With 3D printing you can achieve anything you want, or almost, thanks to a series of new filaments! This leads us to broaden our horizons and to think that we want to give our creation not only a shape, but also a particular consistency. And if we can’t turn our creations into metal, glass or whatever, we can make them look like, at least visually, with the help of the right filament.
By now we have at our disposal a lot of 3D materials that simulate others, obviously not printable in 3D with simple desktop printer.
I want to create this small collection to reveal even to the most distracted how far they can go in the simulation of other materials in common use with 3D printing, and what they have lost so far.
Here I consider only chameleonic materials, which take on (some better than other) the appearance of another material.
Filament – Wood
Let’s start with this inflated thermoplastic material. In the first place we must say that there are different types and technologies with which we can simulate wood. Some manufacturers simply simulate the wood effect with the color brown and an effect of the rougher wire. Others, on the other hand, take a further step and insert up to 30% of wood fibre into the mixture. This also gives the material some of the typical properties of wood. Such as flammability, flotation and even perfume.
As I see it, there is no better or worse way to achieve a good wood effect. In fact, while it is true that 100% thermoplastic materials are slightly less similar on average (this is not true for everyone, some are amazing), it is also true that they are much easier to print. The “loaded” wood up to 30% can also include pieces with a grain size greater than the standard diameter of the nozzles (0.4mm) and we need to increase the measure. This, even if only minimally, affects the quantity of small parts that can be printed. Or, if you want to take a risk and leave the same nozzle, you could face continuous filling problems. So pay attention to the quality, but equally to the ease of printing.
There are filaments that also emulate special woods, to be decided according to your needs. Here is a classification of the various commercially available wood types. I do this classification based on the color. If you think there is any error, report it and I will correct it!
I would also like to add that 99% of the filament that simulates wood is porous and unpolished. Thanks to this particular characteristic you can paint it, in addition to the normal acrylic colours, also with special stains for wood. Below you can see some example.
Filament – Metals
For the record, I must point out that there are already special 3D printers capable of printing metals. But given the costs, the preparation and the necessary environment, you can’t use them in a domestic or handicraft-hobby environment like desktop printers. For this reason, the manufacturers of materials for 3D printing have equipped themselves with special materials that emulate more or less the various metals.
The Aluminium filament, although quite widespread, is rather difficult to find. One of the best I’ve tried is this MYNT3D Elemental Aluminum PLA, which you can find in Amazon at an affordable price. Thanks to a particular brilliance given by the glitter, this filament gives a good idea of a shiny metal.
In the picture below the final result.
The copper filament is able to emulate this metal perfectly, as a coloring. It’s a normal PLA filament, so don’t expect it to be conductive: Copper Filament.
Bronze is one of the first filaments with a metallic look that has been imitated, in some cases the bronze is also contained within the amalgam that composes the material, even with percentages of 25%. In these cases, leaving the filament to the weather, this will assume the typical green colour given by the oxidation of the metal. The colouring of the Riace Bronzes, to be clear. This Bronze filament has the typical bronze look, and is economical. This other filament has the bronze inside and then you can get the effect we talked about earlier, and you can see below in the picture. You can find it here: Bronze Filament.
The gold in 3D printing is very represented, and the coloring varies greatly depending on the manufacturer. Personally when it comes to gold filament I like to divide it into two distinct categories, new gold, straw yellow color, typical of pure gold. Or antique gold, with a darker color, typical of the gold used. Even if this noble metal does not change color easily and does not suffer the effects of time, we are used to see ancient objects gilded and damaged.
As you can see in the photos here the colors are very different, and must be chosen with care to give the desired effect. I choose the brands that in my opinion best represent my idea. Obviously there are many other shades. Here you can find the new gold filament in photo, and here the antique gold filament.
The silver material is one of the most popular and best represented. In reality it is very similar and for many applications it is interchangeable with steel and aluminium colours. For the particularity of being very widespread I decided to present one of the cheapest on the market. Silver Filament.
Iron is one of the most fun materials to use in 3D printing. I’m talking about the real iron, which you can find here.
This material has many peculiarities: it is magnetic and interacts with magnets. Being loaded with real iron rusts and it will look like real iron.
Filament – Other Materials
Among other materials we find a lot of them.
I’ll start by telling you that there is no real filament called the chalk effect. But plaster is easily simulated by a white filament with a strong matt effect. The best I have tried with this feature is the Fabbrix brand filament, which has a truly realistic plaster effect. You can find it on the officila website.
So far I’ve tried 2 different types of terracotta-like filament. That is, PLA base and ABS base. The yield on the object was in both cases very good. In reality the filament Base PLA is a simple PLA loaded with real Terracotta, for a really exciting effect. It’s cheap and easy to print and can give your print the desired effect.
The only problem you can encounter is the location where you want to place the object. If, for example, you want to make an outdoor vase, then the PLA could be damaged under the summer sun. Then you will have to switch to ABS terracotta. For the printing of this other filament we recommend a closed printer, for any problems of warping and delamination. The plate at 100° and an extrusion temperature of around 250°. A little more difficult in short, but you will have a very resistant product!
In conclusion Terracotta-PLA easy to print or Terracotta-ABS for outdoors.
A filament designed for modelling, it succeeds in rendering the idea of concrete perfectly. Used and to be used in modelling, it allows to replicate buildings or cities that seem real, here it is: Cement Filament
The marble effect is one of the last filaments presented, probably also due to the difficulty in creating a two-tone material with the right visual properties. However, it has been available for a few months and the effect is very realistic. It is not one of the cheapest filaments but also as you can see in the picture this material avoids a lot of effort in the post-production phase.
Here is the filament: Marble Filament.
The glass (transparent wire) has always been copied. The working method of the printer, which deposits several layers of material on top of each other, does not allow a completely amorphous crystallization of the material. This means that, even if the original product, in this case the roll, is composed of transparent material a print will not be. Or rather an object of one layer (vase mode) will be equivalent to a satin glass. Gradually, when we add lines, it will become less and less transparent, allowing only light to pass through. Just like a satin glass abajour.
It’s a pity, the glass (even the equivalent of transparent plexiglass) printed in 3D would be a real revolution! I leave you as reference one of the best products as transparency that are found on the market today: Glass Filament. Below you can see some tests done by me on the transparent filament. It is also possible to find colored translucent filament that in some cases can simulate colored glass. There are almost all the colours available!
As in other cases already mentioned, also for the case of carbon, there are two filaments. A similar version, and one that has just inside a percentage of up to 50% of carbon fibers. Although it is a very resistant material, I cannot say whether the fibers inserted in the paste of the material give greater strength beyond making it more similar to the original material. Being printed in layers and being the conjunction of these the weak part of the model will probably have no influence, although it could increase the mechanical strength in X and Y.
As already happens for materials loaded with metal it is very abrasive. Carbon filament with the addition of real fibres, or simple Carbon look filament.
The mix of plastic material to which the powder of the material is added, (then dust of: Wood, Bronze, Iron, etc…) of which we have spoken so far, is called “Loaded”. These loaded filaments, even if they have the properties of the material they want to imitate, can have a series of problems. The loaded wood can have larger granules, and therefore require larger nozzles to be printed and, if you use the nozzle 0.4 mm, can continuous clogging that make it impossible to work.
Please read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully!
Materials loaded with metal powder or carbon fibres, having a particular hardness, can consume the nozzle and make it lose its diameter within a few hundred hours of use. So you have to prepare yourself to replace the brass nozzles with a certain frequency or equip yourself with steel nozzles, which last longer, or even in ruby, which knows no consumption (almost).
Whatever your project is, you can now replicate almost everything. You can have fun recreating models with battlefields from the recent and remote past, art or technology objects. The only limit is fantasy.
If you know of any other material that can simulate an existing one and is not on this list, please report it! And I’ll update right away!
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