In two previous interviews with Polymer Technology lecturer Colin Hindle we discussed ABS material and Temperature. Colin has had over thirty years experience working in the plastics and polymer industry and 3dprintworks we have really enjoyed collaborating with Colin to develop a range of materials.

In this Q & A we discuss a range of materials and the advantages (or disadvantages) of each.

Q: What makes flexible PLA flexible?

A: Typically, a plasticiser can be added to the PLA to make it more flexible, but you can co-polymerise as well.

Q: Would you say that high density polyethylene would be a good material to print with?

A: Yes, no great reason why not.  But it does have quite a high shrinkage so you’re going to get more distortion. But it would form nice welds together so as long as you weren’t too worried about the final dimension – I think shrinkage would be a bigger factor.

Q: Would high impact polystyrene be a good material to print with?

A: High impact polystyrene has properties similar to ABS, not quite as good, but similar. It wouldn’t be better than ABS but it’s a cheaper starting material.

Q: How about low density polyethylene?

A: Again, similar to high density polyethylene, but this time the shrinkage wouldn’t be as great and it would be a more flexible product you would produce anyway. So there’s no reason why it shouldn’t print.

Q: We’ve printed with nylon before, but what makes it  particularly good to print with?

A: Well, nylon has a quite high melting point and quite a sharp melting point, and once it melts, it melts down into a very low viscosity, which is quite useful.  It also has excellent mechanical properties which contributes to improved strength.  It’s a naturally high performing material.

Q: Expanding on nylon then – why do you have to dye it rather than put colourant in it?

A: You can put colourant into nylon like any other thermo-plastic but you also have the option of dying it use water soluble dyes.  The textile industry prefers dying and so dyes have been developed for that purpose.  In order to work some water borne dye has to soak into the plastic and most plastics are resistant to water so that wouldn’t really work, but nylon of course is not. It absorbs a certain amount of water, it will absorb dye so you can dye it, nylon dyes work quite well. It will only be sort of skin deep.

Q: We’ve also printed with PET. What makes it a good material to print with?

A: PET is not the easiest of material I would have thought to print with. It’s hydroscopic and absorbs water so you need to dry it, but again like nylon it has quite a high sharp melting point.

Which material would you choose to print with? Have you printed with any of these already – if so what was the result?


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