3D printing material is the general name of the materials applied in 3D printing technology. The materials used for 3D printing often vary depending on the needs of the item being printed. Commonly used 3D printing materials include glass materials, fiber materials, durable nylon materials, gypsum materials, aluminum materials, titanium alloys, stainless steel, silver plating, gold plating, rubber materials, etc.
The application range of 3D printing materials is very wide, involving jewelry and apparel, industrial design, biomedicine, aerospace, naval vessels, automobile industry and other fields.
- Jewelry and apparel: 3D printing materials have been used in jewelry and apparel for a long time. Durable nylon materials or other clothing materials are used as 3D printing materials, which can be used to print clothes, hats and even high heels for different needs.
- Medicine: The application of 3D printing materials in biomedicine is later than other fields, but it has become a hot spot in modern medical treatment. Expensive resins, for example, could be used to 3D print models of organs such as the liver and pancreas for disease research. Using titanium as a 3d-printed material, the skull can be printed in a 3D printer to treat people with skull damage. In addition, some alloys can be used as 3D printing materials to print human organs such as the spine, blood vessels and spinal cord.
Figure 1. The chest cavity is printed with 3D printing materials.
- Pharmaceuticals: 3D printing materials also have important applications in the pharmaceutical field. For example, levetiracetam, prepared by Aprecia pharmaceuticals with 3D printing technology, has been approved for marketing by the USA food and drug administration (FDA) and will be available for sale in 2016. Drugs made from 3D printing materials have rich internal pores and high internal surface area, so they can be dissolved by a small amount of water in a short time. In a word, the application of 3D printing materials in the pharmaceutical field is of great significance to the realization of precision and targeted pharmaceuticals in the future.
- Aerospace: in the beginning, 3D printing materials were used in aerospace to produce space telescopes that could be put into satellites to work. With the improvement of 3D printing technology, rocket injectors and drones have been successfully printed using various appropriate 3D printing materials. Now, as long as the right 3D printing materials are carried, astronauts can still make their own parts in a weightless environment, which would greatly increase the flexibility of space station experiments, reduce the type and number of space station spare parts and operating costs, and reduce the station's dependence on ground supplies.
- Navy ships: 3D printing materials could also be used in some maritime military equipment. For example, some metal materials (such as aluminum and titanium) can be used as 3D printing materials to print ship parts.
Currently, 3D printing materials can be divided into polymer materials, metal materials and ceramic materials according to the different properties of materials. Polymer materials are divided into plastic materials and photosensitive resin materials, and different materials are for different applications.
- Plastic material: Plastic materials are widely used in 3D printing, especially with the development of FDM 3D printer technology, there are many kinds from industrial to desktop. Common plastic consumables include PLA, ABS, etc.
- Photosensitive resin: Photosensitive resin is a 3D printing material of polymer resin, which consists of polymerized monomer and prepolymer. Under a certain wavelength of ultraviolet light, photosensitive resin can take place immediately polymerization reaction to complete the curing. Photosensitive resin is generally liquid, used for making high strength, high temperature resistance, waterproof materials.
- Metal materials: Metal materials that belong to 3D printing materials mainly include titanium alloy, aluminum alloy, stainless steel and so on.
Figure 2. Stainless steel 3D-printed materials
- Ceramic materials: Ceramic materials not only have the characteristics of high strength, high hardness and high temperature resistance, but also have the characteristics of corrosion resistance, high elastic modulus and good chemical properties. They are mainly used in aerospace, industry, jewelry and luxury goods, medical implants and other industries to meet the needs of different 3D printers.
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