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Taking 3DP To The Next Level

We’ve gotten really good at making desktop Fused-Filament Fabrication printers, but how do we take it to the next level? There are 100s of different types of plastics, but we have been sticking to PLA and ABS in the 3DP world. So, what’s the next frontier in desktop 3DP?

According to Matt Stultz, the leader of 3D Printing Providence and a member of the testing team for this year’s Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing, the next big thing is materials. There are several new varieties of printable plastic that appeared on the market in 2013; including: thermochromic, conductive, Laywood, Laybrick, polypropylene, HIPS, nylon, and TGlass (PET) filaments.


Why Advanced Materials?

Each plastic has different properties that make it useful for different tasks.  For example, nylon is both strong and non-reactive to substances like gasoline; making it ideal for durable automobile parts like gas tanks. Other plastics like PET (TGlass), have excellent optical clarity and are easy to work with. Laywood and Laybrick are PLA composites that look similar to wood or sandstone when printed.


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Some of the most interesting uses of these substances are as dissolvable support materials. HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene), typically used for fast food packaging, interacts well when used in a dual extrusion machine with ABS. The HIPS can be dissolved with Limonene, making impossible print overhangs a thing of the past.

How to Get Started?

Matt recommends that those who want to get started with these materials to first keep their printer in mind.  Does it have a heated bed or dual extruders?  If not, your options are more limited when it comes to multi-material printing, but there are many filaments that you can try with any printer.  You can buy these filaments from a number of online vendors, but some good places to start are: Filaco (for HIPS), Taulman 3D (for nylon and TGlass), and Maker Geeks (Laywood, Laybrick, flexPLA and more).

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See Matt’s 3D Printing Providence post for more details on using HIPS as a soluble support material and keep an eye on their blog for more materials updates and tutorials.  Also, check out the Make: 3D Printing book, Chapter 8 – Plastics for 3D Printing, for extrusion temps and adhesion methods for these new materials.

Have you been experimenting with these materials?  Send your tips and tricks to me at anna at makermedia dot com or take to the comments.

Anna Kaziunas France

Anna Kaziunas France is the Digital Fabrication Editor of Maker Media. She’s also the Dean of Students for the Global Fab Academy program, the co-author of Getting Started with MakerBot and she compiled the Make: 3D Printing book. 



  1. Anderson Ta says:

    One thing of note when trying to dissolve HIPS in limonene is agitation. I tried it in still limonene, magnetic stirrer and hot plate/stirrer combo. The time difference was about 48 hours to dissolve when still, about 13 hours with stirring and less than 9 hours with heat and stirring.

    1. Thanks Andy! That is valuable information. On your G+ feed (, you list the magnetic stirrer ( and Limonene ( you used. Nice!

  2. Norman Fair says:

    Protoplant recently finished a Kickstarter campaign to make carbon fiber reinforced PLA, high temperature PLA, and polycarbonate-ABS alloy. They expect to start shipping somewhere around June ’14 so I assume regular sales will start around the same time.

    1. Norman Fair says:

      Oops, forgot to link to the campaign for more info and a link to what I assume will eventually have sale info.

    2. Matt Stultz says:

      Yep, I got some early beta samples of their material and reviewed it too!

  3. Good tips when you’re considering advanced 3d Printing! and really informative!