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Are 3D Printed Parts Durable & Strong?
2021.05.21
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Yes. 3D printed parts are very strong and durable. Otherwise, 3D printing cant become the popular manufacturing way now. 3D printed parts are around us. We can catch them in kinds of daily necessities, decorations. 3D printing has been applied in the industry of medical and aerospace. There are engineering-grade filaments to provide needed strength for 3D printed parts. However, is 3D printed parts durable and strong enough to replace parts in other ways? Not really. All the discussions of durability and strength are based on the actual using situation. You cant blame the low speed on a bicycle if you want a car. 3D printed parts work well in the phase of project design, rapid prototyping, which costs less to get the feedback quickly.   
 
Materials, infill percentage, part direction, wall height, shell thickness, adhesive ability, and interior injection are the factors to durable 3D printed parts. Lets dive into the following article to know whether your 3D printed part is durable and strong enough.
 
Material
3D printed part is very durable under the right environment, which is suitable for material storage. According to cost, color, hardness, heat resistance, and other factors, PLA, ABS, Nylon, PET, PETG, PP, PVA, TPU, etc. are the most common 3D printing materials. To be better aware of the durability of 3D printing materials. Lets take a quick view of the material performance:
Material Pros Cons
PLA Low cost;
Environmental-fridendy
material, can be biodegradable;
Durable,
Tensile strength in 7250psi
Low heat resistance, part will be deformed at temperature over 60ºC;
Not chemical resistance;
ABS Heat resistance;
Waterproof;
High hardness;
Good toughness;
Tensile strength in 4700psi
Having pungent odor while printing;
Easy to be shrunken or wrapped in contact with air;
Nylon Low friction;
High hardness;
Good toughness;
Tensile strength in 7000psi
Water absorption;
Easy to wrap while improper storage
PET&PETG Heat resistance;
Can be recycle 100%;
Impact resistance;
Sensitive to moisture;
Difficult in surface finishing
PP Good toughness;
Impact resistance;
Wear resistance;
High cost;
Sensitive to UV ray and easy to expand;
PC Heat resistance;
Impact resistance;
Water absorption
PEEK Fire retardant;
Lightweight;
High cost
Though we have a full understanding of material performance and choose the correct material to print, the challenge of durability will still go on. We have to admit that almost every material will be shrunken or wrapped after the printing. The assembly and daily usage of functional parts will be affected even little wrapping.
Weather, temperature, traffic, vehicle, etc. are out of control for long-distance shipment even the 3D printed part are being well packaged. 3D printing material is tough and durable enough for testing, display, usage only if we take care of the situation of printing, shipment, storage.       
 
Infill Percentage
Durability can be achieved with full infill. The interior structure of the 3D printed part is not always filled densely. According to customer demand, there is an exact ratio between material filling and free space. Crosshatch or other infill patterns like grid infill or honeycomb infill are the common interior surface in the printing process. Without solid infill, Even the strongest printing material cant resist exterior impact. To print durable parts, customers can choose the infill percentage for each part freely as per cost, speed.
Non-functional part: recommended infill percentage from 10% to 20%. Non-functional parts are usually be used for display. It is not the key role for exterior force.
Light-use part: recommended infill percentage from 20% to 40%. The lightweight part takes a little responsibility for the impact resistance, which requires taking up more space for infill.
Functional part: recommended infill percentage from 40% to 100%. It is the main part to withstand or be used frequently for the product. A solid wall improves the complete durability. However, keep in mind that a high infill percentage can impact the outer surface of the part.
Insufficient infill weakens the whole durability directly. Unnecessary high infill percentage will cause higher cost and lower printing speed.
 
Part direction
Correct part dirention improves durability. To decide the right dirention, you should consider all the future exterior forces before printing. The process of printing layer by layer is art. Each layer is connected closely with the previous layer, which produces the strong part gradually. The unique and magic feature not only can take part, but also destroy the part. Every interface among the layers is the weak point. The strongest surface is parallel to the printing board.
For example, when you are about to print a hanging shelf, the strongest exterior force will be pushed to the surface of the item placement. Before printing, you should well aware that the force is not acting along the interfaces among layers. The superior adhesive performance of printing materials also helps to withstand the force.
 
Wall height
Wall height has a strong connection with durability and strength. The lower wall height improves the more durable part. When the next layer is squished onto the previous one, the contacting surface becomes wider to low wall height. These wide surface areas have stronger adhesion between layers. Furthermore, printed parts with low wall height are smooth and clear.     
 
Shell thickness
Some parts are printed to under a load or withstand the physical force. In such circumstances, an increase in shell thickness can replace infill percentage to improve the durable and solid part. It is important to note that flexible or good-looking parts can not work well with a thick shell. The extra thickness weakens the parts working condition and creates the possible internal stress that can result in warping and print failure.  
 
The purpose of durability is based on the actual application. The printed part does not need an extremely thick shell if high wall height can meet the demand of the application. The structure of unnecessary thickness or height not only causes a high cost of time and budget but also affects the user experience. Please let us know if you want more suggestions for 3D printing.

 
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