What New Materials Can We 3D Print in 2017?


3D printing has come a long way during the past decade, and while it still hasn’t gone mainstream it continuous to develop and conquer new areas of manufacturing. The printers have become faster and more precise, but the excitement now lies on the materials that we can use right now. Exotic and expensive materials that we could only dream about 3D printing in the past are now gradually becoming a tangible reality. Here are the most notable examples of this advancement as it is currently manifested through the work of various engineers and 3D printing system developers.

Metal X

Metal X is a new 3D printer developed by Markforged which is the same company that has presented a 3D printer that was able to create items made out of carbon fiber. The amazing thing with Metal X is that it isn’t just printing metal alloys made of special dust that don’t feature a comparable rigidness with solid metals but is able to print strong stainless steel, titanium, ¬†aluminum alloys, all with the standard composition of chrome, vanadium, nickel, etc. This means that we can finally actually print working parts, tools, and prototypes that can be actually tested in real conditions.

Form X

The X factor continues with the Form X which is a program run by Formlabs and based on the amazing abilities of their new Form 1+ 3D printer. The goal of this new program is to discover the manufacturing possibilities that derive from the use of resin-based materials. Using their stereo-lithographic technology, Formlabs has already presented items made out of a ceramic resin. This is of ultimate practical importance as ceramics are known and valued for their heat resistance properties that make them ideal for use in highly demanding applications.

HP’s MultiJet Fusion

When Hewlett Packard entered the world of 3D printing last year, everyone thought that this was the moment when the technology would become mainstream. With their MultiJet Fusion technology getting perfected, HP is about to introduce new materials to the public. Examples include flame retardant thermoplastics, glass beads, and elastomers, all in multicolor and high resolution. HP has the potential in their hands and they are basically ready to unleash it during this summer. Let’s see how the industry reacts to that, and how the market development rate gets affected by it.

Carbon 3D Fluid Resins

Carbon 3D and its CLIP (continuous liquid interface production) process is almost magical. Seeing an item getting formed in just a few minutes, rising from a small pool of liquid resin is simply mesmerizing. The selection of materials that can be used for this type of 3D printing includes rigid or flexible polyurethanes, elastomers, esters, strong and heat resistant epoxies, and urethane methacrylates. Companies that already use this technology as partners of Carbon 3D are Kodak, BMW, Nikon, General Electric, Dassault, and Johnson and Johnson. I believe this is indicative of the practical possibilities of this technology combined with this materials selection.

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I'm an engineer with a passion for writing about new technologies and the ways they shape our world and amplify our very existence.