Getting Started Guide 6 – Advanced Materials

Getting Started Guide 6 – Advanced Materials

So you’re ready to get deep into more complicated and durable materials? Stepping past the basic PLA+ and unlocking more reliable arms?

Good Materials

PETG – Polyethylene terephthalate

A very good first step into advanced materials is PETG. It offers a more durable print than PLA+ and while not quite as robust as ABS it’s far easier to print with. Some brands will print with the same settings as your existing PLA+ profile so it’s a nearly seamless transition to this material. I recommend drying your filament spools in a food dehydrator or filament dryer before use as PETG is a hygroscopic material. Its also quite sticky when printing so choose your print bed surface carefully. I use a boro-glass bed with a PEI sheet on top and dust it with a spritz of Windex before I start the print. ***SOME MODELS WILL FUNCTION…UNEXPECTEDLY WITH THIS MATERIAL. Consult the readmes***

Verdict: Very good first step up from PLA+. Will require some minor upgrades to your printer. If you’re following the guide you should have most of these already.

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Likely the next easiest material to print with, Nylons are significantly more durable than PETGs but at the cost of higher shrinkage and more wear on the printer. The temps required to print this are at the top of the Ender 3s range and the printer will wear out quickly if run constantly in this manner.

Verdict: Solid material for the advanced printer. All the designs that have been printed in this have fared relatively well and saw significantly longer service lives than the preceding materials. Still, its more difficult to use, and that learning curve prevents many from stepping into it.

Brand Recommendations: DuPont Zytel – $90/kg is about normal for this. There are cheaper nylons and I recommend you find them and start dialing in your print settings before going into this deep end.

PC (Polycarbonate)

Exceptionally durable and heat-resistant, but requires a very hot hotend (300C) to print effectively which means you’re not going to be doing this on an Ender 3. I recommend buying a printer that is designed to support these sorts of temperatures.

Verdict: It’d be great if we didn’t have to get a new printer to print with it.

Brand Recommendations: None at this time. I haven’t even started screwing with this.

Bad Materials

Carbon Fiber

Most of you are going to read this and start salivating over your carbon fiber filaments. Stop. Carbon fiber in most applications related to our 3D printing is a waste. CF does not do well with shock forces concentrated on small surfaces like pinholes and still has the same problems as any other PLA-based print at layer lines. More so because the CF does not bond as well as the layers as straight PLA. Not to mention it’s more difficult to work with, more expensive to buy, and harder to find.

Verdict: Don’t get caught by the buzzwords. Skip it until you know what you’re doing with your printer and intentionally set out to explore this filament. I’m sure we’ll find a use for it in the future but right now it’s not for us. It’s not bad per-se. Just over-hyped by people who aren’t doing firearm design and dealing with the application of these particular forces.

ABS – Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene

Stiff, sturdy, and difficult to use. ABS suffers from susceptibility to drafts and ambient temperature variations resulting in bad layer adhesion. If you have an enclosure it will be easier to print but still far more problematic than other materials.

Verdict: Skip this entirely unless your part requires this exact material.

TPE, TPU, TPC – thermoplastic elastomers – Flexible

Very few components are going to call for any sort of flexible materials. For reliable prints with this you’re going to need to upgrade your hotend to a direct drive version and then retune your printer. Advanced users only.

Verdict: Skip unless you have a very specific application in mind. Like scope covers or something.


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