Blog – Airwolf 3D’s supplies power take a look at: What’s the strongest 3D printer filament?

July 29, 2017 | From David

There are many different 3D printing materials available to both the 3D printing hobbyist and the professional, and they can vary widely in terms of their key properties. As technology becomes more popular and accessible, it can be useful to test some of these materials to see how they compare against each other. A project recently reported on California’s 3D printer maker Airwolf3D’s website did just that, using one of the company’s machines to 3D print a hook that was then loaded with weight to determine which one the strongest comes from a number of FDM / FFF filaments.

The materials tested were two of the most common 3D printing filaments, PLA and ABS, as well as nylon 910 and polycarbonate. After the hooks were 3D printed, they were placed on the end of a rope attached to a forklift. This was used to hold a tractor tire weighing around 150 pounds, and additional weights from Airwolf’s local gym, Precision Fitness, were added to increase the stakes even further.

The first hook was 3D printed with PLA, with the printer bed heated to 60 degrees Celsius. When the printing was complete, a layer of Wolfbite Nano was added. The PLA hook turned out to be surprisingly strong for such a simple and affordable filament. It survived intact at 285 pounds, which gave it a tensile strength of 7,250 psi. However, the team did not recommend using the PLA material for structural objects or technical purposes. Its biodegradability, which makes it great for the environment, also means it won’t hold its shape for long and structural weaknesses will inevitably appear.

ABS was the next 3D printing material to be tested, a filament commonly used in all kinds of professional engineering projects, mainly for consumer products. It is such a useful material that Airwolf 3D made a desktop 3D printer that was compatible with it and was the first of its kind. In this case the AXIOM machine was used with a bed heated to 120 degrees Celsius. Wolf bite was added again to end the hook. The ABS hook was found to be much weaker than the PLA and instantly snapped with the same 285 pound load that the PLA was holding. ABS has a tensile strength of around 4,700 psi.

Next came a more exotic material that was rarely used by hobbyists. Nylon 910 is widely used to make components and its estimated tensile strength is 7000 psi. In tests, the nylon hook was found to be incredibly strong after initial flexing, requiring a total of 485 pounds of load to eventually break. Because of its strength, predictable performance, and properties, Airwolf 3D often uses nylon 910 in its own commercial products, with every 3D printer it has released in the past 3 years using nylon gears.

Finally, a polycarbonate material was used. Airwolf 3D first launched a desktop 3D printer that could print with polycarbonate in 2014 – the Airwolf HDx. High temperatures are critical when printing with polycarbonates. In this project the print head was set to 290 degrees and the bed to 145 degrees Celsius. These temperatures are not possible with most desktop FDM / FFF devices, which is why Airwolf 3D launched 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. It took 685 pounds to eventually break, and it has an estimated tensile strength of 9,800 psi. This makes polycarbonate the best choice for high-strength functional components and has been crowned by Airwolf 3D as the undisputed material king for desktop 3D printing.

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

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