal 3d printing applications. 3d printed TPU parts are durable and can withstand temperature up to 80°C. 

As it offers resistance against several chemicals, it’s ideal for many in-house industrial applications. TPU has multiple variations, but the two most popular classifications are Polyether Polyurethane and Polyester Polyurethane. 

Nylon

Nyon is a widely employed 3d printing materials that several industries use to create custom products. The objects made from nylon material are created using white, fine, granular powder using SLS 3d printing technology. However, some variants are also compatible with FDM technology for quick prototyping. As it’s a biocompatible material, manufacturers use it to create parts that come in contact with edibles. 

Nylon has a semi-crystalline structure, and it has an excellent balance of mechanical and chemical properties. Due to its design, nylon offers good rigidity, shock resistance, flexibility, and stability. With such high-performance advantages, several industries use nylon as their primary manufacturing material. From producing automotive gears to robot parts, medical prosthetics, and aeronautical parts — nylon offers comprehensive applications. 

PVA

Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic is a water-soluble 3d manufacturing plastic material, and industries use it as a thickener, glue, or packaging film. In 3d printing, PVA is an ideal material choice for creating supports for products that may collapse during the printing process. Several printers have two or more extruders, and engineers can use one to create a support structure and the other one to create the product. 

Once the printing is done, the product is dipped in water until the PVA support structure dissolves completely. 3D is known for manufacturing complex geometrical designs, and PVA is an excellent and affordable material choice to support those designs. 

Alumide

Alumide is a modern plastic material that is made using a combination of polyamides and aluminium powder. Manufacturers use this material to print high-strength products using SLS technology. Alumide has a grainy and porous surface finish, and it offers temperature resistance up to 170°C. 

This 3d printing material is suitable for producing complex geometrical structures, display models, and functional models that need high rigidity. As alumide has aluminium in its composition, the appearance is similar to the metal. However, the geometrical complexities are limited with this material while performing rapid prototyping. 

Final Thoughts

3d printing is revolutionizing the entire industrial domain, and it has the capability of replacing traditional methods. With the availability of a comprehensive range of plastic and other 3d printing materials, the scope of innovation is infinite. As the demand for robust additive manufacturing is overgrowing, several companies now offer professional 3d printing services in Perth, Sydney, and many other places worldwide. 

 

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