Isn’t the world of 3D printing fascinating? We see daily new creations from houses to organs, and the list goes on as can be read in this article. Technology is common but the materials can be very different.
Today we will talk about 3 common materials used in classic 3D printing (FDM technology) and their applicability in different projects.
Most materials are various types of plastic or plastic derivatives. These are polymers with different properties that have a wide range of uses. You have probably heard the expression “biodegradable plastic”. Those who print 3D use it quite often because the most widely used printing material is polylactic acid or PLA in short, a starch-derived biopolymer. And the starch in turn is made from corn, cane, potatoes, etc. Unfortunately, recycling of PLA is more difficult, yet it is a biodegradable plastic in compost. Even for larger pieces, they will dissolve in compost within a few years.
PLA has very good properties for 3D printing:
- It provides a clean surface of the objects;
- does not produce smoke or smell during printing;
- it is used for printing at a relatively low temperature between 190-220 ° C;
- at normal temperatures it has good mechanical resistance.
ABS is the omnipresent plastic. From Lego toys, to prosthesis or phone cases, this is one of the most common types of plastic.
In 2008-2009, ABS was the most used plastic in the world of 3D printing because it has known, understood and tested properties and can be easily manufactured with relatively inexpensive equipment.
As opposed to PLA, ABS is more resistant both mechanically and thermally and is generally used for parts that require moderate strength. From the point of view of 3D printing, it requires temperatures of approximately 235-260 °C. The problem is that an unpleasant smell of plastic is emitted during printing.
Our recommendation is to print with ABS in a ventilated location and not in your home. One feature that we must keep in mind is that the prints are reduced by 1-2% compared to the original size. Bitmi printers can print without problems with this type of material because it has a heated surface that can reach 120 °C and the enclosure is semi-closed. To learn more, click HERE.
ABS recycling is easy, and can be recycled with any old or faulty household appliance.
Last but not least, we present a material that we use very often because it prints almost as easily as the PLA but has the resistance close to that of ABS.
It is a widely used plastic called PET. From this type of plastic, for example, water/juice bottles are produced.
PET is printed in a temperature range of 220-240 ° C. It is generally slightly more flexible than ABS, but can be used as a replacement in most cases. Heat resistance is pretty good, the pieces keep their properties up to 110oC. Even more important is that it can be easily processed (drilling, grinding, etc.).
Fortunately, PET does not emit smoke or smells during printing, which allows it to be used in less ventilated rooms, even inside your home. The contraction rate of the material is minimal and this makes it very useful for parts where there must be precise measurements.
There are a multitude of other “exotic” materials including wood, rubber, wax, carbon fibers, glass fibers, polycarbonate, etc. which we will talk about in future articles.
The conclusions of this article are:
- for decorative and didactic pieces use PLA;
- functional parts such as handles, different supports, gear wheels must be printed in ABS;
- for parts that need both resilience and elasticity (drone propeller, RC car covers) use PET.
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