Pros and Cons of Desktop 3D Printing Materials

The art of 3D Printing has been around since the 1980s but it has only been in recent years that the technology has been adapted for home use. Today, 3D Printers can be found right beside the standard desktop computer in most computer stores and the ease of use with these devices has made it quite popular among those just beginning in the industry, whether for profit or just as a hobby. Not only does the average computer user have access to the technology, but companies offer support for the printers to help the user get the most potential from the device, such as with the OctoPrint Kit. Although the technology has come a long way, the materials used for the printing process are not always perfect. Here is a comprehensive look at the materials used within the desktop 3D Printing division alongside their pros and cons.

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A 3D Systems Cube Desktop 3D Printer

PLA

The most common 3D Printer Material is known as PLA. This environmentally friendly product, in its natural state, is completely clear and derived from a mixture of cornstarch and cane sugars. Pigments are added to give it the desired colour. Where the material itself is non-toxic, the pigments used to colour the material can be hazardous, so the coloured PLA is not the best idea for anyone choosing to print items that will be used in conjunction with drinking or eating. The other drawback to this material is that it is not as flexible as other materials for the finished product. Colour blending, however, is easy with PLA and it prints well at around 180oC.

ABS Plastic

Acrylonitrite Butadiene Styrene is the among the most widely used plastics material for a range of products throughout the world. It is commonly known as ABS plastic. The material is available in a wide range of colours and offers substantially more flexibility then PLA. The drawback to ABS plastic is that isn’t safe to be used in conjunction with drinking or eating. ABS plastic has become popular among 3D Printing enthusiasts from all over as it is readily available and its smooth, glass like finish after it is processed with acetone.

Nylon

For those who are just getting started with 3D Printer Designs, the first material they often use is nylon. Nylon can be purchased in standard white and then dyed accordingly. The color choices are not as extensive as that of the other types of plastics and those in the know suggest that you dye the material prior to use for maximum colour distribution. As with all materials for 3D Printing, there are some drawbacks. The limited colour choices are a drawback to some, but the main issue that users have with Nylon, as well as some other 3D Printing filaments, is that the material may give off toxic fumes when heated at a high temperature so proper ventilation is always recommended when using the product.

Wood

Although plastics still remain supreme in the world of 3D Printing, a newcomer has emerged as a fast contender for the other materials available. Wood has long been used by craftspeople and has now found its way into 3D Printing. The standard wood material, however, is not simply a log cut from a tree. It is a mixture of wood particles along with polymers to offer structure to the material. Some will find the fact that the material is only available in different shades of brown a bit discouraging, but the bonus of the wood based material is that it hides the standard printing lines far better than other materials.

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Baby Groot 3D Printed with wooden filament and then post processed to add colour and detail.

Pastes

Wood and plastic are not the only materials that are available for 3D Printing. The world of printing pastes is now being explored. Although this form of printing is still largely in its infancy, it is set to become quite popular in the coming years. Sugar, chocolate, and wax are the mediums behind the materials and therefore it is safer for food applications. The drawback to this form of printing is the limitation of the actual print head. Older 3D Printers may not be able to be retrofitted with a print head designed for 3D Printing pastes as an auger is often implemented to make the material easier to push through the extruding head.

The options for the average person to Buy 3D Printers today is wide open. The world is adapting to the fact that the industry is not just for those who are in the industrial printing sector. Novice 3D Printing hobbiest make up the bulk of the users today and the materials available to them are forever growing. The only caution to be given to the home use 3D Printer is to know the material you intend on using and ensure that proper ventilation is in place for safety at all times.

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