Market demand for 3D printing & 3D printers continues to expand, with a wide range of industries from Medicine to Aerospace adopting 3D printing in their operations. This market expansion & the need to cater diverse product & design requirements across industries has resulted in a host of new 3D printing materials to be discovered. From plastics, resins & metals, Carbon Fibre & Nitinol are also being used for 3D printing based on specific project requirements.
Plastics remain the most common 3D printing material to be used today. Plastics offer the advantage of multiple applications for products from ranging from utensils, toys & action figures to household fixtures. Plastics are the most affordable 3D printing material, a major reason for them being the choice of creators & consumers as well. Polysastic Acid or PLA filaments are eco-friendly, as they are sourced form natural products. Found both in hard & soft forms they are expected to be the most common material for 3D printing, with hard PLA being ideal for a broad range of products. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS is another plastic that is commonly used in home-based 3D printers. Available in various colours, ABS is used mostly for making Toys, Jewellery, due to its high flexibility & firmness. Some other plastics used for 3D printing are Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic or PVA & Polycarbonate or PC. PVA & PC however do not offer the range of applications provided by PLA or ABS due to lower strength & are often low-cost alternatives.
Resins are also used as 3D printing materials, but have less flexibility & strength as compared to plastics. High detail resins are used for models that require intricate details, while paintable resins are used for smooth surface 3D prints. Transparent resin is the strongest resin material & is suitable for a large range of 3D printed products.
Manufacturers of air-travel equipment & makers of aircraft use metals to 3D print parts & aircraft, using a method called Direct Metal Laser Sintering or DMLS. The technique is also used for a diverse range of everyday items like utensils & even jewellery items like bracelets, among others. Metals are also used for 3D printing medical tools & devices, prototypes of metal instruments and even automobile parts. Stainless steel, Bronze, Nickel, Titanium, Gold, Aluminium are the most commonly used metals for 3D printing.
Exotic materials like Carbon Fibre, Graphite, Graphene are used to print parts with requirements of higher strength & integrity. Combination of carbon fibre over plastic is used as a fast & easy alternative to metal 3D printing. Graphene & Nitinol (a combination of Nickel & Titanium) provide the highest amount of strength & flexibility of any 3D printing material. Advances in application Graphene in 3D printing of solar panel equipment & Nitinol in medical equipment is bound to revolutionize a host of industries including electronics & medicine.
All these various applications of diverse materials for 3D printing are bound to expand the market for 3D printing through new levels of adoption & application in varied industries.