What Really Matters: Materials
Together with 3D software, materials are a key ingredient to unlocking the full potential of 3D printing for manufacturing. Larger material companies are now investing significantly to cater to the rapid adoption and evolution of 3D printing technologies. Thus the AM industry drives the development of new materials which can offer better performances and also higher degrees of sustainability.
3D printing materials include four major families. Polymers refer to thermopolymers, which react to heat by melting, and photopolymers which react to light by hardening. To a lesser extent, 3D printable polymers also include silicones, and thermosets, which solidify when heated. Metals include pure metals (such as steel, iron titanium, aluminum, nickel). In addition they can include precious metals as well as a new superalloys. These are available for 3D printing in powder form or – in some cases – in wire form.
Other materials with great potential for 3D printing include advanced ceramics, like zirconia and alumina or traditional silica sand. Finally, 3D printing technologies and material manufacturers can focus specifically on composites. This family of materials includes carbon fiber and glass fiber with polymer matrices. Composites in 3D printing can take many forms.
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