Metal or Plastic 3D Printing: Who Wins the Race?
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Metal or Plastic 3D Printing: Who Wins the Race?

By Manufacturing Technology Insights | Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Advancements in thermoplastic end-use parts have developed in analogous with metal, but without the same fanfare leading to an incorrect correlation between metal and plastic.

FREMONT, CA: Since the past few years, metal 3D printing has been the most discussed technology in the Additive Manufacturing (AM). The technology offers new, complex end-use abilities that plastic technology, 3D printing promised during it’s ascend to media fame some ten years ago.

Unlike plastic, metal delivered on its promise before time on. While during metal’s rise in fame, the thermoplastic AM had still been undergoing a silent revolution. With time, technology has systematically evolved, contributing to new creative applications for end-use parts and continuous innovations for low-volume manufacturing.

The augmentation of metal 3D printing has unquestionably changed the AM world. Additionally, two things have become clear over the manufacturing development processes:

Metal AM is in the middle of a hype cycle, something that thermoplastic 3D printing is thoroughly familiar with.

Besides, given the plastic’s consistent upward trend, it is due to re-enter the glare of publicity.

Analogous Advancement

Metal began to gain attention when one particular company used 3D-printed fuel nozzles for its engine, legitimizing the technology for pressing engineering applications. The achievement became a catalyst for growth, causing other manufacturers to consider the technology. Moreover, success also led research teams and suppliers to pour funding into metal additives’ development. The technology plugged in so quickly that it was declared as a real end-use additive solution.

Furthermore, the hype surrounding metal 3D printing has outshined thermoplastic AM and the constant innovations that have taken place during its many years of existence. Plastic 3D printing has continued to renovate processes like manufacturing tooling, mechanical designs, along with dental and orthodontic procedures.

Advancements in thermoplastic end-use parts have developed in analogous with metal, but without the same fanfare leading to an incorrect correlation between metal and plastic. Also, in the present day, plastic 3D printing market is much bigger than the metal market. Plastics are used more than metal in manufacturing processes, so the potential to influence society is much superior with thermoplastic additive. One cannot get through the day without using hundreds of objects that have been favorably affected by plastic 3D printers in the design cycle.

The innovations in thermoplastic 3D printing contain materials with strength equivalent to conventional metals. New advancements in thermoplastic 3D printing are producing solutions that are proficient for end-use parts production. Additionally, new plastic materials with potency similar to common metals are progressively available for Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technologies. Feasible engineering-grade materials such as polyamide, carbon, and glass-filled materials, Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), and others have ever more entered the FFF market for utilization with additive systems.

Industrial manufacturers are gradually adopting most specialty plastics for a range of strength-dependent applications that were earlier dominated by metal parts. And they often provide strength-to-weight ratios that far exceed aluminum.

See Also: Top Metal Working Solution Companies In APAC

AM Prospects

From the developments, it is clear that the prime growth prospects in AM still lay with a thermoplastic. The opportunities are not just because of the continuing advancements in FFF technology materials and applications, but also due to plastic’s many meandering benefits.

For instance, as biodegradable materials and filament-shredding technology become increasingly attractive to engineering manufacturers, FFF technology will be the only solution. Besides, the designers also aim at creating a sustainable, closed-loop manufacturing process, which would reduce the material cost drastically.

Concurrently, the 3D printing revolution will continue to be led by a mounting number of everyday manufacturing enterprises investing in and implementing thermoplastic AM processes. The investment will unlock approach’s benefits like driving down costs, improving quality, all while plummeting stock levels and other logistics.

On the whole, it is exciting for the whole industry to watch as the use of 3D processes grows. Also, thermoplastic AM will continue to establish its long-sought supremacy in industrial and end-user applications over metal. In the interim, the additive industry will do well to maintain ongoing cutting-edge additive enhancements in plastic.

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