An introduction to 3D printing

So, let’s start with the beginning. We know most people that visit our website already have some knowledge of 3D printing. But for the people that don’t, here is a starter.

3D printing is not a new phenomenon. It started in the mid 80’s. These last few years, more and more companies created their own 3D printer. The improvement that the world of 3D printing goes through every year is remarkable. And the companies keep challenging themselves and others to keep on improving.

3D printing, or Additive Manufacturing, is different from the traditional manufacturing techniques. These traditional techniques are subtractive techniques, where they start with a big block of clay, metal, … . They then subtract the things they don’t need to get to the final result. Additive manufacturing is a growing technique. What we mean with that, we will tell you in a minute.

Techniques, techniques, techniques

Every printer has their own way of printing and also has their own specifications. The biggest difference in our gamma are the manners of printing. There are FDM printers, like the Ultimaker, Felix, Tripodmaker and Zortrax. FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling. These printers melt the filament (spools) in the printhead. Afterwards, by moving their printhead, they lay down the figures that end up as the results.

Another technique is the SLA technique. SLA stands for Stereolithographic Apparatus. The most famous brand here is Formlabs. With SLA they use resin, that is hardened by a laser. This laser focuses on the points that have to be hard. Layer by layer the printed part rises up from the resin.

The last technique printers in our gamma have is the DLP technique. DLP stands for Digital Light Processing. The technique and results are quite similar to SLA prints, but in stead of a laser a light projector hardens the resins. That way, no mather how small or big your print is, the amount of time that is used to harden the resin is the same. Ex.g. a cube of 8 cm wide will take the same time to harden as a cube of 2 cm wide.

Spools of vision

The SLA and DLP techniques use different resin types. The Formlabs printers have the normal, flexible, tough and castable resins. You can find more information about these items on the specifications pages on our website.

The FDM printers have a lot more printable materials. We’ll give a short summary about the different kinds down here.

PLA (PolyLactic Acid)

This biodegradable material is the best material to start your printing career with. PLA is made from renewable natural resources. It is strong, easy to print and has low warping. PLA prints best on temperatures between 180°C and 220°C.
ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)

Probably the most known toy in the world, LEGO, is made from ABS. The characteristics from ABS are that the prints are light and durable. It is also a material with a high impact resistance. ABS is a strong material, that prints best on temperatures between 240°C and 265°C.
PET (Poly Ethylene Terephthalate)

PET material, when printed, is the same material as the PET bottles. This material is strong, barely warps and has no fumes when being printed. It can also be FDA approved when printed correctly. PET has to be printed on temperatures between 230°C and 250°C. PET also has variable derivatives, like UPET and CPE. These filaments are similar to PET.
FLEX materials are mostly flexible rubber replacing filaments. Every FLEX filament is different, and has different flexibilities. FLEX filament is mechanically strong, durable and is resistant to chemicals. FLEX materials all have different printing temperatures, depending on the rate of flexibility. The print speed should be slower than other filaments.
Woodlike materials are a mixture of PLA and little parts of wood. The wooden parts take of the plastic when they are melted and give the prints a wooden finish. The printing temperature depends on the type of wood that is used in the mixture.
Metallike materials are the same as woodlike materials. The different particles of metal (like bronze, copper, carbon, …) reinforce the filaments making it stronger. The printing temperature for these materials is coherent with the type of metal used in the mixture.
HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene)
HIPS is material that is already often used outside the 3D printing world. It’s characteristics (hygienic, strong and heat resistant) make it a often used material in the food packaging industry. It is also comparable to ABS when you look at impact strength and stiffness. HIPS should be printed on temperatures between 220°C and 270°C.
PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol)
PVA is a water-soluble synthetic polymer, that is used as a support material in the 3D printing world. PVA can only be used as a support material for PLA and PLA based materials. The printing temperature of PVA lies between 180°C and 205°C.
Nylon has some amazing features. It is strong, durable and versatile. If you print nylon very thin, it is flexible yet strong. Nylon is also very sensitive to moisture, so you have to store it dry. The best temperatures for printing with Nylon lie between 235°C and 270°C.

If you print all of these materials on the right printer with the right settings, you get remarkable results. More information on the different filaments can be found on our website. If you have further questions, do not hesitate to call or email us!


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