The Science Behind 3D Printing Materials

in Technology


3D printing is definitely an interesting form of manufacturing that is becoming more and more widespread across the globe. This style of manufacturing is truly magnificent in comparison to traditional methods. Let me elaborate. 3D Printing is basically the layer by layer assembly of products through either gluing powders together to micron details, or laser melting them together. Essentially, a 3D printer will continue to lay down layers of powder down hundreds of times each during “print.” During each of the hundreds of layers, a laser will either melt small powders together, or glue them together. As the layers stack on top of each other, a product will start to become visible. The final product will consist of hundreds of layers of powder stacked and fused together.


As I mentioned earlier, layers of powder will be stacked on top of each other and fused within 3D printers. What is this powder? Well, it could be a lot of things. The powder used with 3D printing consists of a material that the product will be created in. There are over 50 materials to choose from when designing and developing products through the 3D printing industry. Dependent on the durability, detail, flexibility, weight, strength, chemical resistance, mechanical traits, and cost, you have a wide variety of options to choose from when deciding on a material. Maybe you’re looking for an affordable, but strong ABS plastic powder. Perhaps you’re looking for a silver material. Maybe you would just like a nylon material. Perhaps you need stainless steel. When it comes down to 3D printing a product that holds certain characteristics, choosing the material is a big factor. I don’t know about you, but if I were creating a valve on an oil rig, I wouldn’t create it in a glass-like material.


When aspiring to create a product through 3D printing, the material choice is a massive deal. The few characteristics I mentioned earlier can narrow down your option pretty quickly. Does your product need to be strong? Does it have to be heavily detailed? Does it have to be in color? Is it flexible? 3D Printing a titanium wristband might not be the best idea, but perhaps a flexible tango-black wristband might work. Is your product going to involve snap on parts? Now let me cover durability. When designing the inside of a small jet engine, we weren’t thinking about creating our print in sandstone; it would disintegrate as soon as we started it up! However, we would have a couple options when 3D printing our jet engine. Cobalt chrome, Inconel, titanium, and stainless steel all hold their own when it comes to withstanding heat, being strong, and somewhat detailed. In the end, it would probably be narrowed down to titanium or Inconel. Moving on – how large is your budget? 3D Printing isn’t free. Maybe you’re just an artist looking to turn your creations into physical objects. You probably don’t need to create the model in platinum, gold, or silver. Maybe full color sandstone or a white nylon would suit you well. These are just a few factors that come into play when deciding on 3D printing your product in a certain. Keep in mind the following features: strength, price, detail, color, texture, mechanical traits, chemical resistance, and flexibility. 

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Chris Waldo has 62 articles online

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The Science Behind 3D Printing Materials

This article was published on 2012/04/18