Selecting the right 3D Printing material

Written by
Ben Redwood
A quick comparison of all 3D printing materials offered by 3D Hubs.

Introduction

Selecting a material from the wide range of options available in 3D printing can often be a daunting task. The following article provides a quick overview of the main material groups offered on 3D Hubs along with their general characteristics and design feature specifications.

Material groups


Materials overview

Material group Printing method Common materials Cost
General purpose plastic FDM PLA, ABS, PET, Nylon $
High detail resin SLA and DLP Standard, tough & flexible resins $$
SLS Nylon SLS Nylon 12 $$$
Fibre reinforces nylon FDM Nylon with carbon, kevlar or fibreglass $$$
Rigid opaque plastic Polyjet Rigid opaque Vero family $$$$
Rubber-like plastic Polyjet Tango family $$$$
Transparent plastic Polyjet VeroClear (RGD810) $$$$
Simulated Polypropylene Polyjet Rigur (RGD450) & Durus (RGD430) $$$$
Simulated ABS Polyjet RGD515 & RGD535 $$$$
Heat resistant plastic Polyjet RGD525 $$$$
Full color sandstone Binder jetting Sandstone, gypsum $$$
Industrial metals SLM, DMLS & EBM Aluminium, titamium, stainless steel, inconel $$$$$

Feature specifications

Understanding the limitations of each material group allows a designer to make decision that will result in a better quality print. Below are a table of common 3D printed features.

Feature Description
Wall thickness - The model's wall must be thick enough to support the model.
Supports - With some technologies each layer needs to build off the last. Because of this there are limitations on build angles and generally support is required to build upon. Supports are not inherently detrimental for your design, but they do add complexity to the printing process and lead to less smooth finish on overhanging parts. More information on supports can be found here.
Embossed & engraved detail - Require a minimum depth, height and width to be visible on a print. If putting text on a design, use a bold sans-serif font for readability, such as Arial Bold.
Escape holes - For some methods of printing escape holes are required to allow excess print material to be removed from hollow sections once the print is completed.
Minimum details - Designs require a minimum detail size so that these features are visible on the print.
Minimum feature - A minimum feature thickness is required to ensure that features are not too small and will fail to print.
Moving parts - Adequate clearance is required between moving parts to reduce the likelihood of binding and improve fit.

The table below presents the feature specifications for each material group. All values are in mm.

Material Wall thickness Supports Embossed & engraved details Escape holes Minimum details Minimum feature Moving parts
General purpose plastic 1 - 2 Yes 1 - 2 N/A 0.8 1.2 0.5
High detail resin 0.4 - 0.6 Yes 0.1 - 0.4 1.5 - 3.5 0.2 0.3 - 1 0.5
SLS Nylon 0.8 - 1 No 0.5 2 - 4 0.2 0.8 - 1 0.5
Fibre reinforced nylon 1.6 - 3 Yes Unable to print N/A 0.8 1.6 - 3 0.5
Rigid opaque plastic 1 Water soluble 0.5 N/A 0.2 1 0.4
Rubber-like plastic 1 Water soluble 0.5 N/A 0.2 1 0.4
Transparent plastic 1 Water soluble 0.5 N/A 0.2 1 0.4
Simulated Polypropylene 1 Water soluble 0.5 N/A 0.2 1 0.4
Simulated ABS 1 Water soluble 0.5 N/A 0.2 1 0.4
Heat resistant plastic 1 Water soluble 0.5 N/A 0.2 1 0.4
Full color sandstone 2 - 3 No 0.4 1.5 - 2.5 0.4 2 - 3 0.9
Industrial metals 2 - 3 Yes 1 2 1 1 - 3 N/A

Written by
Ben's picture
Ben Redwood

Mechanical engineer working at 3D Hubs


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