3D printing plastic

Plastics were the first material group to be processed using 3D printing and are currently still the most commonly used material. The extensive range of materials includes an array of thermoplastic resins such as polyamide (PA) or acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), which are available in countless variations. Used as a powder, granulate or strand-like filaments, they are built up into high-definition 3D objects using selective laser sintering or fused deposition modeling. Transparent objects can be created that allow a view into the interior of the component, by using liquid plastics that are processed using a stereolithography process, for example.

3D printing with ceramic

Producing ceramic objects in 3D printing requires a manufacturing process comprising multiple steps: In the stereolithography process, a ceramic monomer solution is first built up into a green body. The plastic components are mixed in as a binding agent and then removed by means of a subsequent thermal treatment. Polymers decompose completely at temperatures of up to 1,600 °C. Finally, the workpiece undergoes a sintering process for the final compaction of the ceramic particles. The high wear resistance and low weight of the components make ceramics an important material for the tool making and mechanical engineering, medical technology or the aerospace industry.

3D printing metal

In 3D printing, components that are extremely stable and durable are manufactured out of various metals. In selective laser melting, the powdered metal is melted and built up into a 3D object layer by layer. With their high level of resilience and temperature resistance, they are in no way inferior to cast metal tools – on the contrary: Due to the greater design flexibility, 3D printed components are increasingly replacing conventionally manufactured components in industry.

Metals that are used especially frequently in 3D printing are tooling steel, stainless steel, aluminum and just recently, copper. Compared with plastic, the melting point of metals is significantly higher so that more energy is required for processing. Systems for selective laser melting are therefore usually equipped with 200 to 1,000 W fiber lasers, which can melt metal powder with a high degree of precision.