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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.

Squirrels

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.

disolvingHIPSLimonine

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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

Digital Fabrication Editor of Maker Media.

She runs the digital fabrication hardware testing for Make:. If you’re a vendor who would like to submit a tool for review (3D printer, CNC, laser cutter, fab software etc.), contact her directly at: anna [@] makermedia [dot] com.

She’s the section editor for Make: Skill Builder. Make: celebrates your right to tweak, hack, and bend any technology to your will. But — In order to really tweak and bend something, you need to understand it! If you’d like to write a tightly focused piece on a core maker skill in science / engineering / craft / art / architecture / robotics / fabrication etc. (whatever) that you’d like to teach to other makers — and have Make: work with you to illustrate for magazine publication — let her know!

She’s very interested in your ideas for practical digital fabrication focused books — anything that turns codes into things — hardware and software.

She’s also the Dean of the global Fab Academy program, the co-author of Getting Started with MakerBot, compiled the Make: 3D Printing book and ran the 2015 and 2014 3D Printer Shootout Weekend testing events.

She likes things that are computer-controlled, parametric, and open source — preferably all three.

Find her on her personal site, Twitter, , and Facebook.


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