3D printing materials: What should you be using
What is FFF?
FFF, or fused filament fabrication, is a process used in 3D printing in which an object is created bottom-up, layer by layer, with each layer consisting of metal filament which 'fuses' to the layer beneath it. This filament is typically made of thermoplastic. FFF is the most widely used form of 3D printing; it represents the largest installed base of 3D printers globally.
Ultimaker 3D printers use FFF because it is perfect for printing prototypes, tools, and parts for end-use. In addition, the FFF process is easy to maintain and requires little or no post-processing or the use of harsh chemicals.
The material pyramid
It goes without saying that 3D printing has a variety of use cases and applications – and has its place in industries and environments such as automotive, aviation, manufacturing, architecture, engineering, and many more. This variety, however, requires that the 3D printer is able to print using a wide range of materials. This, too, is one of the benefits of FFF. Ultimaker 3D printers target three material ranges:
Commodity materials, which include PLA and ABS, are commonly used for product development or model-making. Engineering materials such as PA, TPU, and PET-G, are used for applications that could potentially better serve the functional requirements of mechanical applications and end-use products. High-performance materials, meanwhile, including PEEK and PEI, are best suited for applications that provide mechanical properties suitable to meet the highest requirements.
It is important to remember that every material has unique mechanical properties, strengths, and limitations. Before going ahead with any print job, consider these mechanical properties and choose the material that best fits the job at hand. The below pyramid represents an overview of the material range. Typically, the higher a material is on the pyramid, the better its mechanical properties.
The importance of being open
All Ultimaker 3D printers feature an open-filament system, which means engineers, designers, manufacturers – and any other Ultimaker user – can select the best material for the job, no matter what that is. Whether it requires strong mechanical properties, heat, UV, or chemical resistance, flexibility, flame retardancy or needs to be ESD-safe – with Ultimaker, it is simply a matter of selecting the material with the required properties to print the desired application and using its profile on the Marketplace.
Materials are a cornerstone of the Ultimaker economy. Much of this is thanks to the Ultimaker Material Alliance, through which we partner with material suppliers around the world to offer our users the best chance at simplified workflows, ‘always-on’ productivity, and maximised return on investment.