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Ask a 3D Printing Expert: Can I mix different materials within the same FDM build?

January 9, 2023 News

A question I get asked often when installing new FDM systems is, “Can I mix material types within the same build?” The simple answer is no, other than being able to switch between colors of the same material. When a part file is processed into a CMB (coordinate machine binary) file the properties of the selected material are embedded within that file (i.e., head and envelope temperature, flow rate, and axis speed). Since these properties can vary greatly from material to material, the printer would not be able to build parts reliably if you switch materials during the build. In addition, each material has its own shrink factors, and not all materials will bond together. These differences would inevitably lead to poor part quality or a complete build failure.

FDM machines can, however, be paused in the middle of the build process to allow for hardware such as nuts, bolts and threaded rods to be inserted into a specific layer or a pre-designed cavity. Mid-build inserts can increase part strength and streamline and improve the assembly process.

Just like pausing and dropping in hardware, it is also possible to pause and drop in a previously 3D printed part of a dissimilar material into a subsequent build. The limitation is that the material of the part you’re dropping in must have a higher heat deflection temperature than the part that is currently printing. 

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Meet Terry Greer

Terry is a field service engineer at AdvancedTek, supporting our customers with printer installation, repairs, PMs, training, and phone support.  He got his start in the 3D printing industry more than 25 years ago working for Stratasys when rapid prototyping was in its infancy. His primary background has been in FDM technology, focusing on customer support and field engineering. 

Outside of work Terry enjoys woodworking, painting, restoring pinball machines, home remodeling and billiards.

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Posted by Heather Adams