Choosing Materials For Your Prototype – Part 2: FDM

In Part One, we introduced the two most popular technologies used in Stratasys 3D Printers: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and PolyJet™. The technology that is most appropriate for your prototyping determines which Stratasys 3D Printer is ideal for you. Part Two will focus on Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology in greater detail. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology professional 3D printers uses 10 thermoplastics. This post will describe those thermoplastics in more detail to help you evaluate the different qualities of each. Use this information to learn more about each FDM thermoplastic and their advantages based on your prototyping needs. As always, Prototyping Solutions experts are available if you need help choosing between materials.

The printer you choose and the material you need are both important choices to help you create the parts you need. Your prototypes are unique and what is useful for another designer may be unsuitable for your needs. Stratasys provides these 10 thermoplastics to give you choice, control, and the ability to create prototypes that reflect their production counterparts. To help you with that choice, let’s start what you may know already. If you speak with colleagues or look to the internet you will find that Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology is the most common technology in 3D printing. Likewise, the most common material in the FDM line of Stratasys 3D printers – based on worldwide sales- is ABSplus – P430.

The Mojo, uPrint® SE™, uPrint SE Plus™, Dimension® Elite™, Dimension SST 1200es™, Dimension BST 1200es™, and the Fortus® 250mc™, all use ABSplus –P430.

ABSplus – P430 will produce parts that are stable, strong and durable. Compared to the ABS materials of just a few years ago, ABSplus is up to 70% stronger. It is an excellent choice for models, prototypes, jigs, fixtures, and end-use parts. It comes in a range of colors that include ivory, white, black, dark gray, red, blue, olive green, nectarine and fluorescent yellow (and you can even extend this range with Stratasys options for custom colors).

Production printers

Looking beyond the most commonly used material, you may be evaluating using a larger professional printer including the Fortus 380, Fortus450 and the Fortus 900. You have a much greater choice on materials. The full range of 10 Thermoplastics materials are grouped into three categories based on uses: Standard, Engineering, and Performance.

The Standard Category thermoplastic materials are all variations of ABS plastic. From Part One, we know the 3D printed ABS parts are approximately 80% of the strength of their injection molded ABS counterparts. The target uses of the standard category materials depend on your required degree of durability, UV light resistance, semitransparency, and need for static dissipative parts. The specific ABS plastics include:

  • ABS-M30 and ABSplus – 430 (mentioned above as the most commonly used) are the same raw materials, but the advanced processing of the FORTUS printers and the associated software change the final part to be stronger in all categories.
  • ABS-ESD7 is an electrostatic dissipative material. It is best for products where a static discharge could cause problems for your application. Another benefit, the final part resists dust buildup.
  • ABS-M30i can be sterilized. If you part needs to come in contact with the human body, used in an operating room or with food this materials passes the ISO 10993 and USP Class VI standards.
  • ASA is a UV stable materials. It creates parts that have stable coloring when used in the outdoors.

The Engineering Category thermoplastic materials features parts of engineering grade materials used in FDM are harder and can handle higher temperature. The engineering grade materials include:

  • Polycarbonate (PC) is the most commonly used industrial thermoplastic and is the third hardest material you can use in FDM additive manufacturing.
  • PC-ISO is a biocompatible material just like ABS-M30i however it has a higher tinsel strength and higher heat deflection values by about 33% to 59% over ABS-M30i.
  • Nylon 12 is both hard and flexible. It absorbs very little moisture to help retain a high degree of stability. It has a very high resistance to cracking under stress in both hot and cold situations.

The Performance Category thermoplastic materials use the largest 3D printers: the FORTUS 450 and the FORTUS 900. You can consider and use the performance grade materials. These materials offer the highest heat resistant, best chemical resistance and tensile strength of the thermoplastics used in FDM printing.

  • Ultem 9085 is used mostly in aircrafts because it is FST rated. This means it satisfies flame, smoke and toxicity standards. It created parts that are one of the toughest a 3d printer can produce, which make it a great material of choice for tooling.
  • Ultem 1010 has the highest heat and chemical resistance of all the materials. Another of the biocompatible materials with NSF 51 and ISO 10993/USP Class VI certifications. Used for creating surgical guides and used to create parts for under the hood of your car as housing and ducts.

Your designs are unique, and the Stratasys line of FDM 3D printers is equally unique to accommodate your specific design needs. With the thermoplastic materials described above, we hope you can more clearly see where your prototyping and design needs align with a specific thermoplastic. If you are interested in particular thermoplastic, the next step is to select a printer that uses that technology and fits your design, and Prototyping Solutions can help you with that process. If you are still looking for more options, the next part in our four part series will discuss PolyJet™ technology, where we will look more closely at UV cured polymers. Contact Prototyping Solutions for more information on material selection or 3D printing in general. Have us create a benchmark for you.

Click to read more posts in our series on choosing materials: