Most plastic products are made from thermosetting plastic. These are plastics that burn and decompose when heated. 3D prints on the other hand are made from thermoplastics. This is plastic that melts and can be molded into a shape when it is heated.
Heat is used to melt filament to produce a 3D print. But what happens when the 3D print itself is exposed to heat? Does it return to its original raw material state or does it burn like a thermoset?
In this article, we explore how heat affects a finished 3D print. We also look at which are the most heat-resistant materials to print with. Finally, we outline some of the steps you can take to make your 3D printed parts more heat-resistant.
- Is 3D Printed Plastic Heat Resistant?
- Why Is Heat-Resistant Plastic Important?
- What Is The Most Heat-Resistant 3D Printing Materials /Filaments?
- How Do You Make 3D Printed Parts More Heat-Resistant?
Is 3D Printed Plastic Heat Resistant?
3D printed objects degrade when they are exposed to heat. This largely depends on the temperature and the length of exposure. Plastic subjected to heat will warp and experience discoloration. The higher the temperature or longer the exposure the greater the warp or discoloration.
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Heat resistance in a material is shown by its Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT). HDT measures several things related to how a filament reacts to heat. Firstly, it gives the melting point of a filament.
For example, PLA has a low melting point, melting at between 180 and 230 degrees Celsius, so is relatively easy to work with. ABS and Nylon in contrast have higher melting points, melting at between 210 and 250 degrees Celsius, so are harder to work with.
Second, HDT includes the Transition Glass Temperature (Tg) of a filament. This is the point at which plastic becomes soft (but does not melt) when heated. 3D plastics have different transition glass temperatures. This determines how easy they are to work with and how heat-resistant the 3D printed part made from that material will be.
If you have ever seen a car dashboard change color and crack over time, then you have observed the effect of light and heat on it. New plastic has a smooth finish and is impact resistant. Heat-exposed plastic has a rough texture, becomes brittle and breaks easily upon impact or force.
Why Is Heat-Resistant Plastic Important?
There are certain applications where plastics that can stand up to intense heat are required.
Electrical components experience very high temperatures. That is why you see a wall socket melt. To improve the resistance and reduce the safety hazard, it’s necessary to produce components made from heat-resistant plastic.
Moving parts generate a lot of heat due to friction. This can easily melt the part or reduce its material strength over time. Most plastic parts break because they’ve gradually become brittle due to heat.
In some cases, it might be caused by the continuous exposure to heat and cold with the rapid change in temperature weakening the part.
Heat-resistance is critical for parts used in aerospace, automotive and consumer goods. Virtually every part of a rocket or car, from the windshield to the gaskets, is put under extreme stress due to heat.
Even everyday items like laptops and phones experience heat which can not only damage components, but pose a safety hazard as well.
What Is The Most Heat-Resistant 3D Printing Materials /Filaments?
3D printing has grown over the years. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the material advancements that have been made. Today there is a wider array of raw materials that have several critical characteristics like improved strength and better heat and impact resistance. Among those, nylon is the most commonly used material with the best heat resistance.
Nylon, or polyamide as it is also known as, is a synthetic polymer. Nylon is known for its strength, and for being chemical and high heat-resistant. Parts made from nylon can withstand temperatures of up to 160 degrees Celsius.
The material characteristics of nylon are why it is the material of choice for producing parts for the aerospace, automotive and engineering industries. There are several types of polyamide used for FDM (Fused deposition modeling), SLS (Selective laser sintering) and SLA (Stereolithography) printing.
Types Of Heat-Resistant Nylon Used For 3D Printing
Nylon 12CF is an infusion of 35 percent carbon fiber. Providing the highest rigidity-to-weight ratio, Nylon 12CF has a heat deflection temperature of 160.4 degrees Celsius.
A common application of Ultem 1010 is the medical field where it is used to hold surgical instruments as they are sterilized. With a heat deflection temperature of 214.1 degrees Celsius, it can withstand the boiling temperatures in the sterilization process for multiple cycles without breaking down.
Ultem 9085 has a heat deflection temperature of 176.9 degrees Celsius. Used in the aerospace industry, it is known for its strength to weight ratio, producing parts that are stronger but lighter than parts of similar strength.
Non-nylon Heat Resistant Filament
Nylon is not the only type of super heat-resistant plastic, however. There is also PC/ABS, PEEK and ABS.
PC/ABS FR V-0
PC/ABS has a heat deflection temperature of up to 86 degrees Celsius. Mostly used for engineering and electrical applications, it is a mix of ABS and Polycarbonate (PC).
PEEK is a high-performance plastic. Lighter than metal but has almost the same strength, PEEK has a thermal resistance of 159 degrees Celsius. Owing to its strength and heat-retardant quality, PEEK is used in industrial and automotive applications.
ABS is the second most commonly used filament after PLA. Stronger but more difficult to print with than PLA, ABS has a heat deflection temperature of 89 degrees Celsius. It’s also chemical resistant and can be used to produce electrical components.
How Do You Make 3D Printed Parts More Heat-Resistant?
The first consideration when making 3D prints that will be put under high temperatures is choosing the right material. Nylon holds up better in the heat than PLA for instance. However, the heat-resistance of a 3D printed part can be improved through heat treatment. The most common heat treatment for 3D parts is annealing.
Annealing is a process used to improve the material strength of metals. It can also be used for plastics, however. The plastic is heated up to a point just below its melting point and above the temperature at which it recrystallizes.
PLA is said to be the plastic that benefits most from annealing. Heat-treating PLA can improve its strength by between 10 to 20 percent and make them more heat-resistant.