Materials for 3D printing

3D printing has come a long way quickly, new materials keeps being added to those that can be printed with here’s a quick summary of them.


3d printed shape


One of the two most common types of filament, it has good strength, flexibility and high melting point it’s better for engineering applications


The other most common 3d filament, made from renewable cornstarch but parts become malleable at 60 degrees celcius (sun on hot day can warp material), naturally transparent with a higher strength and rigidity than abs and has a glossy finish. Thin parts are also brittle.


A much stronger and more durable option but with a higher price point, it also has problems with absorbing water but provides more rigid structures which can tolerate wear.


flexible 3d printing

Flexible 3d prints are now available, the example above is from form labs. The are other printers out there creating this kind of material but it’s less developed than other sources.

And many more…

A full run down and comparison of the common filaments can be found here. Shapeways prints in a few plastics and gives good advice on how to structure your moulds


3d printing with metals is called Metal Additive Manufacturing (AM) in the industry and has been going on for years just not on the scale that we are at now.


3d printed steel

15-5PH Stainless Steel

This kind of steel is characterised by having very good corrosion resistance and mechanical properties. This type of steel is widely used in metal prototypes and a variety of medical, aerospace and other engineering applications requiring high hardness, strength and corrosion resistance

316L Stainless Steel

This kind of steel is characterised by having higher corrosion resistance and mechanical properties than the more common 304 alloy, and can be used over a wide temperature range down to cryogenic temperatures. This type of steel is widely used in a variety of food processing, medical, aerospace, oil and gas, and other engineering applications requiring high strength and corrosion resistance.

Maraging Steel 1.2709

Maraging steel is an ultra high strength alloy. Ideal for many tooling applications such as tools for injection moulding, die casting of light metal alloys, punching, extrusion, it is also good for high performance industrial and engineering part


3d printed aluminium lattice

It offers good strength, hardness and dynamic properties and is therefore also used for parts that are subject to high loads. Aluminium is ideal for applications which require a combination of good thermal properties and low weight. Also playing around with geometry can produce very strong light weight shapes

Cobalt Chrome Alloy

This class of super-alloy is characterized by having excellent mechanical properties (strength, hardness etc.), corrosion and temperature resistance. Such alloys are commonly used in biomedical applications such as dental and medical implants and also for high-temperature engineering applications such as in aero engines


3d printed bonze

Shapeways has a good round up of how each of these materials can be made on their machines. Platinum,Gold,Silver,Bronze,Brass

Nickel Alloy

This material is ideal for many high temperature applications such as gas turbine parts, instrumentation parts, power and process industry parts

Titanium Alloy

This is the strongest available 3d printed material, used for a number of applications it suits high strength items which have a low weight.



cermaic 2d print
image oliver van herpt

Shapeways is running a pilot of 3d printing in porcelain, the main reason that this is different is that ceramics requires firing to be complete increasing the cost. However they can produce interesting structures like those of Oliver Van Herpt

Carbon Fibre

There are even emerging carbon fibre 3d printers, though different to the average 3d printer and average carbon fibre structures they deserve some attention.


The title image is from a 3d sugar printer made by chef jet as an experiment produced some incredible shapes and alternative sugar cubes.


This is another specialist printing technique, shapeways provides wax printing, wax printing is often used for production of jewlery as it can be used in lost-wax casting


This collection does not do justice to the truly immense amount of materials now adapted for 3d printing, the rise of 3d rpinitng has been astronomically quick and it is constantly pushed further by hobbyists and proffesionals alike. If you want to keep up with 3d printing news I advise 3dprint & 3dprintingindustry which are both good blogs.

photo credit: Quadrifolium via photopin (license)


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