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Maximizing the benefits of 3D Printing: a review of Plastic 3D Printing materials

Plastic 3D printing: a revolution in the making

By now, and unless you are living in a remote place with no access to the internet, you certainly have heard about 3D Printing. The rise of this fascinating technology has already revolutionized the way we make things by introducing innovative design and production means. Industries such as healthcare, robotics, luxury goods, aerospace and manufacturing are taking full advantage of this newly democratized technology to optimize their processes, push their own boundaries and help build the world of tomorrow.


If you’re interested in production using Plastic 3D printing, it can be overwhelming to know where to start, and determine which material is the best fit for your specific needs.

Do not fear, we’ve got your back! Keep reading to learn more

Advantages of Plastic 3D Printing

In addition to the versatility in material options, plastic 3D printing has several other advantages over traditional manufacturing methods.

Let’s take a look at some of them. 3D Printing: 

  • enables quicker prototyping and product development.
  • allows businesses to ease the design process, especially when trying out different iterations.
  • can be a cost-effective manufacturing process, as it can reduce the need for tooling.
  • has the ability to create complex geometries and shapes.

Thanks to the use of 3D modeling, plastic 3D printing opens up a whole new world of design possibilities, and can result in products that are truly unique, bespoke and will fit your needs perfectly, when traditional manufacturing methods can have difficulty producing intricate and unique designs. Depending on your choice of material, your parts could also be lighter, more efficient and resistant. This will prove especially useful for delicate or specific engineering parts that can not be produced in traditional ways.

Here, at Sculpteo, we are offering an online 3D printing platform where you can choose from 30+ materials to print your parts for any application. We understand the importance of choosing the right materials for your specific needs and projects, that’s why this article provides a comprehensive review of the various types of plastics available in our range, ensuring that you have all the information you need to make an informed decision. However, if you feel like you need more information, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Customer Service!

Why High-Performance Plastics are Key for Plastic 3D Printing

Plastic is the most commonly used material in 3D printing, but it also comes in many different shapes and forms, and can be printed using different 3D printing technologies, such as Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). In this article, we’ll review the different types of plastics and which printing technologies they’re available with. We will also see how they differ from one another, and which applications they are best used for.

Just like we mentioned earlier, when it comes to plastic 3D printing, there is a wide range of materials to choose from, the relevancy of which depends on which application they’re needed for. Let’s dive in and review this broad range of available options.


Nylon PA12: The Versatile, Strong, Resistant Option

Nylon PA12

 Nylon PA12, a type of polyamide, is known for its strength and durability, making it a good alternative to injection molding. It is bio-compatible, approved for skin and food contact, as well as resistant to impacts and chemicals.


Nylon PA12 also has low weight and low friction, which is relevant for parts that need to move or rotate. It is most commonly used when stiffness, heat resistance and strength are needed. This makes it a popular choice for parts such as gears, bearings, and other mechanical components in the automotive and aerospace industries.


Nylon PA12 is also resistant to wear and tear; it will be great for end-products that need to be long-lasting and durable, such as prosthetics and drones, or other structural and mechanical parts. It will also be a good choice to produce functional prototypes.


At Sculpteo, Nylon PA12 is available both in SLS and HP MultiJet Fusion technologies with Jet Fusion PA12.




Nylon PA11: Tough, Durable and Flexible Opportunities


Nylon PA11

 Nylon PA11, another type of polyamide, made from Castor Oil, is similar to Nylon PA12 but with a few key differences. First of all, PA11 is considered a bioplastic and has an overall more eco-friendly profile than PA12. 

This bioplastic is known for its toughness and chemical resistance, making it particularly relevant for products that will be exposed to harsh environments. Its resistance to impact and high toughness will be able to withstand mechanical loads, and makes it an ideal choice for parts that will handle high stress, thanks to its flexibility.

Nylon PA11 is often used in applications that require both resistance and flexibility, such as living hinges, fluid handling systems, pump components, and orthopedics parts or external medical devices, protective cases and covers for electronics.


Available with both SLS & MJF


Depending on your specific needs, you might want to have a look at these two Nylon PA11 variations ;


Nylon PA11 CF

 Nylon PA11 CF is Carbon Fiber reinforced Nylon offering an even greater strength and stiffness than standard Nylon PA11. Its extremely high rigidity, high impact resistance and high strength makes it the ideal choice for parts used in industries such as transportation, automotive, aerospace, appliances and manufacturing.


Ultrasint ® PA11 CF is available with SLS


Nylon PA11 ESD

 Nylon PA11 ElectroStatic Dissipative has been especially conceived to prevent static buildup. This makes it particularly suited to applications where electrostatic discharge (ESD) is a concern, for instance in industries working with very sensitive electronic components. 

PA11 ESD will provide protection against electrostatically induced failure and damage. It’s an optimal choice for the rapid construction of durable jigs and fixtures for electronics.


Ultrasint ® PA11 ESD is available with SLS


PA6 MF: The Resistant, Strong & Rigid Solution



 Polyamide 6 with micro glass fibers is a type of Nylon that has been reinforced with a mineral filling in order to benefit from an extremely high rigidity and stiffness. It will be particularly useful to produce parts that need to be resistant to deformation. 

This makes it a suitable material in applications where high resistance, precision and technicity are needed, in industries such as transportation, automotive, aerospace and electronics. Its wear and heat resistance, as well as its media tightness, are making it an ideal choice for media flow and storage parts, structural and mechanical parts, engine bay parts and other tooling equipments.


Ultrasint ® PA6 MF is available with SLS


If you place more emphasis on stiffness and strength than on wear and heat resistance, Nylon 3200 GF might be an interesting material for you.


Nylon 3200 GF: The Stiff, Strong & Stable Alternative

Nylon 3200 GF

 Glass Filled Nylon 3200 will be an excellent choice when it comes to dimensional stability, strength and stiffness characteristics. It is less resistant to heat than PA6 MF but is more durable and resistant than Nylon PA12. Suitable for high stresses and heavy loads, this material will be a solid investment for your machine and engine parts needs. It will also prove itself to be a trustworthy solution in applications such as appliances and construction.


Available with SLS


TPU: The Soft and Flexible Choice


 TPU, or thermoplastic polyurethane, is a soft and flexible plastic known for its high elasticity and resistance to abrasion. This material will be perfect in applications that require great flexibility and a soft touch. It will most commonly be used to produce consumer goods and can be used in many different ways, given that it can easily be molded into complex shapes.


It is particularly recommended for products that need to be both comfortable and functional, such as phone cases, gaming controllers, and wearables. Its rubber-like elasticity makes it an excellent material for orthopedic models and shoe soles.


Additionally, TPU has good resistance to oils and fuels, which is very important for products that will be exposed to these substances.


TPU is available with both SLS and MJF


Get counseling on the best material for your project


Alumide: The Aesthetic Preference


 Alumide is a hybrid material combining aluminum and polyamide powder. With its low abrasion resistance, it is most notably used in ornamental and decorative objects, but can also be used for specific structural or mechanical parts thanks to its durability and water-resistance, provided abrasion isn’t a concern.


It will be a certain success for jewelry and glasses purposes, with its stunning metallic appearance and the variety of its finishing options.


Here you can see a few examples of how designers use and explore 3D printing’s unique features to elevate their  designs, and create innovative pieces of jewelry


Available with SLS


PP: Performant, Lightweight and Reliable


 PolyPropylene is a versatile material with a semi-crystalline structure that has good chemical and moisture resistance. It can be used for parts such as dashboard and car interior components, pipes, tubes and machinery, fluid reservoirs or airflow and fluid systems. It is a safe choice if you need a performant and rigid plastic, its lightness making it a popular solution for a variety of consumer goods and packaging needs. It is also recyclable.


Available with MJF


PLA: The Eco-friendly and Affordable Pick

Polylactic Acid

 PLA – Polylactic Acid – is a plant-based, recyclable, biodegradable material that’s easy to use and widely available. It’s especially recommended when there’s no specific technical or performant requirement you need to meet. 

This food-safe bioplastic is most recommended for hobbyist use and artistic projects, in applications such as promotional items, ornaments and end-use products. PLA might also be used for tooling and industrial parts, thanks to its good strength and stiffness. However, it will not be as resistant or performant as other materials.


The main advantage of this material, printed using the widely known Fused Deposition Modeling 3D printing technology, is that it enables for very large parts, up to 1m x 1m x 1m. 


PLA is available with Big-Rep® FDM  

Sustainability and Plastic 3D Printing


Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important issue in all industries, and plastic 3D printing is no exception. While plastic has a reputation for being environmentally unfriendly, using plastic 3D printing is relevant in order to help reduce waste, as it makes it possible to print smaller batches on-demand, allowing for precise control over the amount of material used. It can also help reduce long-distance transportation, allowing parts to be produced more locally. As many industries increase their efforts to produce in a more sustainable way, 3D printing makes it possible to use recycled materials, as well as biodegradable bioplastics. 

If you want to learn more about bioplastics, you can take a look at Nylon PA11, which is a good example of a performant material, produced from Castor Oil.

Interesting developments are most certainly on the way in Plastic 3D printing, so keep your eyes wide open !


How can we help you reach your business goals with Plastic 3D Printing ?

At Sculpteo, we understand that your business needs reliable and efficient 3D printing solutions to meet your production demands. Our extensive range of materials, including plastics, resins and metals, combined with our laser cutting services, allows us to meet all your additive manufacturing needs.


Plastic 3D printing is an innovative, versatile and cost-effective manufacturing method that has the potential to permanently change the way products and parts are made. With the right plastic material, proper equipment, and knowledgeable operators, plastic 3D printing can produce high-quality, intricate products that are strong, performant and aesthetically pleasing.


Through Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service, you can easily get your quote by uploading your file in our secure file upload system, and, thanks to our fast turnaround times, quickly get your parts delivered to you.


Should you have any questions along the way, our dedicated customer service team is always available to help you reach your objectives.


Need more information? Contact us!

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