Jul 29, 2017 | By David

There are many different 3D printing materials available to the 3D printing hobbyist and professional alike, and they can vary wildly in terms of their key properties. As the technology grows in popularity and accessibility, it might be useful for some of these materials to be tested out, to see how they compare to each other. A project that was recently reported on the website of Californian 3D printer manufacturer Airwolf3D did just that, using one of the company’s machines to 3D print a hook which was then loaded with weight, to see which out of a range of FDM/FFF filaments was the strongest.

The materials tested were two of the more common 3D printing filaments, PLA and ABS, as well as Nylon 910 and Polycarbonate. After the hooks were 3D printed, they were put on the end of a rope which was attached to a forklift. This was used to pick up a tractor tire weighing around 150 pounds, and extra weights from Airwolf’s local gym Precision Fitness were added to up the stakes even further.

The first hook was 3D printed with PLA, with the printer bed heated at 60 degrees Celsius. A coat of Wolfbite Nano was added after printing was complete. The PLA hook proved to be surprisingly strong for such a basic and affordable filament. It survived intact with 285 pounds of weight attached, giving it a tensile strength of 7,250 psi. However, the team didn’t recommend the PLA material to be used for any kind of load-bearing object or engineering purpose. Its bio-degradability, which makes it great for the environment, also means that it won’t keep its shape for long, and structural weaknesses will inevitably come about.

ABS was the next 3D printing material to be tested, which is a filament commonly used in all kinds of professional engineering projects, mostly for consumer items. It’s such a useful material that Airwolf 3D made a desktop 3D printer that was compatible with it, which was the first of its kind. In this case the AXIOM machine was used, with a bed heated to 120 degrees Celsius. Wolfbite was added again to finish the hook. The ABS hook proved to be a lot weaker than PLA, snapping immediately with the same 285-pound load that the PLA was holding. ABS has a tensile strength of around 4,700 psi.

Next up was a more exotic material, rarely used by hobbyists. Nylon 910 is often used to make structural parts, and its estimated tensile strength is 7000 psi. In tests the Nylon hook proved to be incredibly strong, after initially bending a little, with a total load of 485 pounds required to eventually break it. Its strength and predictable performance and properties mean that Airwolf 3D often uses Nylon 910 in its own commercial products, with every 3D printer it has released in the last 3 years containing nylon gears.

Finally, a polycarbonate material was used. Airwolf 3D first came out with a desktop 3D printer that could print with polycarbonate back in 2014- the Airwolf HDx. High temperatures are crucial when printing with polycarbonates, so in this project the print head was set 290 degrees, and the bed to 145 degrees Celsius. These temperatures are not possible with the majority of desktop FDM/FFF machines, which is why Airwolf 3D came out with its groundbreaking HDx 3D printer in the first place.

In this case the Axiom was used, as with the other materials, and the hook turned out to be incredibly strong. 685 pounds were required to eventually break it, and it has an estimated tensile strength of 9,800 psi. This makes polycarbonate the best choice for high strength functional components, and it was crowned by Airwolf 3D as the undisputed king of materials for desktop 3D printing.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

 

 

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