Exploring the Main Materials Used for 3D Printing

With all the different gears for 3D printing available on the market, it can be confusing knowing which one is best for your needs. One important thing to keep in mind is: you cannot assume that silver and stainless steel materials will deliver similar results simply because they are both metals. To be printed, they require different technologies such as lost-wax casting and sintering, meaning that some design features will differ.

Taking the time to learn about how gears for 3d printing work will help you design better models. It will help you to understand why some designs might be printed in some materials and not in others. Let’s take a look at the main gears used for printing that you need to know.

Filament-based 3D Printing

Home printers typically work with plastic filament. The technology behind this material is often referred to as “Fused Filament Fabrication”(FFF). Professional-grade printers, on the other hand, use a technology called “Fused Deposition Modeling” (FDM). What makes FDP different from the FFF printer is that they use a second filament to build support material and prevent the print from falling down. After the printing process, the material is put into a bath with a special soap that dissolves the support material. Thanks to these gears for 3d printing, designs can be more complex and contain interlinking, interlocking and movable parts.

Powder-based 3D Printing

Some printers are based on filament while others on powder. With powder printers, their interior is heated up to just below the melting point of the powder of your choice. The models are printed layer by layer with the help of a laser beam that heats up the areas that need to be sintered together just above the melting point. The result is a big block of powder that contains the printed models inside. In order to get the power block, it is necessary to dig into the box od un-sintered powder and brush away the excess. It is a great option for complex designs and even interlinking and moving parts.

Resin-based 3D Printing

This is a technology used by really big printers and is called Stereolithography. These printers can print up to a length of 2 meters and use neither powder nor filament but liquid resin. The process takes place in a large tank and starts with a layer of liquid polymer spread over a platform. A UV laser hardens the area that becomes one layer of the 3D print and the rest of the layer stays liquid. The main benefits of materials printed with this technology are smooth surfaces and a lot of finishings and post-processing possibilities.

Low-Wax 3D Printing and Casting

This technology is used for creating parts in silver, gold, bronze, copper and brass. The process starts with a model in wax. Then support structures are printed along with the model to prevent it from falling apart. Next, one or more wax sprues are attached to the model which is then attached by the sprue to a wax ‘tree’ together with various other models. This is what forms the mould for casting the metal. When the metal is cooled, the plaster mould is broken and the metal model is removed by hand.

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