An Introduction to the Latest Materials Used in 3D Printing

The technology of 3D printing has been around for decades, and it has recently come into the mainstream. What was once a novelty is now becoming an increasingly important part of how we build and design our world – with the global market size valued at USD 13.78 billion dollars as of 2020 (and still expected to grow).

As it’s a single step manufacturing process, industries such as automotive, maritime, electronics and many others are increasingly able to reduce both the time and money spent on the production process. It also means that the products coming out of these factories are more innovative as they can be made from different types of materials.

3D printing allows you to utilise a wide array of materials based on what object you’d like to print, delivering greater flexibility and offer customisation for your business. If you’re keen to learn more, scroll down to see which materials will best suit your 3D printing needs!

The Popular 3D Printing Materials Available in Singapore

Plastic

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS): Known for its strong heat and wear resistance, ABS is an extremely popular thermoplastic in 3D printing. Due to its popularity, material manufacturers have released different variations of ABS materials which has capability to be heat- and chemical-resistant – catering to both the desktop and industrial type 3D printers. For example, ABS-ESD7 material prevents a build-up of static electricity for end-use components, electronic products, industrial equipment, and jigs and fixtures for assembly of electronic components.

ABS is commonly used by product designers, engineers and researchers when making their prototypes and Lego, the world largest toy manufacturer uses ABS.

ABS-ESD7 through FDM 3D Printing by Additive3D Asia

Polylactic acid (PLA): Another popular thermoplastic material, PLA is affordable and environmentally-friendly, making it biodegradable. PLA is stronger and stiffer than ABS, but poor heat-resistance properties mean PLA is mostly a hobbyist material. It is safe and easy to use at homes and schools as it does not release any harmful toxic fumes when heated and during the 3D printing process.

However, PLA is not an engineering grade material like ABS and will not be able to withstand high heat. Additionally, it may not be suitable for outdoor use. Due to its low melting point, PLA is commonly used as decorative parts, simple prototypes as well as for cosplay props or in school projects.  

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a polyester-based material that combines excellent mechanical, electrical and thermal properties with strong chemical resistance and dimensional stability. PET also has low moisture absorption features and good flow properties, making it a great material to use for waterproof containers such as food and beverage storage. It is usually adopted to create lightweight products such as potted planters, insulated bottles, or tupperware.

Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol (PETG): An upgraded version of PET, PETG is a synthetic thermoplastic polyester that provides significant chemical resistance, durability, and excellent formability for manufacturing. PETG is an all-around filament with good light diffusion and layer adhesion that makes it suitable for lamp shades, car cup holders or more functional product design prototypes. It is an affordable filament that has balanced mechanical properties, ease of printing, and can also be recycled.

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU): TPU is known for its durability, strength, flexibility, as well as its resistance to water, abrasions and chemicals. 3D printed parts with TPU can withstand ambient temperatures of up to 80 degrees Celsius. Due to these properties, it’s popularly used by the footwear and sporting goods industry as well as aerospace and automotive industry for a variety of custom-made parts. 

Carbon Fibre (CF): Carbon fibre use tiny fibres that are infused into a base material to improve the properties of that material. Boasting a high strength-to-weight ratio, this material can be split into two methods. Chopped Fibres are printed via FDM, while Continuous Fibres are via a process called Continuous Fibre Fabrication (CFF). These fibres are extremely strong and cause the filament to increase in strength and stiffness. This also means that the 3D printed parts will be much lighter and more dimensionally stable, as the fibres will help prevent shrinking of the part as it cools.

Carbon Fibre applications include jigs and fixtures, tooling, metal part replacement and is used across different industries from manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, robotics and etc.

Powder

Nylon: An extremely dependable material, nylon is commonly used in 3D printing – notably glass-filled (GF) nylon, polyamide nylon from PA-12 and PA2200. It’s strong, flexible, durable, and is usually made via Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) or MultiJet Fusion (MJF) 3D printing technology. Take a look at how you can stand to benefit from utilising nylon in your 3D printing process. Parts or products made from Nylon can be used as a high-quality prototype or for end-use application.

Nylon dyed red through SLS by Additive3D Asia

Resin

ABS like Resin: As the name suggests, this material acts similarly to ABS and is made using Stereolithography (SLA) technology, with properties such as good strength, fluidity and a very smooth finish. The ABS resin produces parts that are extremely accurate, have excellent humidity resistance, and commendable durability. Application can include high detailed models, prototypes and even end-use parts for products requiring an injection-like surface finishing. Take a look at our data sheet for the full breakdown.

Metal

Stainless Steel: This type of material boasts many positive traits such as high durability, heat resistance and efficient production time. As such, metal 3D printing is used in many industries ranging from dental, aerospace, automotive, marine, oil & gas and even to high-end jewellery via Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) and other metal 3D printing technology. 

Titanium: Titanium is known for being both the lightest 3D-printed metal and also the strongest. Due to this (and its non-corrosive properties), its usage is common amongst heavy duty industries such as aerospace for airframe and wing structures. Titanium can also be used to create smaller parts like compressor blades, rotors and other turbine engine components and medicine for orthopaedic devices like spine, hip and knee implants.

Metal 3D printing is not cheap but is affordable and should be viewed from being able to achieve a better ROI due to its ability to produce metal parts at a shorter timeframe. This enables high customisation and can make geometry challenging designs which traditional metal process like CNC, forging or welding are unable to produce.

Others

Graphite/Graphene: Graphite material is commonly printed via SLS, and is good for companies looking for a strong and affordable material. Graphene – meanwhile – is a relatively new material in 3D printing, but is labelled the strongest, most flexible and thinnest material worldwide, and is commonly printed via Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM).

Ceramics: This material is strong, stable and boasts low density and high resistance to abrasions, corrosion, chemicals and heat. They’re usually printed as end-use items or even as food related products.

Explore the Possibilities Today

Not only do 3D printed parts have the ability to mimic both the quality and durability of traditionally made parts, the process is also more time and financially efficient compared to customary methods of production. As such, this industry will almost definitely continue to revolutionise how industry parts are being manufactured, as they continue to aid corporations in reaching economies of scale.

If you’re a business looking to start your 3D printing journey, reach out to us at Additive3DAsia, and we’ll help you get started!