Plastic is the substance that first made 3D printing of any kind possible, and plastic remains one of the most common and versatile types of materials used in 3D printing. Of course, the most used material for 3-d printing is plastic. In desktop printers and even in the high end 3-d printers, plastic is used as the 3d printing material.
There are several notable thermoplastics that can be used with this process, producing a variety of results depending upon their base properties and the various ones used in 3D printing are as follows;
- Polylactic Acid (PLA): It’s probably no surprise that one of the most commonly used bioplastics in the world would also dominate in 3D printing. A biodegradable thermoplastic aliphatic polyester, PLA is made from renewable, organic resources like corn starch or sugarcane. It’s commonly used to make food packaging and biodegradable medical devices and implants. PLA is great for 3D printing because it’s easy to work with, environmentally friendly, available in a variety of colours, and can be used as either a resin or filament.
- Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS): A terpolymer fabricated by polymerizing styrene and acrylonitrile with polybutadiene, ABS is another plastic commonly used in 3D printing. Beginners especially favour it for its ease of use in its filament form, and because it’s durable, strong, heat-resistant, cost-effective and flexible. However, because it’s petroleum-based and not biodegradable, ABS is losing popularity among 3D hobbyists who prefer the more eco-friendly nature of PLA. Also, when heated in a 3D printer for the fabrication process, ABS can give off fumes that might be irritating.
- Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic (PVA): A water-soluble plastic, PVA is most commonly used as a glue, thickener or packaging film. In the world of 3D printing, PVA isn’t necessarily used to make the finished product, but rather to create a support structure for portions of a product that may warp or collapse during the printing process. In printers with two or more extruders, the user can employ one or more extruders to create a support structure of PVA while the others work to create the actual product out of other materials. When the printing is done, the finished and cured product can be dunked in water until the PVA support structure dissolves away.
- High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS): This is s a tough durable material akin to ABS though not the cheapest option. HIPS uses Limonene as a solvent which tends to make the finished part smell slightly of lemons, but that’s not all bad is it. The heater element of the printer needs to be controlled quite finely with this material otherwise there will be a fair degree of warping as the hot material is placed on the cooling layer, but with smaller parts (which you’ll probably want to do anyway since it’s an expensive base material) the speed of printing should be just fine to prevent warpage.
- Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE): This is an exciting new innovation which allows the printing of a soft, elastomer material, similar to soft rubber. This makes components that can have a slight stretch and give as needed rather than the ridged parts mad from other materials. With even the cheapest 3D printers being capable of producing multi-layup components, the stage is set to produce hard articles, such as shows, that have a soft and fielding internal area.
The range of materials that can be used in 3D printing continues to expand and evolve along with the process and its applications. The other plastics used involve Nylon, polyamide is commonly used in powder form with its sintering process or the 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 aluminium to produce another common 3d printing material for sintering which is alumide.