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How do I choose the best 3D printing materials for my project?

Each 3D printing material out there comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. It can be difficult to choose the best materials for your project. We aim to demystify the situation by offering this free guide on our website.

Do you have a project, but not the equipment? Not a problem. Here at DreamLab3D, based in Traverse City, Michigan, we offer prototyping and 3d printing services to the globe! Let’s get in touch.

3D Printing Materials

ABS

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Highly Available with a large variety of colors
  • Applicable to just about any printerWarping
  • Mechanically strong
  • Longer lifespan

Cons

  • Toxic
  • Requires heated bed
  • Warping
  • Not suitable for use with food

PLA

Pros

  • Easy to print
  • Easily available in a variety of colors
  • Can be printed on a cold surface
  • High speed printing
  • Low warping

Cons

  • Not very sturdy
  • Can deform when exposed to heat
  • Difficult to post-process

Nylon

Pros

  • High durability
  • Flexible yet strong
  • Easily dyed by leaving it soaked
  • Produces smooth prints
  • UV and chemical resistance

Cons

  • Constantly meant to be kept dry in moisture free containers
  • Printer suitability varies
  • May require alterations to printers just to use
  • Can expire
  • Nylon sometimes shrinks during prints, and thus results can be imprecise

Polypropylene (PP)

Pros

  • Recyclable
  • Resistant to many solvents
  • Does not require complex heating apparatus
  • Stiff and strong
  • Color retention
  • Resistant to bacterial growth

Cons

  • Impacted by UV
  • Expensive (more so than PE)
  • Heavy warping
  • Difficult to print (very few printers currently manage it)

Resin (3D Printing Liquid)

Pros

  • Many applications
  • Allows a wide spectrum of strength and flexibility

Cons

  • Rarer than most materials
  • Expensive
  • Heat can cause premature polymerisation
  • Needs to be stored safely due to high photo-reactivity
  • Can expire

ASA

Pros

  • More durable than ABS
  • Heat resistant
  • UV resistant
  • Less wear and tear over time
  • Minimised shrinkage

Cons

  • More expensive than standard thermoplastics
  • Less availability of filaments
  • Only certain printers can process it
  • Requires more precision with cooling

Polycarbonate (PC)

Pros

  • Flexible and durable
  • High tensile strength
  • Not extremely difficult to print
  • Transparent
  • Diverse applications
  • Standard melting temperature

Cons

  • Necessitates use of heated bed to avoid warping
  • Varying levels of filament quality that depend on price
  • Environment needs to be kept warm for optimum quality

PETG

Pros

  • Low warping
  • Recyclable
  • Easy to print and has good layer adhesion
  • Durable
  • Can be sterilized
  • Good for food and drink containment

Cons

  • Requires very accurate temperature conditions to get right
  • PET becomes brittle from overheating (though not PETG)
  • PETG can be weakened with UV light
  • Prone to scratches (more than PLA)

HIPS

Pros

  • Very smooth
  • Very durable
  • Wide range of applications
  • Dis-solvable and great as a support material

Cons

  • Strong fumes
  • Constant heat flow
  • High level of warping/ can cause clogging in the extruder

PEEK

Pros

  • Very high strength
  • Non-toxic
  • Rivals metals for functionality of parts
  • Great chemical resistance

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Requires very high temperature
  • Only industrial grade equipment can print it

TPU / TPE

Pros

  • Uniquely flexible
  • Range of blends and characteristics
  • Resistant to oils, greases and multiple solvents
  • Low abrasion
  • Low shrinkage

Cons

  • Consistent temperature from the extruder required
  • Requires direct drive extruder (Bowden extruders may tangle it)

Acetal (POM)

Pros

  • High Stiffness and strength
  • High chemical resistance
  • Good elastic resistance
  • Good heat resistance

Cons

  • Degrades when overheated
  • Requires controlled heating and ventilation
  • Affected by moisture

PVA

Pros

  • Great for complex prints
  • Water soluble
  • Bonds very well to other thermoplastics
  • Biodegradable
  • Safe to print

Cons

  • Needs to be contained in a moisture free environment
  • Impractical for functional prints

ULTEM

Pros

  • ULTEM has a high specific strength comparable to aluminum
  • Great heat resistance and flame resistance with low smoke evolution
  • Excellent machinability
  • Resistant to environmental forces
  • Absorbs minimal moisture
  • Various composites like carbon-fiber are also available

Cons

  • Requires high temperature to print
  • Costlier than most thermoplastics
  • Requires better print chamber
  • Requires stable heating and even temperature distribution

 

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