Printing technology has grown leaps and bounds since the advent of 3D printing technology. The power to print objects in three dimension has made, not just school science projects more interesting but also impacted the manufacturing industry in many ways. Earlier, all you needed was a sheet of paper and an ink cartridge to print, the 3D printers now use everything right from plastics to edible things like even chocolate. 3D printing materials can range from materials including metals, resins, ceramics and more. The most popular material is plastic and most of the desktop style printers, print objects using plastic. But high-end 3D printers are capable of using many different materials. The types of 3D printing materials used in 3d printing depends on the products to be manufactured. You can’t use human body cells, as a material to prepare an aerospace machine model!

The materials not only vary in types but differ in state, form and shapes. It can be filament, granules, powder, etc. Now that we know how important the materials used in 3D printing are, let’s see what types of printing materials can be used. There are too many 3D printing materials available in the market, so we will be focusing on the most important ones.

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Plastics used in 3D printing

The most used material for 3D printing is Plastic. In desktop printers and even in the high end 3D printers, plastic used as the 3D printing material. Nylon, or Polyamide, is commonly used in powder form with the sintering process or in filament form with the FDM process. It is a strong, flexible and durable plastic material that has proved reliable for 3D printing. It is naturally white in colour but it can be coloured — pre- or post printing. This material can also be combined (in powder format) with powdered aluminum to produce another common 3D printing material for sintering — Alumide.

ABS is another common plastic used for 3D printing, and is widely used on the entry-level FDM 3D printers in filament form. It is a particularly strong plastic and comes in a wide range of colours. ABS can be bought in filament form from a number of non-propreitary sources, which is another reason why it is so popular.

PLA is a bio-degradable plastic material that has gained traction with 3D printing for this very reason. It can be utilized in resin format for DLP/SL processes as well as in filament form for the FDM process. It is offered in a variety of colours, including transparent, which has proven to be a useful option for some applications of 3D printing. However it is not as durable or as flexible as ABS. LayWood is a specially developed 3D printing materials used for entry-level extrusion 3D printers. It comes in filament form and is a wood/polymer composite (also referred to as WPC). [Source]

Other 3D printing materials used

1) RESIN: (Multiple options)
  • Also called White-, Black-, Transparent detail / White detail resin / High detail-, Transparent-, Paintable Resin
  • Rigid and a bit delicate
  • Liquid Photopolymer cured with UV light
  • White, black & transparent most typical colors
  • About 10 layers per 1mm
  • 1mm minimum wall thickness
  • Very strong material
  • Made with multiple steps or from powder directly
  • Coloring options like gold and bronze plating
  • About 6 layers per 1mm
  • 3mm minimum wall thickness
  • Strong materials
  • Made from wax and then casted
  • About 10 layers per 1mm
  • 0.5mm minimum wall thickness
  • Rigid & delicate
  • First ceramic is printed then surface is glazed
  • Ceramic white, glaze typically white
  • About 6 layers per 1mm
  • 3mm minimum wall thickness [Source]

These are just a few very commonly used materials for 3D printing. As previously established, the type of material depends on the type of product to be manufactured. In case of bio printing, the materials will be cells, or body tissues. Not just that, food industry are using 3D printing technology by experimenting with food substitutes. There are also printers that work with sugar, pasta and meat.

Flexible 3D printing materials

The choice of material that one selects not only depends on what product one is making, but also varies from characteristics of the materials used. The traits can be tensile strength, ductility, etc. One of the most important trait of them all is flexibility. What flexibility does is that it adds strength to the product and increases its durability.

To begin its examination into flexible filaments, 3D Matter studied six flexible filaments relying on criteria provided by users, including the degree of flexibility, as well as overall quality, performance, and ease-of-use. The team tested filaments from NinjaFlex, Recreus, Oo-Kuma, Polymaker and MadeSolid on a Colido v2.0 and Makergear M2 3D printers at speeds of 20mm/s and layer heights of .2 mm, before putting their prints through such tests as those related to shore hardness, tensile strength and elongation at break, and elasticity. Other, less quantifiable features taken into account were characteristics like surface finish, consistency across prints, geometrical accuracy, and how well the filament could be fed into a printer without issue. [Source]

References: tips for best results with flexible filament, Other Materials, Plastics used 3d printing,, what materials do 3d printers use, why have 3d printers in the classroom