Custom 3D printing is becoming increasingly popular in a wide variety of industries, from film and animation to aerospace. Many businesses are beginning to appreciate its potential for creating quick, cost-efficient and functional prototypes.
At LPE (Laser Prototypes Europe) we use a variety of materials to produce high quality custom 3D prints. Depending on the requirements of your project, you can choose from a wide range of metals, plastics and polymers with a variety of colours and finishes. Some 3D printing materials offer fantastic durability and strength, while others boast properties such as flexibility, heat resistance and impact resistance.
In this guide, we’ll discuss some of our most popular custom 3D printing materials and when they are used.
Resin is one of the most commonly used materials for prototyping and production at LPE. It’s a versatile material that can be used to create functional models quickly and cost-effectively. Resin is lightweight but strong enough for many applications, making it ideal for functional prototypes.
The stereolithography process, for example, utilises photopolymer resin; “photopolymer” means that the resin is light-sensitive, and hardens when exposed to UV light. In stereolithography 3D printing, liquid photopolymer resin is built up layer by layer into a shape. Because the resin can be cured quickly, solid shapes can be created quickly; shapes that wouldn’t be possible with (for example) vacuum casting.
Resin 3D printed parts vary in their qualities; they can be bendable and suitable for snap-fit assemblies, transparent for demonstration models, or sturdy enough for functional use. This versatility is what makes resin an ideal material for custom 3D printing.
Metal can be used to 3D print parts through the direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process. Through DMLS, LPE can create parts that would otherwise be impossible using wrought materials, with the added bonus of increased strength and density.
As with resin, 3D printed metal parts offer fine detail in a variety of sizes. The difference is in the qualities that metal offers. Metal is a great option for products requiring higher durability and strength. LPE use metal to create functional parts which are tougher and denser than plastic. Metal can come at a higher 3D printing cost, but boasts fantastic functional and practical properties and is ideal for robust product testing.
We offer a variety of metals, each suitable for different projects and purposes. For example, aluminium is lightweight with a high-quality surface finish, whereas stainless steel is the toughest option.
Elastomer is a rubber-like material created using polymers. Elastomer parts can be stretched and bent to a far greater extent than photopolymer resin, making them ideal for applications that require flexibility or elasticity. It’s often used for components that require vibration dampening and shock absorption, as well as parts needing abrasion resistance.
Elastomer parts can be produced using digital light processing (DLP). This is a newer 3D printing method which produces production-grade materials, making it ideal for functional prototypes. It also offers an extremely high-quality finish with intricate detailing.
Nylon is an incredibly strong material that has excellent chemical and heat resistance, making it a good choice for parts which need to withstand harsh environments. It also has low thermal expansion, meaning parts will remain in shape under varying temperatures.
Nylon is used at LPE as part of the selective laser sintering (SLS) process. We offer a variety of nylon-based materials to choose from, including tough nylon, glass-filled, flame-retardant and aluminium-filled.
Composites are materials made up of two or more different elements. The combination of materials offers unique properties, which means that composites can be ideal for unique applications.
The typical way in which composites are made is by mixing fibres into a thermoplastic mix, e.g. carbon fibres. This provides the material with exceptional strength, stiffness and durability.
If you are unsure of which 3D printing material would best suit your needs, contact LPE today. Our helpful team will be happy to provide expert advice based on your project and budget. You can also view our handy materials comparison tables here.
Choose LPE for Rapid, High-Quality 3D Printing
From consumer goods to medical devices, from fashion to aerospace, prototypes play a crucial role in product developing and design. Rapid prototyping technologies, such as 3D printing, enable designers to identify any potential issues early in the product development cycle and avoid costly tooling errors.
At LPE, we offer fast and accurate rapid prototyping services using an extensive range of 3D printing technologies. We also provide a wide range of post-processing services, from inserts and assembly to custom painting and finishing.
Whatever industry you represent, LPE can provide you with high-quality rapid prototyping services to streamline your product development process. Our state-of-the-art technology and award-winning services ensure maximum accuracy and fast lead times. Request a quote today!