One of the most exciting aspects of modern 3D printing is the fact that a single FDM printer can be used to create parts from a very large selection of materials. Whether a part needs to be rigid and tolerant of high temperatures or flexible and resistant to impact stress, there's a filament material available that will give the part the exact physical properties it needs. If you want to become truly proficient with 3D printing technology, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the major 3D printer filament types that are available on the market today. Here's what you should know about some of the most commonly used filaments and their properties.
ABS filament is a durable and low-cost thermoplastic that can be used for printing rigid parts and objects. The advantages of ABS filament include its strength and its ability to stand up to high temperatures, both of which make it a good option for a wide variety of functional mechanical parts. It should be noted, though, that ABS plastic can be fairly brittle despite its overall strength. As a result, it's usually a good idea to select a different filament if the parts you're printing need to be able to bend or flex to any significant degree. While ABS can be an extremely useful material, it is generally preferred by users with a bit more experience, as it can warp during printing. If you do plan to print with ABS, it's best to use a machine with a heated bed to avoid the warping problem.
Along with ABS, PLA is one of the most common filament choices for use with desktop FDM 3D printers. PLA is preferred by many users because it is a plant-based polymer made from corn and sugar fibers, while ABS is derived from petroleum byproducts. This plant base gives PLA a more pleasant smell when it's heated up during the printing process, with many users comparing its smell to cooking waffles. Another advantage of PLA filament from a functional perspective is that it is less prone to warping on a print bed than ABS. This resistance to warping makes PLA useful for printing parts that must be extremely precise, such as small, low-impact moving parts.
While many 3D-printed parts need to be rigid, flexibility can also be useful under some circumstances. Nylon filament is an excellent option for creating parts that are both flexible and strong. Because it can bend and flex, nylon is also useful for parts that may need to absorb impact without cracking. If you wanted to create an impact-resistant phone case using a 3D printer, for example, nylon would likely be a good filament choice.
One variety of filament that is gradually becoming more popular with 3D printing professionals and enthusiasts is PETG, a semi-rigid polymer that is a slightly modified variant of the more familiar PET found in plastic water bottles. PETG filament is somewhat flexible and has a strength similar to that of ABS. Unlike ABS, however, this material offers a warping resistance that is more similar to PLA. PETG is a good option for mechanical components that require the strength of ABS without its brittleness or difficulty of printing.
The world of 3D printer filament is an exciting one in which advances in material science are constantly making 3D printers more versatile. Often, this is accomplished by creating filament blends meant to give printed objects specific characteristics. Filaments composed of nylon and carbon fiber, for example, can be used to create highly durable prints that still retain some of the flexibility of the nylon base. There are even filaments that combine wood fibers with a PLA base to make objects that look and feel like real wood. Thanks to the large number of blended fiber combinations on the market today, it's possible to achieve a very wide range of visual effects and material properties in your printed parts.
For the Digilab line of printers, Dremel offers PLA, Nylon and PETG filaments, as well as an Eco-ABS filament that provides the greater strength of ABS in a PLA variant. As a Digilab 3D45 owner, though, you aren't limited to these options, as the printer can take many other brands of filament. Whatever filament is right for your project, the 3D45 will give you access to the materials you need and use them to create high-quality prints from your designs.