Mechanical properties of components fabricated with open-source 3-D printers under realistic environmental conditions
Materials and Design
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The recent development of the RepRap, an open-source self-replicating rapid prototyper, has made 3-D polymer-based printers readily available to the public at low costs (<$500). The resultant uptake of 3-D printing technology enables for the first time mass-scale distributed digital manufacturing. RepRap variants currently fabricate objects primarily from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA), which have melting temperatures low enough to use in melt extrusion outside of a dedicated facility, while high enough for prints to retain their shape at average use temperatures. In order for RepRap printed parts to be useful for engineering applications the mechanical properties of printed parts must be known. This study quantifies the basic tensile strength and elastic modulus of printed components using realistic environmental conditions for standard users of a selection of open-source 3-D printers. The results find average tensile strengths of 28.5 MPa for ABS and 56.6 MPa for PLA with average elastic moduli of 1807 MPa for ABS and 3368 MPa for PLA. It is clear from these results that parts printed from tuned, low-cost, open-source RepRap 3-D printers can be considered as mechanically functional in tensile applications as those from commercial vendors. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.