Little plastic thing. We hear this all the time. 3D Printing is more than plastic, but let’s also take a moment to remind ourselves how much of what we buy every day made by traditional technology revolves around plastic things as well. Today, Tom and Tracy Hazzard answer the common questions – “Is 3D printing only for plastic things?” They discuss how 3D printing is not exclusive to plastic, but you can also use many other materials like metal and even food.
Listen to the podcast here:
Is 3D Printing Only For Little Plastic Things?
This is the Ask Us Anything segment.
Almost anything. This is our materials filament or the things you put into your printer or on your printer.
What’s the question?
Our question is, “Is 3D printing only for plastic things?” which I get a lot.
The reality of FFF 3D printing is plastic is included in every material. They’re not pure plastic materials.
When they say there’s wood or felts and there’s a silk one out there, they’re all composite materials. There’s plastic in there. That’s a mistake that people are thinking. Not that you can’t have a metal printer, but most FFF printing is all plastic.
Even if it’s a metallic material, there are bronze materials, copper materials or some new aluminum ones coming out and they have aluminum content or copper content in them, but the binding material is plastic.
There are food printers coming out. I hope there’s no plastic in them. I’m excited about the food printer. I love the idea of being able to print out sugar designs and things like that, especially because it’s almost our daughter’s birthday. How cool would that be to print up any design she asks us for and she can think of things. I’ve even seen one where it’s something you add on to certain open-source machines where it’s got the food already in a pre-sterilized syringe type of situation. It’s safe. You insert it in the machine and it prints whatever amount of quantity it has to do a cookie or do frosting or whatever it is. There are other things that are coming out there. Predominantly, it is plastic. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. How many things out there do we have that are plastic?
Probably the majority of consumer products you’d find in stores are either made entirely or partially of plastic.
It always used to surprise me as we would present a chair that we designed or something and people would say, “That’s a metal base.” I would look at them, like, “That’s not metal. It’s painted metallic but it’s not a metal base.” The confusion between the quality of the finish of something sometimes disguises what it’s made out of. There are some products that are coming out that are transcending plastic.
It does depend on what you’re printing, whether these parts you’re going to print will look like cheap little plastic things or they look better than that. We’re design people and we happen to believe it’s all about the design. While initially with 3D printing, there were only few colors available and those colors didn’t help the impression of these cheap little plastic things.
Every time you print something in that bright yellow color, it looks like cheap plastic. There’s not enough colorant. A lot of times in a yellow it needs a lot more clearness to that color and it tends to have a more plastic quality to it. We had some where when we did some of our angels at the holiday and they’re white, I had friends and family who we gave them to who said that they thought it was ceramic, like plaster. It’s because the quality of the white had such a crispness to it and that it also had such a matte finish quality that it looked like what you might get on a plaster piece or something like that.
In that case, you didn’t think about the plastic first. You didn’t see the plastic first. You saw a nice design. It’s plastic and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with plastic. It’s certainly a friendly material. If you’re making prototypes or samples, there’s no problem with that. If you’re trying to make actual end products that have a certain quality or weight or feel to them, there are a lot of different filaments out there that have different densities, different ways and different appearances with metallic and other things.
There was that RFID blocking one we saw. We saw this RFID blocking material at the Burbank trade show. What I was most impressed by were two things. The quality of the color had a natural material look to it. It looked like dyed cotton or something. It had that softness to the color. It made what was an orange look like a clay color. It had an interesting quality to color which was different than the chromatic primary look of PLA. On top of it, it was heavy, which is such a neat idea.
It had some nice weight to it because when you think of plastic parts or products, you think lightweight, not substantial but this material is substantial.
We’ve got to get some of that and try that one out. I’ve got here some felt that I’ve been dying to try because it’s supposed to have this flocked finished look to it, which could transcend on the right product. It could transcend it and make it look interesting. That silk isn’t available yet but I’m on the list for it when it becomes available. It’s supposed to have this pearlized quality to it which could be beautiful as well. Maybe you want to do something snowflake. Lannea would love it if we made something else. There are a lot of applications for those things that can come out. I’ve also seen some beautiful metallic colors come out. We have this one that’s supposed to be an olive but it is a metallic bronze and it looks gorgeous.
To answer your question, to be honest, it is primarily plastic or plastic-based materials. Does that mean they all look like cheap, stereotypical plastic materials? They don’t.
It’s the design. If it’s going to look like it came out of McDonald’s bag, a Happy Meal, then if you design it that way, that’s what it’s going to look like. I’ve seen a lot of great designs that you can hardly tell that it’s plastic.
Especially if you have a textural quality to the surface, if it’s not flat, if light hits it differently with the texture, it looks good. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll talk to you next time.
- 3D Startpoint Facebook
- 3D Startpoint LinkedIn
- Hazz Design Twitter
- 3D Startpoint YouTube