Comprehensive article about Additive Manufacturing at the Chemical & Engineering News:
Volume 89 Issue 46 | November 14, 2011 | pp. 10-14
Researchers take a step toward bringing three-dimensional printers to the masses by developing new materials compatible with the object-building technology
Even though 3-D printing is a rapidly growing market, about 70% of its more than $1 billion in sales currently comes from printed prototypes or model parts made of substances such as plastics (C&EN, April 25, page 22). Businesses use these models to help settle on designs for products such as car parts, sneakers, and toothbrushes. To make the jump from prototyping parts to manufacturing functional objects for aerospace, medical, and home applications, scientists are beginning to work with more advanced materials such as conductive polymers, metals, hydrogels, and biopolymers.
When engineers developed 3-D printing—or additive manufacturing, as they prefer to call it—in the mid-1980s, the machines principally worked with polymer liquids and powders. Although thousands of printers are in use today, a lot of them still use only polymers, says Brent Stucker, an industrial engineer at the University of Louisville. Nylon is a particular favorite, he says, because it runs well in the machines and has good strength and durability.