3D printing is a manufacturing process that has gained a lot of popularity and interest in recent years.
This is now because 3D printers are way more accessible and you can even purchase one to have at home, allowing a lot of people to 3D print parts and products for their own personal use.
It’s an amazing step forward in manufacturing history, but a lot of people don’t actually know the amazing lengths 3D printing can go. Thanks to recent progress made with 3D printing technology, we can now print three dimensional objects with way more materials than just plain old plastic.
But what materials can you use in 3D printing and which ones can you use at home?
Today, we are going to be looking at 3D printers and materials. If you are wondering what we can use to print these days, then take a peek below and discover the amazing power of 3D printing!
What Is 3D Printing?
3D printings is an innovative way to manufacture products that has taken the world by storm. Although the idea has been kicked around for decades, we finally have the technology to print objects.
It involved making three dimensional objects from a digital file, by laying down successive layers to a material until the object is completed.
This means that a thin layer of a material is laid down, left to set, then another layer is set on top. This process repeats itself until the object is fully completed and is made from many thin layers of the same material.
Unlike subtractive manufacturing, there is no cutting out or hollowing used in 3D printing. This process allows you to make more complex shapes and designs with less material and risk of mistakes. It’s easy to see why 3D printing is so popular – it is more cost effective and still produces good quality products.
3D printing is on the rise, and so, the technology involving this process is constantly being worked on and improved. With many companies and businesses turning to 3D printing to make car parts and other products, it looks like the future is built in 3D.
What Material Does A 3D Printer Use?
3D printers have come a long way since its early conception.
Originally, most 3D printers could only use plastics but now that 3D printing technology is being used worldwide and is constantly being developed, we can now print with a lot of different materials.
Plastic is still the most common material used in 3D printing, but it is not the kind of plastic you find everyday. The two most common types of plastic used in 3D printing are PLA and ABS.
PLA stands for Poly Lactic Acid, and this is the most used 3D printing material. It is biodegradable and made from renewables such as cornstarch. Because it has a low melting point (between 315 and 338 degrees Fahrenheit), PLA is used in a lot of home-based 3D printers.
This means that if you are looking for your very own 3D printer to use in your house, you will most likely use PLA as your go-to material.
ABS stands for Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, and this material is used to create sturdier products. If you need to make products that are stronger and more flexible, then ABS is the best suited material.
It is very cheap to buy, so a lot of companies use it to make car components or household appliances for very little cost.
However, 3D printing technology has advanced so far that we are no longer limited to using plastics. Today, there are many types of 3D printers that can use a bunch of different materials to make products for all kinds of purposes, even if you can’t use them all at home with your 3D printer.
Metal is the second most used material in 3D printing, coming in behind plastic. 3D printing metal involves a technique called Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) that can be used to make a finished industrial product.
3D printing with metal is already used in industries like aviation and jewelry using DMLS printing to manufacture parts and products quickly and easily. These products can now be mass-produced, and have better features and attributes than other metals like steel and copper.
The metals created and used for 3D printing are becoming better conductors of electricity and heat, and sometimes have higher tensile strength.
The two most common metals used in 3D printing are aluminum and cobalt derivatives. Stainless steel is also commonly used in its powder form for certain processes, and more recently, gold and silver have been used to make 3D printed jewelry.
To be able to 3D print metal at home, you will have to purchase a specialized 3D printer that has been built specifically for 3D printing metal. These printers are very expensive and so, they are mainly used by businesses and companies rather than individual people in their own home.
Another material that is now used in 3D printing is carbon fiber. Carbon fiber undergoes an oxidation process that stretches the polymer so it can be added to more traditional plastics.
This new carbon fiber form can be very strong, and its development has led companies to begin looking into 3D printing with more fragile materials like glass.
Again, this material is mostly used by a select few companies who have the funds to use such technology, so it’s unlikely you will be able to 3D print with fiberglass just yet.
There are also a lot of other materials that are used on industry levels: ceramics, bio materials, paper and even food! However, these materials are still being worked with and some have been printed with varying levels of success.
It may be a couple of decades before you can print your own chocolate bar on demand, but the good news is that it is currently being worked on.
A couple of decades ago, we could only dream of being able to print 3D objects. Progress and research has managed to help us advance to that level, so who knows what else we will be able to 3D print with next – food, cells, glass?
While these processes are currently underdevelopment, you can now 3D print from the comfort of your own home using plastics like PLA and ABS. Who knows, in a couple of years, you could be printing using chocolate – just imagine that!