What’s in your printer?

There are many different things that you can print, but what do you print it with? How?

A multitude of materials are available to be used in 3-D printing. Nylon, ceramic, gold, steel, plastic, titanium. All for different purposes. With each one of the materials, you have your pros and your cons. You have your cost, texture, details, strength and flexibility, as well as how thin can you print each layer.

In Tinkercad 3-D, you are able to understand these different materials a little better. So lets start off. When I give the discription, I will refer to the vertical parts of the object as the “walls” and the horizontal layers will be “floors.”

With nylon (polyamide), it is a cheap plastic that is relativly strong and flexible. You are able to get it in many different colors, but it is naturally white. When you are printing it out, the “walls” have to be a minimum of 1 mm thick. Going in the other direction, the “floors” of the object can be printed at 10 layers per 1 mm! With that, it allows you to get some pretty good texture and details.

ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is used most often with home printing. It is a good, cheap material for making prototypes. It makes a good strong plastic like legos (and if you have ever stepped on a lego, you know that it is tough). It comes in many different colors. Like the nylon, the walls need to be a minimum of 1 mm, but unlike nylon, the floors need to be printed around 3 layers per 1 mm. And with that, it looses some of detail and texture.

With stainless steel, it is a strong material, but it isn’t usually used for the common, household 3-D printer. It is also a little pricey. It can be colored by gold or bronze plating. The walls need to be a minimum of 3 mm, and the floors can be printed with 6 layers per 1 mm. So you loose detail, but you are able to have a really strong object.

A non-singular knot in stainless steel
A non-singular knot in stainless steel

Now with gold and silver, it is also strong, but a little less so than steel. You first make it with wax, and then cast it later on. The walls can be a minimum of .5 mm thick with about 10 layers per 1 mm. You are able to get some incredible detail, but it comes at a price. It is even more expensive than steel.

Now for titanium. Titanium is relatively new in the 3-D printing world, but it is good. It is the strongest material, in the terms that you have to put each layer down by direct metal laser sintering. So sintering is the process of applying heat and pressure in order to join the metal. As you can imagine, it isn’t cheap, but you are able to get incredible detail with titanium. The walls can be a minimum of .2 mm thick and about 30 layers per 1 mm.

So for each one, you have your pros and your cons, but it all depends on what you want to print. For another site, you can look at 3-D Printing Industry. Will it be a cool bookend or a piece of jewelry? So the question is, what’s in your printer?

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