How Strong are 3D Printed Parts?

3D printing has been growing in popularity recently, as more companies have been turning to 3D printing to create more technical parts quickly.

3D printing helps companies quickly make new more complex parts in a cheaper way. However, Creating 3D printed parts uses new and different materials that may vary on their durability.

How Strong are 3D Printed Parts

In this article we will learn how strong 3D printed parts are.

Why is 3D Printing Used for Parts?

It can be argued that 3D printed parts are nowhere near as strong as metals like steel. However, they are a great alternative when it comes to designing new parts and they are still very durable. In addition, printing is a much more cost effective option for some companies.

On the surface 3D printed parts are somewhat strong, but they can be manipulated to become stronger and more durable.

Materials Used for 3D Printed Parts

The strength of any 3D printed part depends on the materials that it has been made out of. The type of material that has been used will dictate the strength of the part. Therefore, this is why the strength of 3D printed parts varies so much, because these parts are made with a range of different materials.

Yet, there are three materials that are used more frequently when it comes to 3D printing. The three materials that you will usually see the most in printing 3D parts are PLA, ABS and PETG. Below goes into more detail about each of these materials and how strong they are.

PLA

PLA is also known as Polylactic Acid. This is seen as one of the most popular materials to use for 3D printing. This is a very easy material to work with and very affordable to use as well. PLA is usually used to print plastic containers, packing materials and medical implants.

This is seen as one of the strongest materials to use when printing 3D parts. It is quite strong material, but it does have a very low melting point.

Also if the material is placed under powerful strain and impact, it can shatter or break easily. Therefore, PLA is a strong material to use, but when it is exposed to extreme high temperatures, the strength and the durability of the materials decreases.

ABS

ABS, which is also known as Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is one of the best materials out there that you can use. It isn’t as strong as PLA, but it can withstand high pressures, and instead of shattering like PLA, ABS will bend instead.

ABS is very lightweight and is extremely durable. As a result, this material is used to make pretty much anything. It is a very popular material that is used to make the children’s toy Lego. It is also used to make piping segments and computer parts.

Thanks to its extremely high melting point, ABS can withstand very high temperatures, therefore its strength doesn’t decrease the hotter the temperature it is exposed to, unlike PLA.

PETG

PETG is known as Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-Modified. This is a much more durable and denser material, thus it is used to print much more complex designs. You will see PETG used to print food containers and signage.

As this material is a lot more durable, it is also quite a bit stronger too. It is indestructible, and it can put up with a lot of pressure.

How are 3D Parts Made Even Stronger?

How Strong are 3D Printed Parts

As seen above, by themselves the materials that make 3D printed parts are very durable and strong. However, there are some things that can be done to make these parts even stronger. Yet, this added strength comes down to very small details in the design process.

Infill

Infill is what is used to fill in the walls of any 3D printed part. Without any infill, a 3D part would be completely hollow, which would make it very weak to any outside forces. The infill adds to the density of the overall 3D printed part. Infill adds more weight to the part, but helps improve the overall strength of the print as well.

There are different infill patterns that can be used, all of which improve the strength of a 3D printed part. It does depend on how much strength the part needs, which then determines how much infill the printed part should have.

Regular parts only really need 25% infill, while any part that is designed to support any kind of impact or weight is recommended to have 100%.

Number of Walls

The less walls your 3D printed part has, the weaker the part will be, as anything can cause it to collapse. It needs some kind of structure inside to support itself, which then improves its overall strength.

By increasing the number of walls inside a 3D printed part, you can increase the strength of the structure. This is ideal for larger printed parts which cover a larger surface area. As larger printed parts need much more of a structure to not only keep them up, but to give them the strength to cope with any kind of impact or force.

Wall Thickness

The thicker the wall, the more sturdy and strong the 3D printed part will be. Walls that are at least 1.2mm thick are thick and durable enough that they won’t collapse. If your walls are too thin then your part will just collapse.

If your part needs to deal with pressure and impact, then you need your walls a certain thickness for them to be able to cope with any added weight or pressure that will be applied to them.

Final Thoughts

3D printed parts can be quite strong, but it does depend on the materials used as to what their strength will be. ABS might not be as strong as PLA, but it is a lot more durable especially at high temperatures.

However, there are also methods mentioned above that can help increase the strength of any 3D printed part. There are ways to make 3D printed parts strong and they are a great alternative for many companies, when designing new parts.

Michael Moore
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