Today, there’s a multitude of 3D printing processes that let you print all kinds of objects in three dimensions. We can divide the materials used in 3D printing into four main categories: plastics, metals, organic materials, and ceramic.
- ABS: a thermoplastic polymer, ABS is the same plastic used in many toys for children. Since it can easily be bent without breaking, it lets you obtain a polished surface. It’s mainly used in the fused deposition modelling (FDM) technique.
- PLA: derived from renewable materials such as cornstarch, PLA is a biodegradable polymer often used in fused filament fabrication 3D printing. It’s used in the manufacturing process for objects that come into contact with food products, such as plates.
- Polyamides: available in powder form, polyamides are used in the fused filament fabrication process. For example, nylon is also commonly used to manufacture parts resistant to humid – even saline – environments and durable mechanical parts. Nylon prints also have the advantage of being able to be dyed with food colouring.
- Resins: thermoplastic or thermosetting resins are the base material for stereolithography, since they let you make complex prints with great precision. They’re also used in Polyjet 3D printing, which combines materials and colours. They’re found in the manufacturing of foundry and injection moulds, and in architecture, medicine, and toy manufacturing.
After plastics, metals are the most commonly used materials in 3D printing.
- Titanium: extremely light and corrosion-resistant, titanium-based 3D prints are primarily made in the automotive, aeronautical, and medical sectors.
- Stainless steel: with its high resistance to corrosion and its ductility, stainless steel is commonly used in 3D printing in the industrial sector.
- Aluminum: light and resistant, it’s frequently used to manufacture moulds with complex shapes or thin walls.
- Cobalt: tough and resistant, cobalt-chromium-based 3D prints often take the form of dentures. Since some variants can withstand very high temperatures, they’re also found in mould manufacturing.
- Food: today, many foods – such as cheese, almond paste, and chocolate – can be 3D-printed.
- Waxes: in the dental and jewelry sectors, waxes are used to manufacture high-precision moulds.
- Biological tissues: by injecting a gel into cells, they’re allowed to grow. Incredible progress has been accomplished over the past few months in the medical field; for example, cartilage and muscles can now be created using 3D printing.
Ceramic is often used in 3D printing technologies such as FDM, SLS (selective laser sintering), and binder jetting techniques, as well as in the SLA process by combining liquid resin with ceramic. A food-grade material, ceramic-based 3D prints are found in plate and figurine manufacturing. After printing comes the essential enamelling phase, which submits the object to temperatures of over 1000°C to give it a smooth, shiny appearance.
For several years now, 3D printing has been used in industrial production and is becoming increasingly popular in fields such as health, sports, and cooking. 3D technology is revolutionizing the world, and in light of its amazing progress, it doesn’t show any signs of stopping.