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Selecting the right material for 3D printing

The content of the following has been certified by the CPD Certification Service as conforming to continuing professional development principles. 

Materials must be suited to the application in order to have successful results. The properties of any material become increasingly important as a product progresses from concept and functional prototyping to production.

However, material properties can only be evaluated when the manufacturing process is considered. It is the combination of the material and the process that dictates the characteristics.

For example, an alloy processed by die casting has different properties when it is metal injection moulded. Likewise, a thermoplastic will have different properties if it is injection moulded or CNC machined.

Additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, is unique. It is different from all other manufacturing processes, so the material properties and characteristics of parts that it produces are different, even when using a nearly identical alloy or thermoplastic. In terms of material properties, it is not a matter of being better or worse; it is simply important to recognise that the results will be different.

Recognising that there is a difference, the following information will aid in the characterisation, and ultimately the selection, of materials from three widely used industrial 3D printing processes: direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), selective laser sintering (SLS) and stereolithography (SL).

Selecting-the-right-material-for-3D-printing

Proto Labs

Proto Labs delivers fully functional prototypes in production-intent materials to dramatically cut the cost and time normally associated with product development. This empowers designers and engineers with the means to rapidly develop, test, and get their products to market first in an ever-competitive global market place.

Proto Labs delivers fully functional prototypes in production-intent materials to dramatically cut the cost and time normally associated with product development. This empowers designers and engineers with the means to rapidly develop, test, and get their products to market first in an ever-competitive global market place.

Protomold delivers injection-moulded parts from moulds manufactured utilising state-of-the-art high-speed CNC machining technologies. Parts can be moulded using almost any engineering-grade resin and are ideal for prototyping, bridge tooling and low-volume production.

First Cut satisfies the need for functional prototypes much earlier in the development cycle for quantities of 1–10+. Because First Cut delivers prototypes in engineering-grade resins and aluminium they will have real material properties and improved surface finishes. In other words, they will be functional.

When you submit your 3D CAD model, Proto Labs’ powerful super-compute cluster creates an interactive quote giving pricing options and where appropriate, suggesting changes to improve manufacturability. You simply interact with your quote online, tailor options such as material and delivery to your requirements and with every change, the pricing information automatically updates. This built-in ‘what-if’ analysis enables last-minute project refinements to be accommodated at the click of a button.

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