3D Printing Materials


Close up picture of 3D filament
Photo of roll of 3D printer filament

For this week's post, I wanted to talk about the different types of materials that are available for 3D printing and what they are all about. I have included a link that does a much better job of explaining it than I can. I encourage you to give it a read: http://3dprintingfromscratch.com/common/3d-printer-filament-types-overview/.

When I started Lyforms Small-Scale, ABS was the only material used because my first printer would only work with it. As I acquired new equipment, the material options expanded. PLA was the first plastic to try and I immediately liked it. Its strength properties proved to be just as well suited for Lyforms Small-Scale kits and parts as ABS. The same adhesives could be used to glue the pieces together. PLA is made from sustainable materials and it is biodegradable.

Along with these, there are a few other reasons why I decided that it was time for Lyforms Small-Scale to switch to PLA. ABS gives off strong fumes when printing which, even with air filtration, had me concerned. I didn't want to expose people to that. It also isn't bio degradable, so whatever is printed using ABS will be around for a very long time.

Over the past few months, I began to expand my horizans by printing in new materials. It's been a lot of fun experimenting with filaments made from wood composites, TPU (flexible), and FDA-approved PLA. Next on the list are PETG and carbon fiber.

Through this experimentation, a lot has been learned about these materials properties and how they behave. Each has their own temperature settings for the nozzles due to their different melting points. Some start turning soft at lower temperatures than others. I love the smell of the wood filament when it reaches that point.

They require different amounts of filament retraction where the wheels that feed the filament through the nozzles pull the filament back up while the print heads are moved to print a new layer. Some materials, like TPU, which are softer,  require no retraction as it would grind down the filament.

The future is bright for 3D printing. More and more materials are added to the list almost every day which means that they are becoming less of a limitation which means more opportunities for this exciting technology!!