Not so long ago, 3d printing was limited to creating a 3D model on a desktop computer and printing it with a type of plastic filament. This meant that 3d printing options weren’t as broad and there was less of a variety of things to print due to limitations on what plastic can do.
Over time, as 3d technology has advanced, we are now able to print with more than just plastic; we can now print wood, metal and even sandstone materials.
It might be of news to some people; but it’s true, you can print wood, sandstone and even metal-like models too.
Sooner or later, you’re not going to be going to the store to buy supplies that you may need. Instead, you will be able to purchase a design online and be able to print it from home without having to go anywhere.
This is all thanks to something called Composite Filaments.
What are composite filaments?
Composite filaments are a mixture of PLA (polylactic acid) and metal, sandstone or wood fibres. It depends on what kind of material you want to print. They make for a good alternative to SLS or DLMS 3d printing. These cool filaments are able to maintain the desired texture of the material you use whilst at the same time, keeping their plastic properties. Composite filaments are usually heavier than standard PLA/ABS printed models. They help to add more authenticity to the print.
There are four main types of composite filaments. They are:
- Carbon Fiber
Metallic filaments are composed of different types of metals. You can get aluminium, copper, brass and even bronze materials. These composite materials have a striking resemblance to real metals. For example, a lot of copper-like filaments turn green over time just like real copper.
Carbon Fiber is a great multi-purpose material. Carbon fiber filament is a must have for your next print. It is significantly lighter than plastic. This is perfect for those models that need to be cut down by weight. The rigidness of carbon fibre is good for parts that have a low tolerance for errors. As good as carbon fiber is, it can wear down your extrusion nozzle more than other filaments.
Organic filaments are composed of materials such as wood and bamboo. It is amazing how close to the real thing organic filaments are. When you print out a model with an organic filament such as wood, you can sand it down afterwards if you need to. Just like the real thing.
Conductive filaments are one of the newly invented composites. They act as an electric conductor, very much like copper, but not as good. Despite conductive filaments not being as good as real copper, they are strong enough to work on most basic electrical circuits. These are especially cool if you have a dual-extrusion printer. It could be very handy to be able to print electrical components and have them cased in plastic at the same time.
Do I need a specific type of 3D printer in order to print composite filaments?
No. You do not need a specific 3d printer to print composite filaments. As long as your 3d printer can print with ABS/PAL filaments -which basically all 3d printers do- then yes, you can most certainly print composite filaments.
Remember that composite filaments are not entirely made out of one material eg. wood, metal. They are just a mixture of ABS/PLA and an additive that changes the physical and aesthetic properties of the filament.
Where can I find composite filaments?
New composite types are constantly coming out
The ability to transform standard PLA and ABS plastics into many different materials has lead to more and more new types coming out frequently. As well as wood filaments and metal filaments, there has even been filaments very close to glass. This shows that the sky really is the limit when it comes to 3d printing.