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The most common materials used in 3D printing

The most common materials used in 3D printing

We are seeing many advancements in the world of 3D printing; one of the ways in which 3D printing is quickly developing is in its expansion into the use of a wide variety of materials. 3D printers were first used with plastics, but we are now using a range of different materials to help us print a wider variety of objects. Read on for our exploration of the most popular materials used in the industry.


Plastics were the original material used in 3D printing and plastics have been successfully used to help produce a range of helpful objects. Nylon, in powder form, is a strong, flexible plastic that is used to print a wide variety of objects with 3D printers. Nylon is white in hue, but many add colours to the plastic in order to make a range of colourful objects. ABS is another plastic used for 3D printing because it is a strong plastic and comes in a variety of colours. In addition, PLA plastic has recently become popular in the world of 3D printing because it is biodegradable. While it is not as durable as ABS or Nylon, it remains popular for being Earth friendly. 


Resin is a material that is less frequently used in 3D printing as it is less durable as other materials. However, high resin, constructed from a photo polymeric liquid, is used for smaller detailed objects. Paintable resin is also used to produce smooth objects, which are ideal for painting. In addition, transparent resin is used when models need a smooth, transparent finish.


Metals have recently been included in the lineup of 3D-printed materials, as 3D Printing Industry highlight in their breakdown of the wide range of metals being used in the industry:

“One of the strongest and therefore most commonly used metals for 3D printing is Stainless Steel in powder form for the sintering/melting/EBM processes. It is naturally silver, but can be plated with other materials to give a gold or bronze effect.

In the last couple of years Gold and Silver have been added to the range of metal materials that can be 3D printed directly, with obvious applications across the jewellery sector. These are both very strong materials and are processed in powder form.

Titanium is one of the strongest possible metal materials and has been used for 3D printing industrial applications for some time. Supplied in powder form, it can be used for the sintering/melting/EBM processes.”


It’s only recently that we have been able to use glass with 3D printers - researchers have tried and failed to use glass in 3D printers in previous instances - with the final product coming out porous and overly textured. But, in April of this year, researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany have combined quartz glass and liquid polymer and processed this mixture using a 3D printer. How is this possible? Researchers cured the mixture using light, a process dubbed stereolithography; a form of 3D-printing technology used for items using photopolymerisation, which involves slowly producing an item via small layers. The 3D-printed glass can be used for a range of items and researchers hope to use the glass for computer screens in the near future.

These core materials take centre stage in the world of 3D printing. In addition to these most frequently used materials, other materials are also occasionally used, such as ceramics and precious metals.

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