How to Choose the Right 3D Printing Materials for Your Project

3D printing is a booming market. By 2028, the 3D printing market is expected to more than triple its current valuation. 

The technology of 3D printing has always been advanced and, until recently, has always been costly. 3D printers used to cost thousands of pounds to own. Now, you can purchase a 3D printer for less than the cost of a used air conditioner. 

3D printers are used in almost every industry. 3D printing is especially powerful in industries such as engineering, medicine, and manufacturing.  Artists, engineers, architects, and designers are all able to bring their creations and designs to life using 3D printers. 

If you're new to the 3D printing market and want to create of project of your own, it's important to have the right materials together. Choosing the right 3D printing materials for your next project is the first step to ensuring you've designed a successful project. Let's explore why.

Why Choosing the Right 3D Printing Materials Matter

No two 3D printing materials are the same. Printing materials can be a wide range of things, such as plastic, nylon, carbon fibre, metal, graphite, and even powder. Based on what your desired project is each type of material will come with a set of pros and cons.

Plastics and resins dominate the materials market. As a result, plastics are the most common material used in 3D printing. Most of the material options available to you will be a type of plastic, but there are still plenty of other options on the market.

Think About Cost 

It's also important to consider the cost of your materials. Just like the type of material, the price to be paid will be varied.

Some materials are inexpensive, such as most plastics. Others, like certain metals and powders, can cost a pretty penny. If you're not careful you can end up paying more for material than you originally anticipated.

There is also an immediate area cost that comes with 3D printing. If you're using certain types of metals or resins in your printing process you must consider your printer's support structures, heat specifications, and post-processing requirements. Each of these things are crucial to the printing process because they can make or break your project.

The Most Common Materials

The number of possible material combinations is almost endless. Let's look at some different 3D printing materials to get a better idea of why choosing the right 3D printing materials matter.

Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing uses a light-sensitive fluid, which solidifies into a solid polymer when exposed to a certain light source. This technology is commonly used to create 3D printing prototypes from functional models, sculptures, and research equipment.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is another popular 3D printing technology that is used to create prototypes, functional models, and even creative artistic models. With an FDM printer, a spool of thermoplastic filament is fed into a thermal heating device that melts the thermoplastic and extrudes it through a nozzle. The melted thermoplastic is then deposited layer by layer to form a model.

Laser-Based Sintering (SLS)

SLS technology creates a model by sintering powdered or granular material with a laser. SLS technology works by applying a layer of powder at a time to the surface of your model. The laser then traces the pattern needed to create the next layer. This process repeats until the model is complete.

Nylon

Nylon is a strong and flexible material used for 3D printing durable objects. Nylon is a highly popular material because of its resistance to heat, fatigue, and abrasions. It must be kept in an air tight container, however, because it is prone to water-absorption. 

Polylactic Acid (PLA)

PLA is a plastic polymer made from biological materials such as corn and sugarcane. It can come as both a hard and soft material and is completely biodegradable. PLA is the most common type of material for individuals with non-industrial 3D printers. 

Graphite

Graphite is a strong, durable carbon material used to produce many kinds of products. Objects created using graphite are flexible, such lithium ion batteries and car parts.

Choosing the Right 3D Printing Materials For Your Project

When it comes to choosing the right 3D printing materials for your next project, the first thing to keep in mind is time. For example, if you need a 3D printing prototype right away, you're going to want to choose an SLA printer, which can create a prototype in one or two hours.

If you need a 3D printing prototype that's more durable, you'll want to choose a 3D printing material that is made from a different material than what your final product will be made of. For example, if you want your prototype to be made of steel, you can create a prototype out of a plastic that's designed to simulate steel.

While it's true that material choice is the easiest way to determine your 3D printing material, there are other ways to determine what 3D printing materials fit your needs. For example, if you need to 3D print a large-scale model, you will need to use a larger build volume.

If you need to create a 3D printing prototype that is lightweight, you will need to use a material with a lower density. If you need to create a model that stands out, you will want to use a material that has a distinctive color.

In the end, the most effective way to determine the right 3D printing material for your needs is to use trial and error.

The (3D Printing) World Is Your Oyster

Ultimately, the best 3D printing materials are the ones that you feel most comfortable using. The most important thing is to have fun. If you enjoy what you're doing with 3D printing, then you're more likely to continue using it and to continue learning about it.

If you liked what you read here, be sure to check out our blog for more on the best 3D printing content. 

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