The Top 4 3D Printing Materials

Hello, everyone in this article we’ll tell you, about the top 4 most widely used and easily available 3D printing materials.
Firstly we’ll list out the materials and later on explain it in brief with their pro’s and con’s.
To start off the top 4 3D printing materials are –

  • ABS
  • PLA
  • Nylon
  • VeroClear

With the materials known, now to the part where we’ll discuss the main topic of this article – the materials with their pro’s and con’s

ABS

ABS is short for ‘Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene’ and is a plastic made out of oil-based resources. ABS is widely used for purposes ranging from car bumpers and motorcycle helmets to musical instruments, golf clubs and the famous Lego’s. ABS is ideal for mechanical parts manufacturing.

Being widely available, it has been a very popular plastic in 3D Printing from the start. It’s usually printed at a temperature around 210 – 250 degree Celsius and is also strong and hard (ABS is amorphous and therefore has no true melting point) . With these qualities in it’s bag ABS is therefore, a popular plastic.

ABS is dissolvable in acetone and this characteristic is sometimes used to smooth the surface of a 3D Print. Sanding an ABS print and then wiping it with acetone will dissolve the outer layer, essentially smoothing it by reducing the visibility of layers in the print which gives otherwise matte ABS prints a glossy finish.

The downsides of ABS are the smell it produces while being printed which is neither nice nor healthy to live or work around and the fact that it expands and shrinks in the process of being heated and cooled down again makes a heated print bed mandatory. As it is an oil based plastic it is not quite environment-friendly and also not suitable to be used with food. ABS can be recycled as it can’t decompose. ABS is harder to print.

The left model shows a acetone polishing done and the right model shows normal matte ABS finish.

PLA

PLA is an acronym for Polylactic Acid which is a kind of thermoplastic. It is manufactured out of plant-based resources such as corn starch or sugar cane or potato starch. It’s commonly used for packaging for food products and is a biodegradable plastic. PLA is also used in medical field, as it possesses the ability to degrade into inoffensive lactic acid in the body. It is a newer plastic compared to ABS and is ideal for small parts manufacturing.

PLA melts at a lower temperature between 150–160 degree Celsius and can be printed easily. It usually doesn’t require a heated print bed. PLA gives a very pleasant smell and has no health hazard like ABS when working with and weirdly some people like the smell of PLA when it is bring printed! Being made up of plant-based materials it is called a green plastic and decomposes over the time making it eco-friendly. PLA is used when the 3D printed product needs detailing. PLA has one more advantage i.e. it has high printing speed.

The disadvantages of PLA are that having a low melting temperature it can get damaged easily, for example a PLA cassette inside a car under the scorching sun will certainly be bad for it. It is also a brittle plastic and shatters into small parts when too much force is applied on it and it takes a lot of time to cool down. One more disadvantage is that it requires thicker walls compared to ABS.

On the left handside we have a PLA model and the right one is a ABS

Nylon

Nylon is another oil-based plastic, which is cheap, flexible and extremely robust. It is the toughest material that hobbyist level printers can currently use. It is used to make straps or buckles that require bending portions to lock in place or also phone cases. Nylon requires temperatures above 240°C – 260°C to extrude for printing.

Nylon is highly flexible than PLA and gets back into it’s original shape after normal compression. It is UV resistant and much more resistant to chemical attack than PLA or ABS. As Nylon can withstand high temperatures, it can be used in many high-temperature environments.

Nylon readily absorbs water from the air in scientific terms it is very hygroscopic. When printing the filament needs to be dry and kept in an airtight container when not in use. It is cured to remove any water in it. It also warps when printing just like ABS therefore, a heated print bed is a necessity to print Nylon.

Above image shows the flexibility of Nylon.

VeroClear

VeroClear is transparent photopolymer. It is rigid, nearly colourless featuring proven dimensional stability for general purpose and fine-detail model building. VeroClear is generally used for glass consumer products, eye-wear, light cover and exhibition modeling. It is also used for creating translucent prototypes.

The advantages of VeroClear is that it has high strength and has ultra-fine layers. Due to this a high detailed 3D printed part can be made from VeroClear. Moreover it has a smooth surface finish and high dimensional tolerance with the benefit of being almost transparent.

The downsides being it requires extensive post-processing and has a low-temperature resistance. VeroClear isn’t a low-cost material to work wit; it is one of the costlier 3D printing material and has a slow print time i.e. it takes longer duration to print with VeroClear.

The image shows the various usage of VeroClear

With this we end the article on 3D printing materials with their pro’s & con’s. Share it with your friends and colleagues to help them better understand about 3D printing materials while you can start your 3D printing with us.