3D Printing

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.

The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.





Our 3D Printing Capabilities


3D Printer Stacker S4

 

  • Print up to four parts at once – 4x print speeds
  • Group heads together for multi-material prints
  • Remote mounted filament drives for faster and more precise prints
  • Optimized for high tech composite filaments like carbon fiber
  • Hi-Temp hot end for fast reliable printing over wide range of materials
  • Heated print bed
  • Dual power supplies for increased reliability
  • Build area up to 345mm x 520mm (24" x 14")
  • Print parts up to 650mm tall (25½”)
  • Integrated casters for mobile printing
  • Safe to use in any environment
  • Industrial duty components
  • Made in USA

 

The range of items we can print include but are not limited to functional prototypes, production parts, jigs, fixtures, signage, movie props, architectural models, artwork, investment casting molds, and much more with high accuracy and repeatability.

Image result for Stacker s4

 

 

Standard 3D Printer Filament Types

We introduce you to some of the commonly used 3D printer filaments in FDM (Fused deposition modeling) 3D printing, popular for their range of properties, and array of uses.

In addition to providing general information for each of the following filaments, this section also attempts to present a comparison of their properties, as well as suggest in which situations they might be used.

 

PLA

 

In the realm of home 3D printing, polylactic acid (PLA) is king. Although it’s often compared to ABS – next in line to the throne – PLA is easily the most popular 3D printer filament, and for good reason.

 

First and foremost, it’s easy to print with. PLA has a lower printing temperature than ABS, and it doesn’t warp as easily, meaning it doesn’t require a heating bed (although it definitely helps). Another benefit to using PLA is that it doesn’t give off an evil smell during printing. It’s generally considered an odorless filament, but many have reported smelling sweet, candy-like fumes. Finally, as a biodegradable thermoplastic, PLA is more environmentally friendly than most 3D printer filaments, being made from annually renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane.

 

Like ABS, PLA is the base material used in many exotic or recreational filaments, such as those with conductive or glow-in-the-dark properties, or those infused with wood or metal.

 

3D Printer Filament Properties: PLA

 

  • Strength: High | Flexibility: Low | Durability: Medium
  • Difficulty to use: Low
  • Print temperature: 180°C – 230°C
  • Print bed temperature: 20°C – 60°C (but not needed)
  • Shrinkage/warping: Minimal
  • Soluble: No
  • Food safety: Refer to manufacturer guidelines

 

When should I use PLA 3D printer filament?

 

In this case, the better question might be, When shouldn’t I use PLA? Compared to other types of 3D printer filament, PLA is brittle, so avoid using it when making items that might be bent, twisted, or dropped repeatedly, such as phone cases, high-wear toys, or tool handles. You should also avoid using it with items which need to withstand higher temperatures, as PLA tends to malform around temperatures of 60°C or higher. For all other applications, PLA makes for a good overall choice in filament. Common prints include models, low-wear toys, prototype parts, and containers.

 

ABS

 

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) ranks as the second most popular 3D printer filament, after PLA. But that just means it’s the second most commonly used. With respect to its material properties, ABS is actually moderately superior to PLA, despite being slightly more difficult to print with. It’s for this reason that ABS is found in many manufactured household and consumer goods, including LEGO bricks and bicycle helmets!

 

Products made of ABS boast high durability and a capacity to withstand high temperatures, but 3D printer enthusiasts should be mindful of the filament’s high printing temperature, tendency to warp during cooling, and intense fumes.

 

3D Printer Filament Properties: ABS

 

  • Strength: High | Flexibility: Medium | Durability: High
  • Difficulty to use: Medium
  • Print temperature: 210°C – 250°C
  • Print bed temperature: 80°C – 110°C
  • Shrinkage/warping: Considerable
  • Soluble: In esters, ketones, and acetone
  • Food safety: Not food safe

 

When should I use ABS 3D printer filament?

 

ABS is tough – able to withstand high stress and temperature. It’s also moderately flexible. Together these properties make ABS a good general-purpose 3D printer filament, but where it really shines is with items that are frequently handled, dropped, or heated. Examples include phone cases, high-wear toys, tool handles, automotive trim components, and electrical enclosures.

 

PETG (PET, PETT)

 

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most commonly used plastic in the world. Best known as the polymer used in water bottles, it is also found in clothing fibers and food containers.

 

While “raw” PET is rarely used in 3D printing, its variant PETG is a popular 3D printer filament. The ‘G’ stands for “glycol-modified”, and the result is a filament which is clearer, less brittle, and most importantly, easier to use than its base form. For this reason, PETG is often considered a good middle ground between ABS and PLA, the two most commonly used 3D printer filaments, as it is more flexible and durable than PLA and easier to print than ABS.

 

Polyethylene coTrimethylene Terephthalate (PETT) is another PET variant. Slightly more rigid than PETG, this 3D printer filament is popular for being transparent.

 

3D Printer Filament Properties: PETG (PET, PETT)

 

  • Strength: High | Flexibility: Medium | Durability: High
  • Difficulty to use: Low
  • Print temperature: 220°C – 250°C
  • Print bed temperature: 50°C – 75°C
  • Shrinkage/warping: Minimal
  • Soluble: No
  • Food safety: Refer to manufacturer guidelines

 

When should I use PETG 3D printer filament?

PETG is a good all-rounder but stands out from many other filaments due to its flexibility, strength, and temperature and impact resistance. This makes it an ideal 3D printer filament to use for objects which might experience sustained or sudden stress, like mechanical parts, printer parts, and protective components.

 

Nylon

 

Nylon, a popular family of synthetic polymers used in many industrial applications, is the heavyweight champion of the 3D printing world. Compared to most other filaments, it ranks as the number one contender when together considering strength, flexibility, and durability.

 

Another unique characteristic of this 3D printer filament is that you can dye it, either before or after the printing process.

 

In general, many grades of nylon exist, but among the most common for use as 3D printer filaments are 618 and 645.

 

3D Printer Filament Properties: Nylon

 

  • Strength: High | Flexibility: High | Durability: High
  • Difficulty to use: Medium
  • Print temperature: 240°C – 260°C
  • Print bed temperature: 70°C – 100°C
  • Shrinkage/warping: Considerable
  • Soluble: No
  • Food safety: Refer to manufacturer guidelines

 

When should I use nylon 3D printer filament?

 

Taking advantage of nylon’s strength, flexibility, and durability use this 3D printer filament to create tools, functional prototypes, or mechanical parts (like hinges, buckles, or gears).

 

TPE, TPU, TPC (Flexible)

 

As the name implies, thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are essentially plastics with rubber-like qualities, making them extremely flexible and durable. As such, TPE is commonly found in automotive parts, household appliances, and medical supplies.

 

In reality, TPE is a broad class of copolymers (and polymer mixtures), but it is nonetheless used to label many commercially available 3D printer filaments. Soft and stretchable, these filaments can withstand punishment that neither ABS nor PLA can tolerate. On the other hand, printing is not always easy, as TPE can be difficult to extrude.

 

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is a particular variety of TPE, and is itself a popular 3D printer filament. Compared to generic TPE, TPU is slightly more rigid. It’s also a little more durable and can better retain its elasticity in the cold.

 

Thermoplastic copolyester (TPC) is another variety of TPE, though not as commonly used as TPU. Similar in most respects to TPE, TPC’s main advantage is its higher resistance to chemical and UV exposure, as well to heat (up to 150°C).

 

3D Printer Filament Properties: TPE, TPU, TPC (Flexible)

 

  • Strength: Medium | Flexibility: Very High | Durability: Very High
  • Difficulty to use: Medium (TPE, TPC); Low (TPU)
  • Print temperature: 210°C – 230°C
  • Print bed temperature: 30°C – 60°C (but not needed)
  • Shrinkage/warping: Minimal
  • Soluble: No
  • Food safety: Not food safe

When should I use TPE, TPU, or TPC 3D printer filament?

 

Use TPE or TPU when creating objects that need to take a lot of wear. If your print should bend, stretch, or compress, these are the right 3D printer filaments for the job. Example prints might include toys, phone cases, or wearables (like wristbands). TPC can be used in the same contexts, but does especially well in harsher environments, like the outdoors.

 

PC (Polycarbonate)

 

Polycarbonate (PC), in addition to being the strongest 3D printer filament presented in this list, is extremely durable and resistant to both physical impact and heat, able to withstand temperatures of up to 110°C. It’s also transparent, which explains its use in commercial items such as bullet proof glass, scuba masks, and electronic display screens.

 

Despite some similar use cases, PC shouldn’t be confused with acrylic or plexi-glass, which shatter or crack under stress. Unlike these two materials, PC is moderately flexible (though not as much as nylon, for example), allowing it to bend until eventually it deforms.

 

3D Printer Filament Properties: PC (Polycarbonate)

 

  • Strength: Very High | Flexibility: Medium | Durability: Very High
  • Difficulty to use: Medium
  • Print temperature: 270°C – 310°C
  • Print bed temperature: 90°C – 110°C
  • Shrinkage/warping: Considerable
  • Soluble: No
  • Food safety: Not food safe

When should I use PC 3D printer filament?

 

Due to its physical properties, PC is an ideal 3D printer filament for parts that need to retain their strength, toughness, and shape in high-temperature environments, such as electrical, mechanical, or automotive components. Also try to take advantage of its optical clarity in lighting projects or for screens.

 

HIPS (high impact polystyrene)

 

In the commercial world, HIPS (high impact polystyrene) – a copolymer that combines the hardness of polystyrene and the elasticity of rubber – is commonly found in protective packaging and containers, like CD cases.

 

In the world of 3D printing, HIPS typically plays a different role. 3D printers can’t print onto thin air. Overhangs require some underlying structure, and this is where HIPS really shines. When paired with ABS in a dual extrusion printer, HIPS is an excellent support material. Simply fill any gaps in your design with this 3D printer filament, then melt it away by immersing the finished product in limonene, a colorless liquid hydrocarbon.

 

Avoid using HIPS with other 3D printer filaments, as they can be damaged by limonene, whereas ABS is left unscathed. HIPS and ABS print well together in any case, being of similar strength, stiffness, and requiring a comparable print temperature.

 

In fact, despite its primary use as a support material, HIPS is a decent 3D printer filament in its own right. It is stronger than both PLA or ABS, warps less than ABS, and it can be easily glued, sanded, and painted.