3D printer filaments and materials how to. 3D printing is on the verge of becoming one of the most useful technologies of the 21st century. 3D printing enables anyone to print a 3D object by the comfort of their home. It is a complicated process made simple by convenient printers. The process is relatively simple, all you need is a consumer grade 3D printer, beginner knowledge of 3D modeling software and tool, filament and an idea of what you want to make. One of the most essential part of the process is filament.
Filament is the blood of 3D printers or in simpler terms, the ink. It is not the same type of ink used in normal printers, instead there are different types of materials which are used to make 3D objects. 3D printer filaments are available in various types and forms. The most commonly used filament is plastic while for more advanced printing metal, wood, nylon and other materials are also used.
You cannot use different materials in the same printer due to their nature and diameter. Consumer grade printers utilize plastic, nylon and wood while industry printers make use of metals, cements, flex, TPE and much more. Today, we will discuss different types of filaments used in 3D printers.
1) ABS and PLA
ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and it is one of the most popular filament used in 3D printing today. The material is highly flexible, durable and also lightweight which makes it the ideal companion of the 3D printing process. It is one of the cheapest 3D printing filament available for consumers. It requires less force for intrusion as a result it is most commonly used for small objects. The major disadvantage of using ABS is that it requires high temperatures to form an object and produces intense fumes during printing. The fumes are dangerous especially for people with breathing problems. It is recommended to use ABS 3D printers in a well-ventilated area and do not breathe during printing.
PLA stands for Polylactic Acid and it is made up of renewable resources. The biodegradable thermoplastic is also an extremely popular filament in the 3D printing community. It is better than ABS because it is more environment friendly and it is biocompatible with human body. It also requires less heat compared to ABS but it is slightly harder than the later as well.
2) HIPS and PVA
HIPS and PVA are temporary support materials in 3D printing. They are used to provide support to objects during printing, especially to those objects which hang in the air. A great feature of both HIPS and PVA is that they dissolve in water so they have excellent biodegradable properties. PVA stands for Polyvinyl Alcohol and it is very easy to print. It is mostly used in printers with dual extruders so one extruder prints the object with another filament and one extruder uses PVA as a support structure.
PVA is non-toxic and dissolves in cold and hot water. Hot water is preferred because it makes the process faster. PVA has limited applications so it cannot be used for all objects. It is supported by majority of 3D printers available today and requires less than 225 degree Celsius temperature.
HIPS is made up of High Impact Polystyrene material and it has the same purpose as PVA. It is mainly used in the packaging industry to pack food, CDs and produce trays in medicine. HIPS is also biodegradable and has similar properties compared to PVA. HIPS filaments have curling and adhesion issues so it cannot be used to produce 3D objects. Its purpose is to provide a support structure during the process and then dissolve in a colorless liquid hydrocarbon.
There are different types of Nylon materials available for 3D printing. It is not widely available but it can be a good material to work with. It is known for its biocompatibility and it is widely used in the medical industry. The most common types of Nylon filaments used in 3D printing are Nylon 618 and Nylon 645.
The major advantage of using Nylon 618 is that you do not need a heated bed for printing. Secondly, you do not have to cool down your object after printing which is quite convenient. The material has excellent bonding properties that also makes it quite strong and durable. Another great feature of Nylon 618 is that you can dye your own material in any color or shade you like. This is relatively useful if you are going to make decoration pieces for your home.
It is not actual wood that is used for 3D printing instead a material called FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) is used. It feels and smells like wood making it an excellent companion for 3D printing objects. FDM is mixture of wood and binding polymer which gives the object the feel of wood. The good thing about this filament is that it uses the same process as ABS and PLA. The only requirement is to have 3D printer with RepRap technology for processing the material. It does not require a heated bed because it sticks to the print bed and Wood filament needs temperatures in the range of 175 – 250 degrees Celsius.
You can give a different color tone to the object as well. Since the material has real wooden fibers so they change color during the process. The higher the temperatures the darker the color tone of the object will be. Above are some of the useful and affordable 3D printing filaments which you can use to print objects. All of them have good and bad properties but mostly well.