Learn how the future of new materials will drive 3D printing

Top 10 Future 3D Printing Materials (that exist in the present!)

Posted By on Sep 28, 2016 |

3D Printing has grown rapidly and it’s gaining popularity in a number or areas thanks to innovative new materials. Having introduced some new materials and services to our catalogue, we wondered how the future of new materials will drive the 3D printing sector into new horizons.
It’s only natural to think about the future of 3D printing materials as the years go by. Indeed, many large companies have invested in additive manufacturing, as well as the material market. In fact, Research and Market estimate that the global additive manufacturing material market will grow in value from 530.1 million dollars in 2016 to 1,409.5 million dollars by 2021.

Some of the materials in our list today already exist, some of them are already used, but all of them combined with 3D technology bring out new possibilities and might one day shape our world. This is why we decided to bring you what we believe are the top 10 3D printing future materials. It’s good to dream about innovations that are already on their way!

 

1. Multimaterial Shape Memory Polymer (4D printing)

 

3D printed shape memory Eiffel tower recovering its original shape upon heating

3D printed shape memory Eiffel tower recovering its original shape upon heating

 

Part of the 4D printing craze, engineers from MIT and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) published in the journal Nature, under the title Multimaterial 4D Printing with Tailorable Shape Memory Polymers their research on a heat-responsive polymer. The SMP (Shape Memory Polymers) has the  ability to be shaped differently, after being bent or being exposed to extreme pressure, and subsequently recover its original shape upon an environmental stimuli, which in this case is heat.

 

The snapshots of the process of grabbing an object

The snapshots of the process of grabbing an object

 

2. 3D Printing Molecules

 

Molecular 3D Printer

Molecular 3D Printer

 

Imagine a machine that can practically build anything its user desires, all on the molecular, and eventually atomic levels. Well a group of chemists  at the University of Illinois have been working in that direction. Led by a medical doctor, Martin D. Burke, the team have created a machine capable of automatically synthesizing new small organic molecules by welding together pre-made building blocks that can be put together in any configuration. Two hundred such building blocks already exist. As a result, the machine has the ability to 3D print billions of different small organic compounds that can then be tested as new drugs or for other uses. This printer is now being developed by REVOLUTION Medicines, Inc. More information is available on our blog post involving 3D Printing for the Chemical Industry.

 

3. 3D Printing Conductive Materials

 

8 mm tall conductive cones

8 mm tall conductive cones

 

Using 3D printing, industries could revolutionize building blocks as electronic components enter the 3D realm. A team at Virginia Tech built, using microstereolithography, millimeter-sized 3D objects from a conductive polymer made using an ionic liquid. The features of the printed objects were as small as 25 µm, opening a lot of potential applications when it comes to human cells. Indeed, this technique could allow engineers to print conductive components or even tissue scaffolds. The team plans to further explore the possibilities of the material to possibly change characteristics such as mechanical and conductive properties.

 

4. 3D Printing Bones, Tissues, and Organs

 

A sample 3D printed scaffold that matches the lower jaw of a female patient

A sample 3D printed scaffold that matches the lower jaw of a female patient

 

Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University gave out a recipe for a successful 3D printed bones: mix at least 30 percent pulverized natural bone with some special man-made plastic and create the needed shape with a 3D printer. Indeed, 3D-printing can be used to create either scaffolds or living cellular constructs, to signal tissue-forming cells to regenerate defect regions. By integrating rehabilitation, reconstruction and regeneration, 3D-printing technologies afford the opportunity to develop treatment plans personalized according to the need and design-driven manufacturing solutions to improve aesthetic and functional outcomes for patients with defects.

As for tissues and organs, researchers from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have developed a custom-designed 3D printer and have printed ear, bone, and muscle structures. The Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System (ITOP) deposits both biodegradable plastic-like materials to form the tissue “shape” and water-based gels that contain the cells. In addition, a strong, temporary outer structure is formed. More information is available on our blog post involving 7 things that Medical 3D printing can already do.

 

5. Eco-Friendly Materials for 3D Printing

 

The 100% ecological material

The 100% ecological material

 

ABS plastic, mostly used by FDM printers,  is currently the most common plastic used today. However, it is not exactly environmentally friendly, and can actually put off harmful fumes when melted. Additive Elements, a startup out of Munich, has been working on safe, bio-based materials and believe that it is the future of this industry. Indeed, the company is working on a material for which a person will be able to print out an object, and when done with it, recycle it and use it as feedstock for the next part they intend to print out. The material, as they say, consists exclusively of inert materials and raw materials, which are food grade. The unprinted powder may be completely recycled and the final product will be harmless if disposed of with other waste.

 

6. Carbon Nanotubes

 

3DXNano from 3DXTech

3DXNano from 3DXTech

 

Nanotechnology can also be used to enhance the 3D printed materials. Carbon nanotubes, the prime example, have been used by several companies, 3DXTech, Arevo Lab and Avante Technology, to significantly strengthen polymer-based filaments. Indeed, carbon nanotubes have been used to reinforce plastic objects that were 3D printed using FDM. The basic process involves coating the plastic filament with carbon nanotube ink and then subjecting it to microwaves. The carbon nanotubes have the particularity of heating up particularly fast in response to microwaves, while the plastic used in FDM doesn’t. This will make the plastic filament melt slightly, and bond together better, making the finished object much stronger. More information is available on our blog post involving 3D Printed Nanotechnology.

 

7. 3D Printing Graphene

 

Graphene aerogel

Graphene aerogel

 

Graphene has been hailed as a miracle material with the potential to revolutionize 3D printing as it is deemed as the thinnest, strongest and most flexible material in the world. Graphene is composed of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice and it is a great conductor of heat and electricity. A number of companies have been working on integrating graphene in the 3D printing sector. Haydale Graphene Industries, a UK based graphene and nanomaterials manufacturer, has announced a launch of its new line of graphene-enhanced PLA filaments for which companies have reported major benefits over traditional PLA filaments, whether it is improved strength and stiffness or better impact performance. Others have been heading towards the road of light materials with the introduction of 3D printed graphene aerogel. It’s 7.5 times lighter than air, and a cubic metre of the stuff weighs just 160 grams. New ways of storing energy can be created using the graphene aerogel, as well as being useful in sensors, nanoelectronics, catalysis or separations.


 

8. 3D Printing Cemented Carbide

 

Integrated cooling tunnel in a component at a raw state after sintering

Integrated cooling tunnel in a component at a raw state after sintering

 

Cemented carbide is a hard material which consists of fine particles of carbide cemented into a composite by a binder metal. It is generally used in industrial applications such as engineered components, wear parts, and tools. Fraunhofer IKTS have developed a method to 3D print cemented carbide with the binder jetting 3D printing technology, producing extremely hard objects. In fact, these objects can withstand enormous forces present in production machines like mills or drills. Furthermore, complex objects are possible, such as helical shapes or cooling tunnels inside components.

 

9. 3D Printing Concrete

 

3D printed concrete wall (XtreeE)

3D printed concrete wall (XtreeE)

 

Several companies have been working on large scale 3D printing using concrete to build houses and other types of buildings. According to a study by Research and Markets, in a publication called 3D Concrete Printing Market – Forecast to 2021, many construction companies are and will be using concrete 3D printing as it is becoming a more viable option for construction projects. One of those companies ahead in the game is France-based XtreeE. XtreeE is developing a whole functional 3D printing ecosystem, which includes the 3D printing concrete material, a robot capable of extruding the material and a software specialized for concrete 3D printing. To develop its 3D printing construction solution, XtreeE has been working closely with a number of partners, one of them being 3D software company Dassault Systèmes, which they have worked with to create a 3D printed pavilion.


 

10. Pasta (or food in general)

 

BARILLA - 3D pasta

BARILLA – 3D pasta

 

Food has been used for quite some time in the realm of 3D printing, but nothing stands out more than 3D printed pasta. Barilla has been working on their very own 3D printed pastas for quite some time now. However, a working prototype of their 3D printer has only been recently unveiled at CIBUS 2016 International Food Exhibition in Parma. The printer is capable of printing four unique pasta shapes in just two minutes relying on pre-made pasta cartridges for which nutritional values, textures and color can be controlled. Barilla sees their pasta being produced for restaurants and pasta stores, used to create gourmet recipes.

 

Which ones of these materials do you think are most impressive? Do you believe that other materials are worth noting? What do you think we’ll be able to 3D print next?  Do no hesitate to tell us in the comment section and on social networks!

 

To know more about 3D printing materials, check out our materials catalogue, and our free ebook, The 3D printing materials bible.

If you want to get a first-hand experience of what 3D printing can do, get at it right now and upload a 3D file on our platform to get a free quote!

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