Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, has transformed the manufacturing industry over the past few years.
Choosing the best material for additive manufacturing depends on the specific needs of the project. Two of the most popular materials for additive manufacturing are metal and plastic, both of which we house at the 3M BIC.
It is essential to carefully consider the budget, intended use of the final product, and any other requirements before selecting a material. By doing so, manufacturers can ensure that they choose the material that will provide the best results for their project, whether it’s metal or plastic.
Here we explore the differences between using metal and plastic for additive manufacturing.
Benefits of 3D printing in metals
Metal is a popular material for additive manufacturing due to its high strength and durability. There are also composite materials and nylon materials with the strength of Kevlar on the market.
Metal 3D printing enables manufacturers to create complex geometries that would be difficult or impossible to achieve using traditional manufacturing methods.
Metal 3D printing is also ideal for producing functional prototypes as the final product closely resembles the properties of the product.
The primary advantage of using metal for 3D printing is its strength. Metal parts are known for their durability, withstanding high temperatures and extreme pressures. This makes metal ideal for when parts need to withstand heavy use or extreme conditions.
The cost of metal 3D printing is generally higher than plastic 3D printing.
Benefits of 3D printing in plastics
3D printing in plastics is a more affordable and versatile alternative to metal additive manufacturing. It offers a wider range of colours and finishes, making it ideal for creating aesthetically pleasing prototypes and products.
There are many different types of plastic available, each with its own unique properties. For example, some plastics are flexible and ideal for creating parts that need to bend or twist, while others are rigid and ideal for creating parts that need to be strong and durable.
Plastic parts are generally not as strong as metal parts and may not be able to withstand the same level of wear and tear, however for quick prototype development and iterative designs this mode of material is very useful.
Additive manufacturing/ 3D printing capabilities at the 3M BIC
Boasting additive manufacturing capabilities in both plastics and metals, our Innovation and Technology team can work with you and advise on the right material for your project.
We can print in plastic, stainless steel, Inconel, aluminium, and titanium.
Businesses can also take advantage of Reduced Build Volume (RBV), which is ideal for small scale builds.
More information about our additive manufacturing capabilities, can be found here.