When you have a high-heat application, you need to make sure that your parts can withstand the temperatures. With 3D printing, that can be tricky. Standard PLA material will start melting at 50°C, which makes it useless in high-temperature applications. However, there are other 3D printing materials to consider.
In this guide, we’ll discuss 7 of the best 3D printing options when it comes to overall heat resistance. You’ll see plenty of plastics that can be printed on an FDM printer, and some specialty metals that require more advanced printers.
Difficulty Between Heat Resistance and 3D Printing
When it comes to production 3D printing heat-resistant parts, there’s a big caveat: the material needs to melt enough so it can flow through the nozzle of the 3D printer. This is true for FDM and more traditional 3D printers.
With FDM printers, you’ll be dealing exclusively with thermoplastics. These are plastics that will change their shape when they’re heated enough, allowing them to be 3D printed. This creates a problem. The raw material needs to be susceptible to heat so it can melt and flow through the nozzle, but it needs to be resistant enough so that it can be used in hot applications. This means that 3D printers need to feature even hotter extruders to handle the material. It also means that you might need to step away from plastics and FDM printing altogether, as we’ll see later in this guide. For now, just know that 3D printing isn’t typically the best option when it comes to heat resistance. With that being said, we’ll now review 7 of the best materials to use in 3D printing so you can get the best heat resistance possible.
We should quickly explain two concepts before getting into our list. You’ll see these terms in almost every section of this guide:
- Transition temperature. This is when a material goes from purely solid to a mix of solid and liquid. In 3D printing, it’s the temperature when the material can be extruded through a hotend and made into a part. If your 3D printer’s max nozzle temperature is below a material’s transition temperature, you cannot print with that material.
- Melting point. The melting point is when the part goes from a solid-liquid mix to an entirely liquid state. The melting point of H2O is when a glass of solid ice becomes entirely liquid water.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
ABS is one of the most common 3D printing options. It’s strong, durable, and surprisingly resistant to heat. In fact, a lot of recreational 3D printers can’t handle ABS due to the higher printing temperature required.
People like to use ABS in applications where PLA won’t stand up to the forces or stresses.
Transition Temperature: 105°C
Melting Point: 200°C
The next material is PC, and this is one that you’ve probably heard about before. It’s used in real-world applications like bulletproof glass, sturdy plastic structures, and even glass in aquariums.
Since it’s such a strong material, people quickly found a way to make it 3D printable. As a non-engineered plastic, it offers one of the highest melting points on this list, beat only by non-plastics and engineered options.
Transition Temperature: 147°C
Melting Point: 260°C
CE 221 (Cyanate Ester)
Looking at CE 221, you’ll notice that it’s very different than other options on our list. That’s because CE 221 is a specialty, engineered material. As a material, it’s designed to be incredibly strong, very stiff, and super heat resistant.
In fact, it has such a high transition temperature that it can’t be printed with an FDM printer, it has to be done on a DLS printer. It’s exclusively used in industrial 3D printers, mostly in fabrication shops. NASA actually uses 3D-printed CE 221 parts on the International Space Station.
Transition Temperature: 225°C
Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK)
Another engineered thermoplastic on this list is PEEK. As a tubing material, it’s strong enough to replace stainless steel tubing in many different applications. As a 3D-printable material, you’ll offer the same incredible strength.
PEEK has a very high melting point, but a reasonable transition temperature. This means that it can be 3D printed easily, but still withstand a ton of heat before failing.
Transition Temperature: 143°C
Melting Point: 343°C
Moving into the world of DMLS, or metal 3D printing, let’s talk about aluminum. Aluminum is a low-weight, less expensive alternative to steel. It can be made into very complicated shapes and boasts great overall strength.
The AlSi10Mg alloy is designed to be highly heat resistant, and it performs even better as things get hotter. You’ll find this alloy used on aircraft, automobiles, and different machines.
Melting Point: 670°C
Stainless Steel 316L
Stainless steel is a very strong material. It is also amagnetic (nonmagnetic), corrosion-resistant, and very ductile. The 316L alloy is the same one that the military uses for the vast majority of their vehicles.
It’s the heavier, stronger, more expensive alternative to an aluminum part. If you walk through any manufacturing plant in America, there’s a good chance that you’ll run into plenty of 316L stainless steel.
Melting Point: 1,400°C
Inconel 718 (Nickel-Chromium superalloy)
Considered a “superalloy”, Inconel 718 is an engineered metal that goes above and beyond aluminum and steel. It offers even more strength, better corrosion resistance, and superior heat resistance than any other material on this list.
This alloy can be seen on high-end military equipment, aeronautics, and specialty applications across different industries.
The downside is that Inconel 718 is more brittle, so it will shatter instead of bend when forces get above its maximum tensile strength.
Melting Point: up to 1,430°C
We just talked about 7 of the best 3D printing materials for heat resistance. Keep these transition temperatures and melting points in mind as you’re picking the material for your next project. If you need help picking a material, or you need a heat-resistant part 3D printed, reach out to our experts at Rapid Axis.
We have plenty of 3D printers on the floor that can handle almost every material on this list. Reach out today to get a free quote.