A small variety of print materials is currently one of the greatest limitations in 3D printing. Most personal 3D printers are limited to ABS and PLA, with some able to hand polycarbonate, nylon, and LAYWOO-D3, and an even smaller number are able to print with sugar, chocolate, and cheese. Some professional printers can print in paper and rubber-like materials, and industrial printers can create metal objects. That’s only about 20 materials, so we get pretty excited when a new material becomes available. Today that material is Elasto Plastic from Shapeways.
“Elasto Plastic is an off-white elastomer that is very flexible. It has a rough, grainy finish, and is quite strong when printed with thick features (greater than 5mm).” Shapeways has experimented with flexible materials before, only to discontinue them due to them not meeting their quality standards. I think this one has a shot though. It’s being released as Maker Only for six weeks, meaning you can use it for designs that you upload but it won’t be selectable for objects in the Shapeways Shop. After the six weeks, its success, performance, and popularity will be assessed for potentially being added to the materials list permanently.
Elasto Plastic is laser sintered from a powder just like the Strong and Flexible material, but it can’t produce the same level of detail and the surface finish is not as smooth. Models may also arrive with extra powder that can be rinsed off, but the material is hygroscopic so don’t leave it wet. Though, while not technically watertight, objects can hold water for some time. It’s also important to note that the material is not food safe and is quite flammable.
Despite the drawbacks, Elasto Plastic will likely prove to be very useful. It’s incredibly tough and impact resistant, while also being quite flexible. That makes it ideal for smartphone cases, shoes, grips, and so much more. Give it a try, and don’t forget to share your experience with Shapeways.
Source: Shapeways blog