Materials for UV-resistant 3D printing
When it comes to 3D printing objects, the materials used play a crucial role in determining the finished product's durability. One challenge of 3D printing is the impact of ultraviolet (UV) radiation on printed objects, which can cause degradation and loss of structural integrity. This article will explore different types of 3D printing materials for your next project. So you can ensure your 3D prints will stand the test of time.
PLA (Polylactic Acid)
PLA is a thermoplastic created from renewable resources like cornstarch or sugarcane. It is widely used in 3D printing due to its ease of printing and eco-friendly properties.
Regular PLA has a relatively low resistance to UV radiation. As a result, it can become brittle when exposed to sunlight over a long period. For most indoor applications like home decoration, PLA works excellently. But, PLA may not be ideal for outdoor applications like brackets or fixtures.
Indoors, it will take a long time for PLA to reach the point of discoloration or degradation. We're talking about years. But, if you want to use it outside, plenty of PLA filaments with UV-resistant additives exist. NX-2 (Extrudr) and AlfaPro (Filoalfa) are great examples. These materials can increase the longevity of your 3D prints significantly.
PLA filament is a perfect material for indoor applications like:
- Decorative objects like vases
- Office Supplies: pencil cups and organizers
- Wall decoration
PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol)
PETG is a popular material for 3D printing. It offers excellent mechanical properties, ease of printing, and better UV resistance. It is a modified version of PET, with glycol added to the mix, which improves its printability and reduces brittleness.
PETG's chemical structure makes it more resistant to UV radiation's harmful effects than 3D printing materials, such as PLA. It is also known for its impact resistance, durability, and recyclability.
Even though PETG offers better UV resistance than PLA, there may be better solutions for outdoor applications.
PETG filament is an excellent material for applications like:
- Functional parts
- Garden tools
- Protective cases
- Equipment holders
Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate (ASA)
ASA is a thermoplastic widely known for its resistance to UV radiation. This makes it an ideal material for outdoor applications where the printed object will be exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods.
ASA shares several properties with PETG, such as flexibility, chemical, and impact resistance. However, one significant upside of ASA compared to PETG is its superior UV resistance. This makes it a more suitable option for outdoor applications and exposure to sunlight.
ASA has a lower density, resulting in a slightly lower weight-to-strength and stiffness ratio. Meaning it is a more lightweight option without compromising performance. It also has a higher heat resistance than PETG.
Still, there are some disadvantages to using ASA as a 3D printing material:
- Potentially toxic fumes. During the printing process, ASA filament can release fumes that might be harmful. It is crucial to ensure proper ventilation when working with ASA.
- Warping issues: Although ASA is less prone to warping than ABS, it can still experience this issue. Proper bed adhesion, printing in an enclosure, and a low fan speed are necessary to minimize warping.
- The production of ASA and ABS involves using petroleum-derived chemicals. These resources have an unfortunate negative environmental impact.
ASA is an excellent material for:
- Functional parts (such as lightweight handles)
- Garden planters
- Outdoor tools
- Camera casings
Nylon is a technical 3D printing material popular due to its strength, flexibility, and resistance to wear and tear. One of its key advantages is its natural resistance to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Nylon is ideal for outdoor applications, where printed objects are exposed to harsh weather and sunlight. The material maintains its mechanical properties and appearance despite prolonged UV exposure. So, 3D printed objects made with Nylon will not become brittle, discolored, or lose their structural integrity when exposed to sunlight.
There are some challenges when printing with nylon:
- Nylon 6, 6/6, and 12 are all hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air leading to poor print quality and weak parts. It is essential to store the material in a moisture-controlled/airtight box or use a filament dryer occasionally.
- Nylon tends to warp or lift off the print bed during printing, causing print failures. Ensuring proper bed adhesion and using aids like glue sticks, painter's tape, or specialized print surfaces can help.
Despite these challenges, nylon offers excellent strength, flexibility, and chemical resistance, making it a valuable material for various applications when adequately managed.
Some of the typical applications of nylon are:
- Functional prototypes and tooling
- Gears and bearings
- Heat shields
- Clothing accessories
Polycarbonate (PC) is a technical thermoplastic polymer. It offers a combination of strength, durability, and UV resistance, making it a go-to material for various outdoor and sunlight-exposed applications.
Polycarbonate can withstand high temperatures. As a result, it's an excellent choice for 3D printing projects that require materials with good heat resistance. It is also known for its transparency and light-transmitting properties, which can be helpful in applications like light covers or lenses.
Polycarbonate is like nylon, a challenging material to 3D print. To successfully print with this material, you must consider high nozzle and bed temperatures, slow print speeds, and maintaining an enclosed build space with controlled temperatures. Also, proper storage is crucial, as it is hygroscopic and must be kept in a moisture-free environment.
Polycarbonate is ideal for 3D printing applications like:
- Exterior automotive components
- Ducting and brackets
- Drone and RC vehicle frames
- Protective gear
- Gears and bearings
To sum up, UV-resistant 3D printing materials like PLA, PETG, ASA, Nylon, and Polycarbonate have opened up a world of possibilities for creating long-lasting, durable objects. By selecting the appropriate material for your project, you can ensure your 3D-printed items remain strong and intact over time. As technology and material science progress, we anticipate even more innovative materials and uses for 3D printing, broadening the horizons of this fast-growing field.