3D Printing Materials Guide

Covers the different pros and cons of each material available to choose for printing at SR Airsoft.


Strength and Durability

Perhaps the most important quality of 3D printed parts is their strength and ability to withstand damage. Strength can be thought of as how much force you need to apply at once to break something. 3D printed parts are generally thought of as fragile and not something that can be a permanent solution, but that all depends on which plastic is used to print it.

Durability is slightly different. Durability is more like how hard an impact a part can withstand before breaking. Something can have high strength but low durability. For example, PLA is brittle and cracks apart under stress. In the other hand, nylon has high durability due to its slight flexibility. It can be hit and dropped and stepped on and won't break because it doesn't fracture like PLA. Durability is most important for external parts.

Printing Detail

The most recognizable features of 3D printing are the layer lines. 3D printers lay down plastic a layer at a time, eventually building up vertically to the full part. Using smaller layers can improve the surface finish at the cost of doubling or tripling printing time.

SR Airsoft is capable of producing very small and detailed parts. Details as small as 0.5 mm can be printed. Layers can be printed as small as 0.1 mm or finer if necessary. Parts such as hop up parts, small internal parts, or intricate parts can be printed in PLA or nylon.

Large parts made from reinforced nylon are restricted to 1 mm details and 0.2 mm layers minimum. The glass fibers used as reinforcement restrict how fine this material can be printed.


PLA

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Strength: Medium

Durability: Low

Flexibility: Low

Detail: High

Surface: Satin, smooth

Cost: 5¢/gram

Colors: Black, any can be special ordered

Basic and most common 3D printing plastic. Nearly every 3D printer can use this material. It has medium strength and high stiffness which is good for small parts that won't experience impacts. On impact, PLA can crack or shatter, and is not recommended for exterior parts. PLA is also susceptible to warping in temperatures above 50C (122F), so it is not recommended to leave parts sitting in the sun or in a hot car. Very fine details and low layer heights can be printed in this material. This is the most economical material and is readily available in black, however virtually any color can be ordered for special requests. Surface finish is standard satin with a normal plastic feel.

Nylon

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Strength: High

Durability: High

Flexibility: Medium

Detail: High

Surface: Gloss, low-friction

Cost: 15¢/gram

Colors: Black only

Premium filament that takes upgraded hardware and special care to 3D print with. This engineering grade plastic has much higher durability than PLA. Its higher tensile strength and flexibility allow parts printed in nylon to take hits and impacts without snapping. Parts can be printed in high detail and fine layer heights. This material is great for either small functional parts or large external parts. Nylon is also able to withstand up to 80C (176F) temperatures without warping. Surface finish is a glossy black and has a smooth, low friction surface. Black is the only available color.

Glass Fiber Reinforced Nylon

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Strength: Very High

Durability: Very High

Flexibility: Low

Detail: Medium

Surface: Matte, textured

Cost: 25¢/gram

Colors: Black, Desert Tan, OD Green

One of the toughest 3D printing plastics on the market. This industrial grade material is made up of 20% chopped glass fibers embedded in nylon (which is already strong by itself). This reinforcement makes parts stiffer and much stronger than regular nylon. Able to withstand temperatures up to 120C (248F) without damage, have no fear of playing In high heat. The reinforcement prevents printing in fine details (smaller than 1 mm features), but makes up for it in its unbeatable strength and durability. Surface has a matte finish and textured feel. Once you try this material you won't want anything else and is recommended for all exterior parts and accessories. Colors are black, desert tan, and OD green.


Choosing a Material

For 3D printing services (when you already have your part file and just need printing) you are able to choose from any material we offer. However, it is still recommended to use reinforced nylon unless size or cost are issues.

For products we directly offer in our shop, the optimal material will be offered for each part. This is based on size and strength requirements.

If you would like to request a special material, send us an email at shadowregimedesigns@gmail.com or use the Contact Us form in About.

3D PrintingJoey Dorsch