Additive manufacturing or 3D printing as it is more commonly known, has been around for 35 years. Subtractive manufacturing processes have been in use for more than 90 years. Subtractive manufacturing has had almost three times as long to develop!
3D printing has rapidly developed in the relatively short time it has been in use. But one of the questions that frequently comes up is how 3D printed items compare against items made through traditional manufacturing methods. Are 3D printed objects as strong as their traditional counterparts?
This is the question we want to explore. How durable are 3D printed items and what are the limits of 3D printing?
How Strong Is A 3D-Printed Object?
The flaw in 3D printing and the reason why it produces weaker parts lies in creating objects in layers. The layers make the object substantially weaker as it is more likely to split along the layer lines.
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This is more of an issue with FDM printing where layers bond mechanically. Resin printing produces stronger objects since the layers bond at a chemical level.
How Much Weight Will PLA Hold?
Regular PLA material has a tensile strength of around 7,250 psi (50MPa). It has a maximum weight load of almost 790 pounds. Variants like PLA Plus contain additives that give them increased strength so will have a higher weight load. While they might be stronger, they are, however, more difficult to print with. It is however to expect a 3d printed item made of PLA to hold anywhere from 34 Kg to 75 KG, depending on the print itself and the type of PLA used.
Here is a short video testing PLA strength wonder several types of loads,
Ease of use is one of the key characteristics of PLA. This is why it’s more popular than a stronger filament like ABS or nylon. You can make your PLA prints a lot stronger and hold up more weight.
How To Make 3D Prints Stronger ?
Printers have several settings that can determine how your print turns out.
Increase the infill
The fill density is how hollow or filled your print is. When you decrease the fill density, you make your print more hollow. The hollower it is, the weaker it will be. With that said, increasing the infill uses up more material so you need to find a balance between infill and how much material you want to expend.
The fill pattern is the pattern used in your fill. Some commonly used patterns include a hexagonal, triangular and a rectangular pattern. Triangles are the strongest shape so in most cases, a triangular fill pattern will produce the strongest print.
Adjust the shell thickness
Shell thickness is how thick the outer layers of your model will be. The thicker your walls, the stronger your print will be. This does also take up more material, however.
Use different material
The material you use will have the biggest influence on how strong it turns out. Carbon and metal filaments are much stronger than your standard PLA, ABS or PETG. They are, however, far more difficult to work with. If you decide to use a metal filament you will need to use a harder steel nozzle for example.
Resins as well differ in their material strength. Industrial professional-grade resins are stronger and will produce more durable parts than a standard resin will. Similarly to harder filaments like carbon, professional resins are more challenging to use.
Apply Super Glue or Epoxy
It is possible to drastically improve the strength of 3d printed items by coating with either super Glue or for ease of application, epoxy. Check the video below fr details,
How Durable Are 3D Printed Items?
The durability of 3D printed items is mainly influenced by the raw material used. Certain types of materials are stronger. Generally, resin produces stronger items. ABS filament will produce more durable items than PLA, while nylon will produce yet stronger items than ABS.
Resin Or Filament?
Filament is much easier to use hence the popularity of FDM printers. Resin printing is more hands-on , requiring lengthy post-processing. However, resin printing produces objects that are more durable compared to filament printing.
This is because filament bonds at a mechanical level while resin bonds at a chemical level. The mechanical bonding creates parts that have a higher likelihood of coming apart where the layers join together. Source
This also depends on the type of resin and filament. For instance, a metal-filled filament will give you more strength and durability than a standard resin.
What Are The Limits Of 3D Printed Items?
Traditional manufacturing methods produce stronger parts than 3D printing. Producing a refined finish requires more work with 3D printing. Possibly the biggest limitation with 3D printing is the time it takes to produce a single model. Depending on the complexity and size of the model, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several days to produce a print.
3D printing is still a relatively young technology. Before it can rival traditional manufacturing, it has to be able to produce stronger prints at a much quicker rate.
At present, 3D printers do not give you anywhere near the speed and volume of conventional manufacturing. It would be near impossible to try to produce 1000 or even 100 copies or units in a month on a 3D printer. This is achievable in hours using conventional production.