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Posted · printing material


What kind of materials are or can be used in the printing proces? From what I see on YouTube vids its epoxy or plastic ... does that need baking or some other after treatment to "harden" it? Is it possible to print with other materials? I mean "printing metal objects" is impossible I reckon?


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Posted · printing material

Hi curious,

The Ultimaker, like most 'hobby grade' printers is what we call a Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) printer. It prints from spools of plastic filament (like plastic wire) that it melts and deposits layer by layer on the surface. There are basically two main types of plastics that people use with FFF printers, ABS and PLA. ABS is the kind of plastic that is used in many consumer products such as Lego and such, as well as industrial uses such as sewer pipes. It's a fairly flexible plastic and quite strong, however somewhat difficult to print with because it tends to shrink when it cools and warp. The other common kind of plastic is called PLA. It is a completely organic plastic that is made from corn. Common uses for PLA include food packaging and medical dissolvable sutures (stitches). PLA is much less flexible than ABS and somewhat brittle. It also melts at a lower temperature which makes it unsuitable for anything where it could potentially get too hot and melt. However, it is much easier to print with than ABS (less shrinkage/warping) and it's completely biodegradable for those that like to be kind to the environment.

The Ultimaker was designed specifically to use PLA so that works best, but it is also possible to print with ABS in the Ultimaker. There are also some newer and less common plastics that are used. One is Laywood 'Printable Wood'. This is basically sawdust suspended in a plastic material so it looks and feels somewhat like wood when it's printed. Another material is Nylon which is a very common plastic that is used in many, many things... However it is extremely hard to print with because it doesn't stick well to most print surfaces and shrinks and warps worse than ABS. A newer blend of Nylon called Taulman 618 is making it much easier to print with Nylon, but it's still difficult to work with. There's also PVA, which is a plastic that can be dissolved in water, it's mainly used as a support material to help with printing large objects that have lots of overhang. People are also experimenting with other plastics like polycarbonate and polyethylene as well as blends of plastics such as PLA/PHA blends.

None of these plastics require any treatment afterwards to finish them off.

Another variation of the FFF printer can be used to print chocolate. And there is a type of selective sintering printer that can print with sugar (candyfab).

That's just for FFF printers. There are other types of printers... Many others. Another type of printer that is available to the hobbyist is a STL (Stereo Lithography) or DLP Resin printer. These printers use a liquid resin that hardens when exposed to UV or near UV light. This material usually looks and feels like ABS plastic, but has some slightly different properties. These printers also do not usually require any treatments afterwords to finish, though sometimes additional exposure to UV (such as just leaving the object out in the sun) can be needed for it to fully harden.

And moving on from the hobby printers if you have thousands of dollars to spend then the possibilities are limitless. There are many other technologies for 3d printing that allow you to print with ceramics, metal, glass, paper, etc...




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