While 3D printing isn’t new, the constant stream of creativity in this field continues to take my breath away!

Although additive manufacturing may not be my primary expertise, its ongoing innovations in material technologies never cease to amaze me. This report shares insights gathered from various world-wide trade shows, including ICFF, IME East, Première Vision Paris, and Taiwan Hardware Show, showcasing material options beyond the conventional choices in 3D printing, which are plastics, powders, and resins.

Join me on this journey as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of 3D printing materials and refresh our perspective of the additive manufacturing industry.

Unwrap CMF: CMF Report on 3D Printing (2024-01) (976 downloads )

Polished Plastic 3D Printing

Let’s start with something elemental but industry changing. Traditionally, objects produced by 3D printers had rough textures, necessitating additional steps for sanding and polishing the surface. However, while the industry evolves, 3D printing can now create objects with a polished finish right from the start, eliminating the need for manual post-processing.

Opportunities: This mini-revolution suggests that 3D printing is getting closer to becoming a viable alternative for production. With no need for post-treatment, the overall production time and labor is reduced. While it may not yet match the scale of plastic injection in terms of volume, the absence of post-treatment is a significant step forward. For projects with a small to mid-volume requirement, there is no need for costly tooling, making 3D printing a more accessible and efficient option.

Download report for full content: CMF Report on 3D Printing

3D printed polished plastic, by I3d Print

Metal 3D Printing

You probably already knew – metal can be 3D printed too! Even better, the precision of metal 3D printing is continually improving, allowing for the creation of intricate details and challenging corners that were not feasible in the past.

Metal powder is the commonly used material in metal 3D printing, available in a wide range of metal types, such as stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium, just to name a few. Each type has its own unique characteristics, making them suitable for different purposes.

Opportunities: The progression of more sophisticated metal 3D printing technology opens up possibilities as cost-effective alternative for making metal molds. It may also replace MIM (metal injection molding), which process produces metal parts that are generally less delicate. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to all processes like precision and time, and it is important to weigh the options before making a decision.

Download report for full content: CMF Report on 3D Printing

3D printed metal parts, by Xact Metal
3D printed metal parts, by Xact Metal
3D printed metal parts, by Xact Metal
3D printed metal parts, by Xact Metal

Ceramic 3D Printing

Ceramic isn’t just for mugs and pots. This materials holds a unique set of capabilities that sets it apart far from other materials. When it comes to 3D printing, ceramic stands out for its exceptional heat resistance, hardness for wear resistance, and the ability to craft intricate and complex shapes that may be impossible with other materials.

Unlike metals, ceramic is lightweight and does not interfere with antenna performance, making it an ideal choice for manufacturing consumer electronics – particularly for the higher-end market.

Opportunities: While ceramic 3D printing may come at a higher cost, its clear advantages position it prominently in specific industries such as medical engineering, dentistry, semiconductor, electronic sensor industries, and more. It’s quite possible, if not already happening, that teeth implants can be 3D printed using ceramic materials in the near future.

Download report for full content: CMF Report on 3D Printing

3D printed ceramic parts, by Lithoz
3D printed ceramic tooth implant, by Lithoz
3D printed ceramic parts, by Lithoz
3D printed ceramic parts, by Lithoz

3D Printing on Textile

In the past, 3D printing has mainly been utilized for creating parts. However, there also lays an exciting opportunity to use 3D printing for adding textures and decorative elements directly onto objects – specifically, onto textile surfaces.

Opportunities: This application presents a range of possibilities for adding customized 3D decorative features to fashion pieces, providing unique visual and tactile experiences. It also transforms the conventional approach of sewing parts onto clothing. Now, these elements can be directly printed onto the textile without the need for sewing or other adhesive methods, offering a more efficient and innovative way to enhance fashion pieces.

Download report for full content: CMF Report on 3D Printing

3D printing directly on textile, by Stratasys
3D printing directly on textile, by Stratasys
3D printing directly on textile, by Stratasys
3D printing directly on textile, by Stratasys

Plant-based 3D Printing

With sustainability making constant headlines, the progress in eco-friendly materials for 3D printing is ongoing. One noteworthy example is the use of plant-based resins in 3D printing, particularly for creating outdoor furniture pieces, replacing the conventional use of virgin plastic. The best part? This is just one option among the many sustainable 3D printing materials!

Opportunities: Begin here, but don’t let it be the end! Sustainability is a continuous journey. Incorporate eco-friendly materials into your projects and stay informed about the latest innovations in sustainable materials for 3D printing.

Download report for full content: CMF Report on 3D Printing

3D printing using plant-based materials, by Model No
3D printing using plant-based materials, by Model No
3D printing using plant-based materials, by Model No
3D printing using plant-based materials, by Model No

More in Sustainability!

The journey towards sustainability continues! Thanks to the progress in 3D printing and its material technologies, a variety of eco-friendly materials are now within reach.

Take a look at the innovative work of companies like Blast Studio, Junai, Reflow, and Smart Materials 3D, where they are using materials such as ocean plastic waste, oyster shells, olive pits, and fungus to create sustainable solutions.

Image credit: Blast Studio
Image credit: Junai
Image credit: Reflow
Image credit: Smart Materials 3D

Download CMF Report on 3D Printing

Problem-solving ??? ?????. Former head of CMF at Motorola. A New York-based and world-traveling Design Consultant with over 13 years of specialty in CMF Design. 高雄囡仔,前摩托羅拉CMF設計團隊負責人,目前定居於紐約並遊牧世界,任自由撰稿人兼CMF設計顧問,持續投入在CMF設計的科普推廣,並為WGSN及羅技等公司提供CMF專案支持或諮詢服務。

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