3D printing opens up a whole new world of possibilities for various industries and fields. Also known as rapid prototyping, this technology creates small-scale models of virtually any design with height, depth, and volume.
Here’s an illustration: construction companies can create accurate dioramas of what their latest project would look like; toymakers can design figures based on prototypes made from printing; machine manufacturers can quickly gauge the appropriate sizes of nuts, bolts, and screws that they need.
But like any printer, you must have the right materials to achieve the right results. Which ones should you go for and which do you postpone? Read on for the only 3D printing material guide you’ll ever need!
Different Materials for Different Needs
PEEK, PEKK, and PEI are high-temperature polymers that need a specific kind of processing, transition, and purging. Your printing team needs to understand these techniques so they won’t damage your rapid prototyping unit.
The same thought goes for PP and HDPE polymers. They have high crystallinity and, as a result, are a bit more difficult to form into round filaments. You must master these substances’ characteristics even if they are safe to use.
Different Material Grades
A material’s grade rates how easy or difficult it can form into a shape during rapid prototyping. This is usually indicated by the Melt Flow Index (MFI) in g/10 min.
The higher the MFI, the more fluid and flexible it is. Substances with high MFIs are easily shapeable but won’t be durable. On the other hand, those with low MFIs are more rigid and tough. They make for solid models but are harder to print with due to their inflexibility.
Even a family of plastics like Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) has hundreds of grades. Take note of the technical data sheet for the grade of each one to know precisely what you’re using and how the result will turn out.
If you want a better handle on the final output, you can also create a composite substance by mixing an additive with a base polymer. This achieves a balance of fluidity and rigidity to ensure your designs have a definite form without easily being toppled.
There are two ways of spreading the additive in base polymers:
- Option 1: Premix the additive and polymer. This creates homogeneous pellets through a twin-screw extrusion and filament creation. Pre-mixing contributes to better additive dispersion.
- Option 2: Directly feed the polymer and additive into the filament maker’s hopper. This method risks clogging and affects the production output of rapid prototyping.
If you’re just starting with creating composites, begin with a small percentage of additives (around 5 per cent) before gradually increasing. Take note of the additive’s particle size, too (100 microns is the sweet spot).
You can also develop your unique polymers with recycled plastics to lower costs and create a sustainable supply chain. Be prepared for the extra steps involved, though, since you won’t be able to pre-mix or feed the substances to the hopper.
Getting recycled plastics ready for 3D printing starts with collecting and sorting the different ones you’ve gathered. Then, they must go through shredding and cleaning before being formed into pellets for extrusion.
The drawback to using recycled materials is that you can’t note their specific MFIs. Since they are an amalgam of various grades and materials, it is difficult to determine their rigidity and flexibility accurately.
Whether base, composite, or recycled, having the right 3D printing materials guarantees your prototypes come out the way you planned. They can be as flexible or sturdy as you want before your design team finally manufactures the actual product.
Do you need high-quality 3D printing? Give 3D Quick Printing Service a call! We’re a provider of rapid prototyping services in the UK, ready for courier the next day after printing at a cost-effective price.