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What Material Is Used For 3D Printing?

What Material Is Used For 3D Printing? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone


January 26, 2023

If you know what material is used for 3D printing, you'll have a better idea of how to get the most out of your prints.

3D printing is a multipurpose technology. You can create a diverse range of specialized applications by using various materials.Each material has its unique features, advantages, and weaknesses based on its application. Plus, there are many important factors to consider, such as texture, cost, type, etc., to avoid making unnecessary mistakes while using a 3D printer.

There is a range of materials that are used for 3D printing. These include plastics (and their varying types), fiberglass composites, powders, resin, metals, carbon fiber, graphite, Nylon, and more. These materials also break off into subcategories like PLA and PETG.

The materials used in 3D printing are as diverse as the products made using novel technology. The 3D printer industry has been booming over the years with the latest technological advancements and developments.

After years of working with 3D printers and the various materials involved, we're in a great position to tell you all about the materials that you might encounter when you start 3D printing.

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Table of Contents

What Material Is Used for 3D printing?

The type of materials you use will determine whether you can construct pieces with the desired aesthetics, functional attributes, and mechanical properties.


Plastic is the most widely used raw material for 3D printing today. One of the most versatile materials for 3D-printed toys and household fittings is plastic. Action figurines, vases, and desk utensils are among the items manufactured using this material.

Plastic filaments come in translucent and bright colors, with lime green and red being particularly popular.

Plastic is aesthetically pleasing and an attractive material to use for 3D printing, given its broad selection of color choices, smoothness, flexibility, and firmness. Moreover, plastic is quite inexpensive, so it won't put a dent in anyone's wallet.

FDM printers are used to make plastic goods, which mold and melt thermoplastic filaments into shape layer by layer. Plastics used in this procedure are commonly made of one of the following materials:

PolylacticAcid (PLA)

One of the most environmentally friendly 3D printing materials, polylactic acid is derived from natural sources such as corn starch and sugar cane and is biodegradable.

Plastics manufactured from polylactic acid, available in both soft and hard forms, are predicted to dominate the 3D printing business in the next few years. Hard PLA is a more durable and much more suitable material for a wider range of applications.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

This is a popular material for home-based 3D printers because of its strength and safety. ABS, also known as "LEGO plastic," is made up of pasta-like strands that give the material its firmness and flexibility.

ABS comes in a variety of colors, making it ideal for products such as stickers and toys. ABC is also used to manufacture jewelry and vases, which is becoming increasingly popular among crafters.

PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic)

Often found in low-cost home printers, PVA is a good choice for dissolvable support materials. PVA can be a low-cost choice for temporary-use objects, while it is not ideal for things that require significant strength.

Polycarbonate (PC)

A less common plastic than the others, polycarbonate can only be utilized in 3D printers with nozzle designs that run at high temperatures. Polycarbonate is used to mold trays and create low-cost plastic fasteners, among other things.

3D-printed plastic goods come in a variety of shapes and textures, ranging from round and flat to meshed and grooved. There is a unique spectrum of 3D-printed plastic goods, including theIncredible Hulk action figures, cogwheels, and mesh bracelets.

Polycarbonate spools in vivid colors are now available in most supply stores for home craftspeople.

We will discuss these materials in further detail.

Fiberglass Composites

Carbon fiber (which undergoes an oxidation process that stretches the polymer) is related to graphite and may be added to standard plastic to form a composite that is as strong as steel but less expensive to use than aluminum.

Large-format 3D printers from the company are meant to create stronger items faster and at a reduced cost. PEEK (polyether ether ketone) thermoplastic polymers commonly used for electrical cable installation, piston components, and bearings are also compatible with the company's printer.


Powdered materials are used to produce objects in today's more advanced 3D printers. The powder is melted and dispersed in layers inside the printer until the desired patterns, texture, and thickness are achieved. Powders can come from a variety of sources and materials, but the following are the most common:

Polyamide (Nylon)

Polyamide provides a high level of detail on a 3D-printed product because of its flexibility and strength. In a 3D-printed model, the material is especially well suited for combining pieces and interlocking elements. Everything from fasteners and handles to toy vehicles and figures is printed with polyamide.


Alumide powder, made up of a mix of polyamide and gray aluminum, produces some of the most durable 3D-printed products. The powder has a gritty and sandy appearance and is suitable for industrial models and prototypes.


Resin is one of the more restricting and less-used materials in 3D printing. Resin has limited strength and flexibility when compared to other 3D-applicable materials. Resin is a liquid polymer that enters its final state when exposed to UV radiation.

Resin is often available in white, black, and translucent colors; however, green, blue, red, and orange have also been used in printed objects.

The materials are divided into three categories:

High-Detail Resins

These are typically used for small models with a lot of detail. This type of resin is commonly used to print four-inch figures with intricate outfits and facial characteristics.

Paintable Resin

Resins in this class are often utilized in smooth-surface 3D printing and are known for their aesthetic appeal. Paintable resin is frequently used to create figurines with rendered facial characteristics, such as fairies.

Transparent Resin

This is the strongest type of resin, making it ideal for a wide range of 3D-printed goods. Frequently used for models that must be soft to the touch and appear translucent.

Rings, chess pieces, figurines, and other domestic decorations and fittings are all made using transparent resins, both clear and tinted.


Metal, which is employed through a procedure known as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), is the second most popular material in the 3D printing industry.

Metal 3D printing has already been adopted by automotive equipment makers, who have used it to speed up and simplify the fabrication of various components.

Metal can make a broader range of daily products that are both stronger and more diversified. Jewelers have made engraved bracelets out of copper or steel on 3D printers. The biggest benefit of using a 3D printer for engraving jewelry is that it is done by a printer.

Therefore, in just a few mechanically programmed processes, bracelets can be finished by the boxload,eliminating the need for manual labor that used to be necessary for engraving.

3D printing technology using metal is also allowing industries to use DMLS to create at rates and quantities that would be impossible to achieve with present assembling equipment.

Supporters of these innovations believe that 3D printing would enable machine manufacturers to generate metal parts that are stronger than traditional parts made of refined metals.

Meanwhile, in the aircraft business, the utilization of 3D parts is taking off.The metals that can be used with the DMLS technology are as diverse as the different types of 3D printer plastics:

  • Stainless steel is ideal for printing cookware, utensils, and other goods that may come into touch with water.
  • Bronze is a metal that can be used to produce vases and other decorative items.
  • Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and printed rings look great in gold.
  • Nickel is a metal that can be used to print coins.
  • Aluminum is the metal of choice for thin metal objects.
  • Titanium is the material of choice for fittings that need to be strong and solid.

Metal is used in the printing process in the form of dust. To achieve its hardness, the metal dust is burned. This enables printers to forego casting and employ metal dust directly to create metal parts. These parts can then be electro-polished and released to the market once the printing is finished.

Metal dust is most commonly used to print metal instrument prototypes, but it has also been utilized to create finished, marketable objects like jewelry. Medical gadgets have even been made from powdered metal.

The use of metal dust in 3D printing reduces the number of parts in the final output. For example, 3D printers have created rocket injectors with only two parts, but a similar device welded the old way would normally have over 100 distinct pieces.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber composites are utilized as a top-coat over plastic materials in 3D printers. The goal is to make the material more durable. In the 3D printing business, carbon fiber instead of plastic has been employed as a quick and convenient alternative to metal.

3D carbon fiber printing is projected to eventually replace the much slower carbon-fiber layup technique.Manufacturers can minimize the number of steps needed to assemble electromechanical devices using conductive carbomorph.


Graphite is a popular material used for 3D printing because of its conductivity and strength. The material is perfect for flexible gadget components, such as touchscreens.

Solar panels and structural components are also made with graphene. Graphene supporters argue that it is one of the most versatile 3D-applicable materials.

The most significant boost to graphene printing came from a collaboration between the 3D Group and Kibaran Resources, an Australian mining corporation. In laboratory experiments, pure carbon, which was discovered in 2004, proved to be the most electrically conductive material. Graphene is both light and robust, making it an ideal material for a variety of products.

The collaboration is pursuing patents to examine 3D printing graphite and graphene, a pure form of carbon that was first synthesized in a lab in 2004. Graphene conducts electricity better than other conductors on the market today, and it is also stronger, easier to insulate, and lighter.

It outperforms the best conductors by a factor of ten. It's a good case study for what kind of metal mass production additive manufacturing can achieve because it has to be developed in a lab.

Materials for research and development come from Kibaran's Tanzania mines, where high-crystallinity graphite with a purity of 99.9% carbon has been discovered. This is ideally suited to the manufacture of graphene.

The semiconductor sector is also interested in making significant amounts of graphene. In 2014, IBM, for example, discovered a technique to use graphene for LED lighting. The capacity to 3D print material sheets for use in LEDs should significantly reduce lighting manufacturing costs.


Nitinol is regarded in the 3D printing market for its super-elasticity as a common material in medical implants. Nitinol is a material made from a combination of nickel and titanium that can bend to extremes without breaking.

The material can be returned to its original shape even if folded in half. As a result, nitinol is one of the most durable and flexible materials available. Nitinol permits printers to achieve things that would otherwise be unattainable in the creation of medical items.

A 3D printer can be used to create realistic prototypes and designs on paper rather than a flat illustration. When presenting a design for approval, the presenter can express the essence of the concept with greater detail and precision thanks to the 3D-printed model.

This improves the presentation's impact by providing a more vivid feeling of the engineering realities if the design is implemented.


Nylon is the most often used plastic for 3D printing. It is a synthetic thermoplastic polyamide. Its flexibility, low friction, and durability make it an excellent choice for 3D printing. This material is also commonly used in the production of textiles and accessories.

Nylon filament (available on Amazon) is an excellent choice for intricate or delicate geometries. It's mostly utilized as a filament material in 3D printers that use Fused Filament Fabrication or Fused Deposition Modeling.

It's a low-cost plastic that's also one of the most durable materials out there.

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What Material Is Used For 3D Printing?


William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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