What 3D printing material is best suited for your project?

Asking yourself some simple questions can help you make the right choice. You can select the best 3D printing materials for your project once you have determined what your part will do and how well it will hold up.

What is the nature of your application?

The application for your 3D printed product is a significant factor in selecting the suitable material. You may also find that subtractive techniques, like CNC machining, are ideal.

Here are some popular applications and materials that are used.

Prototyping

The purpose of prototyping can be varied, but they are generally produced to see how the final product will look and feel and to model the design. Most prototyping materials include nylon, ABS, PLA (polylactic acid), and resin.

Functional prototypes/parts

They are used to test and observe mechanical properties such as links’ movement, strength, operation, and impact on adjacent components. You may use cheaper materials, such as Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETG) and PLA. However, if you need a higher level of functionality, you will have to go with more expensive materials.

Parts with intricate details

Most 3D printing materials or processes can offer viable solutions for parts with intricate detail above 100 microns (0.01mm). Users must use a high-detail 3D printer and a suitable material for the application.

Strength and durability

Nylon and ABS are the best materials to choose if you need a part that will last for an extended period. ABS is an industrial-grade material already used in various mainstream applications. Nylon is also a durable material with high impact resistance. HP Nylon PA 11 or PA 12 produces parts with excellent mechanical properties, scalable production runs, and optimal mechanical properties. Tough PLA is a blend of PLA that’s tougher.

Aesthetics

When aesthetics are more important than other aspects of a print, a few materials or technologies will be perfect for the job.
The best choice for budget-constrained people is PLA, which can be painted or electroplated. PETG can be used if transparent parts are required.

If you don’t have a budget constraint, resin 3D printing is a good option. It produces a smooth finish without compromising the intricate details. Materials can also be formulated to meet specific requirements, such as toughness, biocompatibility, or flexibility.

You can also use nylon for full-color 3D printing to create multi-colored, functional parts.

What is your particular concern?

You will find that many applications have specific requirements or risks. In these situations, you must consider certain factors when selecting your
material to ensure your product can handle the job. You may require some specific specifications for your product.

Flame-retardant

The part must be flame retardant if placed in an area with a high fire risk. This is a must, and no compromises can be made.
Users can choose from various flame retardant materials, including DSM Novamid® AM1030FR(F), Arkema fluorX™, Clariant’s PA6/66GF20 Flame Resistant using Exolit®, and others.

Biocompatible

Biocompatible materials are required for parts that frequently come into contact with the skin or have a medical purpose. Even after prolonged usage, the material must not cause any adverse effects to anyone using the product. These materials are available for all 3D printing technologies. They should be discussed before production with a 3D print professional.

Weather resistant

The ideal material for outdoor use is acrylonitrile-styrene-acrylate (ASA). Both materials are resistant to water and can withstand temperature fluctuations. The properties of these materials are not affected by extended outdoor use.

Heat resistant

In many applications, the part must be able to withstand high temperatures. Some materials cannot withstand prolonged exposure to heat and can deform immediately or over time. Heat-resistant materials such as polyether-ether-ketone (PEEK), high-temperature resin for SLA/DLP, and multi-jet-fusion PA12 are recommended for reliable performance.

Flexible

Popular materials for applications that require flexibility and elasticity include TPU (in FDM/FFF), elastic material (in SLA/DLP), polyether block-amide (PEBA) (material used in SLS), or TPU01 (and TPU88A) in Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF).

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