Wednesday, December 11, 2013

3D Printing Materials: The Options Go Beyond Plastic and Metal

3D printing materials are starting to become more varied all the time in higher-end printers. While only more basic materials are available on cheaper 3D printers, you should know what the options are so you're aware of what you can do now and what you'll likely be able to do later. Based on materials available on the most advanced 3D printers, we'll be able to print virtually anything, including food.

Plastics in 3D Printing
On the most basic 3D printers, plastic is going to be the only material you'll have available. While this can be limiting depending on what you want to print, you can still make many, many amazing things using plastic. You can make everything from toys to 3D models for your own reference.

The most common type of plastic used in the more affordable models is ABS plastic, which stands for acrylonitile butadiene styrene. This is the material you see used on Legos and can be made to create various objects, including toys with lifelike 3D shapes. The second most common plastic is polylactic acid, or PLA.

It has a little bit more durability and might usurp ABS in the future.
Other plastics used in more complex printing include polyvinyl alcohol for special applications, plus polycarbonate for use in complicated printing projects needing higher temperatures. There's even a softer polylactic acid gradually becoming available to create durable, rubbery textures.

Metals on Higher-End Printers
More expensive models are starting to use metals to create truly astounding things. Recently, a complete gun was made for the first time in a Texas manufacturing company using a 3D printer with stainless steel. While that alone might create some debate on what kind of things could be created, being able to print metal objects on more affordable printers is soon upon us. Many printers are already using metals like titanium, plus even gold and silver.

Materials on the Horizon
Despite limitations on more affordable 3D printers, so many other materials are already being used in industrial settings. Expensive printers that use a syringe for more exacting designs can even use chocolate now to create edible 3D objects. You've also likely heard about bio-ink and how it's being used to print body organs taken from a person's stem cells. Other exciting materials being tested or already available include printing glass and paper objects. More stunningly, research is being done on creating bone material on a 3D printer. Plus, we might even be able to print out medications in the future to avoid having to stand in long lines at a local pharmacy. As you can see, 3D printers are going to be virtually limitless in what materials can be used. Once that becomes a household pastime, it might bring more convenience while also bringing a few concerns. Even if those issues have to be worked out later, never doubt the power of the simpler materials like plastic. You can create some basic things that have just as much usefulness than something more complex. If you want to keep up on the latest developments in 3D printing materials, visit us regularly here at Mwave3D.

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