Guide to Unusual 3D Printing Materials | Sculpteo Blog

Guide to Unusual 3D Printing Materials

Posted By Romain Cabanis on Apr 15, 2015 | 0 comments

If you’re interested in 3D printing and our manufacturing methods, you probably know about the most widely used 3D printing materials. Those include polyamide, resin, alumide, multicolor and some metals. However, these materials are just the tip of the iceburg, 3D printing has many other hidden surprises.
The following guide will help you learn more about the materials and manufacturing methods that are not found in conventional 3D printing. We’ll display the most amazing materials used in 3D printing, their functions and their technical achievement and printing. We divide these unusual materials into 5 categories:

  • Building Construction
  • Augmented Reality
  • Artistic
  • Human Body Experience
  • Edibles

Each material has its own particularity when it comes to its technical specifications. However, if you’re not interested in strength, weight, tightness, heat resistance, or the cost of production, the aesthetic quality is almost always intriguing. The term “3D printing” is often vague in its definition because it describes a wide range of manufacturing processes. One thing we can agree on is 3D printing takes a 3D file and turns it into a 3D object – how exactly it gets there is often wild and sometimes whacky.

Building Construction





This category includes some unusual materials are mainly used for construction. Realization can range from simple everyday object to an entire building.


Field of Use: Construction of exterior walls
Resistance/Solidity: Excellent
Printing Method: Cement deposit with huge 3D printers that can measure up to 50 meters in length. Smaller structures can be constructed with a ‘WASP’ 3D printer

Used mostly in architecture, these huge 3D printers deposit a concrete combination of glass fiber, recycled material and cement. That material is first poured into a polyurethane mold before being printed around the perimeter of construction. Its properties are the same as those we know to classic architectural cement. It is resistant, waterproof and durable, ideal for any building exposed to the elements. 3D printing construction method also has the advantage of being extremely fast and inexpensive.


Field of Use: Sculpture and Construction
Resistance/Solidity: High heat resistance, porous
Printing Method: Malleable clay deposit, cooled and then solidified by fans. Clay can be printed through the Delta WASP or the HyRel.

Clay is a solid and inexpensive material with high heat resistant and relative eco-friendliness. Generally used manually for pottery, clay is experienced today on larger projects such as 3D printing houses for developing countries. Clay buildings require low exposure to rain because its porosity makes it very vulnerable to moisture.

Augmented Reality


This category combines the unusual materials that mimic other, more common materials like wood or marble. These materials are not marble nor wood, however – they are a blend of materials that offer similar material qualities to offer an aesthetic similarity. These materials could not be substituted for their traditional counterparts (yet).


Field of Use: Creating objects that imitate wood
Resistance/Solidity: Shockproof, should be kept away from moisture and combustion.
Printing Method: Similar to FDM printing, the “Laywoo-3D” wood filament is coiled and extruded onto a heated base where the object is created upward layer by layer. The RepRap 3D printer is compatible with this material.

The material used is not wood in the traditional sense. It is a mixture of plastic and 40-50% recycled wood chips. Unlike traditional wood, this polymer has a bit of flexibility. It is printed using an FDM technique.


Field of Use: Architecture, creating objects that look like rock
Resistance/Solidity: Overall solid resistance
Printing Method: Rock filament deposition, also known as “Laybrick” (similar to Laywood), compatible with RepRap printers.

Stone 3D printing is accomplished through FDM printing techniques. The material is similar to a chalk powder that results in a smooth or rough finishes, depending on the polishing techniques. The material is particularly useful in architectural modeling.


Field of Use: Marble ImitationImitation du marbre
Resistance/Solidity: Excellent
Printing Method: MarbleEcoDesign, a precursor to FFF marble printers (which are currently out of production), marble is printed using classic 3D printing techniques.

Marble is derived from limestone, marble is an extremely hard and durable material, it remains a relatively expensive material. For a 3D print, marble residues is used (in powder form) by mixing them with a special resin catalyzed by UV light.




This category refers some unusual materials that are more artistic in nature, but can also hold their own in technical fields. These are relatively unclassifiable materials, a phenomenon that is due to their high versatility and the uncertainty of their true and final potential.


Field of Use: Art
Resistance/Solidity: Weak
Printing Method: Wax sculptures are printed with natural wax which is passed through a silicon mold and left to harden.

Usually used directly in the printing process, wax is a very fragile material that, in principle, has no place as a 3D rendering material because of its extreme fragility. To be used as a standalone product, such as a wax sculpture such as a candle, it starts with the creation of a silicone mold. Hot wax is then poured inside and left to harden.


Field of Use: Sand Sculpture, Mold creation
Resistance/Solidity: Solid resistance, to be kept away from moisture
Printing Method: The 5-Max sand printer uses conventional 3D printing methods. SolarSinter however, manages to create sand structures using only solar energy, a 100% eco-friendly process.

The sand is mainly used to make molds thanks to its high heat resistance. Sand structures are also highly resistant to shocks. The biggest market printer is 5-Max, but more recently, artisanal printer SolarSinter showed that with the simple power of the sun, it was possible to print 3D sand structures in particular aesthetic.


Field of Use: Sculptural and Renditions
Resistance/Solidity: Very low resistance, the paper is easily altered by water
Printing Method: Printing by the lamination of consecutive layers of paper

This material is made affordable by Iris MCor 3D printer. The paper used is lightweight, soft to the touch, environmentally friendly and very cost effective (each ton of paper costs between 700 and 1000 €). The paper printing create millions of colors. However, it is a fragile and especially vulnerable to heat and moisture material.



Field of Use: Sculpture
Resistance/Solidity: Very good resistance, fragile to violent shocks
Printing Method: Eco-friendly material, glass 3D printing to the point where we are now, is carried out by conventional 3D printing means.

Composed of 90% of ground and silicate, glass is easy to recycle and environmentally friendly. Although weak, the material is inexpensive and gives a valuable aesthetic to the object. That said, the glass still in an experimental phase.

Human Body Experience


This category proves that 3D printing is revolutionizing the art and science. You will see that there will soon be no doubt that soon we will have 3D printing (directly) in the skin.

Organic Material

Field of Use: Medecine, Science Biology
Printing Method: Transplantation and cultivation of organic cells in a gel base. These cells are constantly supplied with blood. The same method is used in FDM printing.

The 3D printer NOVOGEN MMX Bioprinter of Organovo is now able to print human tissue. The method includes establishing a gelatinous base layer and on each transplant some living cells and thus to start the construction of a biological tissue with high cell stability.

Ink (Tattoo)

Field of Use: Tattooing
Printing Method: A mechanical arm with a needle injects the ink directly below the epidermis

A very recent project that is being developed by a French team, is a 3D printer modded to tattoo a person. The machine is currently in its alpha stage, but that it may well be that she can give a dimension other tattoo, offering a precision ball and creating graphical models or not difficult to achieve the hand. Such as reproduction of faces, including the many known failures.

Just-to-Eat Category



3D printing not only inspires our imagination, it also inspires our appetites! Some new printers are able to recreate any sort of edible form candy to food. It is also very likely that within a few years, 3D printed food will be on the front lines for soldiers.


Field of Use: Culinary
Printing Method: Chocolate 3D printing is done in the same manner as FDM printing in which a melted material is deposited layer by layer to form an object

The 3D Choc Creator V1 is the leading printer for chocolate 3D prints. The coco is first converted to the liquid state before being passed to a surface and then cooled.


Field of Use: Culinary
Printing Method: Programmable recipes are available on the 3D printer’s interface. Available Foodini food capsules are selected then printed  through layer deposition. The food can then be cooked in a microwave oven.

There are several ways to print food 3D. The main one is the use of food capsules. The sculptures created are then eaten. Foodini and Dezeen printers are able to print food, however they were not originally intended to result in such materials.

Chewing Gum

Field of Use: Culinary, Artistic
Printing Method: Deposition of an aromatic resin using traditional FDM printing techniques.

An English Startup has set a project to create a custom chewing gum service creation through 3D printing. Everyone is free to customize the appearance and taste of the product.


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