How strong are 3D printed parts? It’s a question we get asked time and time again. The simple answer is VERY STRONG! However, if you choose the wrong material, method or design, you can easily lose that strength.
There are many types of 3D printers. They all work by taking a 3D digital model and slicing it up into thin horizontal cross-sections. The material is then applied layer by layer. Either heat or lasers fuse the layers, to create the finished object.
The strength of a 3D part depends on the design, printing method and choice of materials.
One of the main variables that can affect the strength of a 3D part is the type of 3D printer used. There are many things to consider. Let’s look at the 3 most popular methods:
- FDM – Fused Deposition Modeling
- SLA – Stereolithography
- SLS – Stereolithography
How Strong are FDM Printed Parts?
FDM printing is popular with hobbyist 3D printers. The process works by building up the object layer upon layer. When you look at the finished model, you can see all the individual layers. FDM printing is similar to Lego. When you push down on the top, it feels strong. However, when you push it from the side, it breaks easily.
FDM printed parts are strong enough for prototypes, toys and figurines, but they are not strong enough for machine parts or components that require a strong structural integrity.
You can increase the structural integrity of the part during the design process. One of the easiest ways to do this is to increase your fill density. 0% would be a hollow object. 100% would be a solid object. Generally speaking, to create the desired strength, it would be somewhere in the middle.
You can use different materials during the FDM printing process. The most popular are PLA, ABS and PETG. They all have different properties. Take a look at this article written by 3DPrinting.com if you would like to find out more about the different strengths of these materials.
How Strong are SLA Printed Parts?
SLA printing produces accurate parts, that can capture fine details. Unlike FDM printing, these parts have a smoother finish. They look much more like an injection moulded part than an FDM print does. SLA 3D printing is appealing to product designers.
SLA uses a UV laser to cure liquid resin into hardened plastic in a process called photopolymerization. The strength of the printed part varies massively depending on the properties of the resin used.
SLA printed parts can be quite brittle. They are not suitable for outdoor use. SLA printing is not the first choice for tough and functional components. If a part is going to undergo stresses, then SLA printing would not provide the strength and reliability you need.
However, if you are looking for a decorative print that doesn’t need to be particularly strong, then SLA printing could be the best method for you.
How Strong Are SLS Printed Parts?
SLS printing is an additive manufacturing process that uses a laser to sinter powdered plastic material into a solid structure. Based on a design provided by a 3D model.
SLS is the preferred option for product development. It has a low cost per part and is suitable for mass-production. It produces a very detailed finish.
SLS 3D Printing is also popular with engineers. The parts produced are very structurally strong. It’s the best type of printing for creating compatible parts. It makes the strongest and most functional parts.
Daimler AG (DDAIY), the world’s largest truck manufacturer, is now using SLS 3D printing to make spare parts. Advances like this show how strong these parts are!
The most common material for SLS printing is nylon. Nylon is lightweight, strong, and flexible.
Are 3D Printed Parts Strong Enough?
So to sum it up, you can create extremely strong printed parts. You need to choose the right printer, the right material and most importantly, the right design.
Years ago, 3D printing was just for making rough prototypes and models. Nowaday’s it changing the world! The parts are so strong and precise that they are disrupting traditional manufacturing and supply chains across the globe. Be part of the 3D revolution!
If you are new to 3D printing, it is always best to seek advice. So many people have been disappointed with the results. Maybe they have not chosen the right methods or materials to create the desired results. Every project is unique and requires professional advice to get the desired outcome.
If you would like to find out more about our 3D printing services please get in touch.