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MadeSolid has created better 3D printing materials

Every week, it seems like we're writing about a new and exciting 3D printer, but most of them use the same old materials: ABS and PLA. MadeSolid, a Californian startup founded last year, is working on making 3D printing better be developing new, more advanced materials.

To date, they've come up with three different kinds of 3D printing material: there's PET+, an engineering grade filament that's more flexible and stronger than either ABS or PLA but comes in a reel that should fit most existing printers; MS Resin, a resin for use with SLS printers that comes in a range of bright colours; and investment casting resin, another resin that can be used with Form1 printers, and one that doesn't create ash during the printing process.

Shapeways is trialling a new material: Premium Silver

The wider the variety of materials that can be printed, the more uses 3D printing can be put to. Shapeways already offers a large selection of printing materials, but right now the site is trying out a new one: premium silver.

The 3D printing company has been offering silver as a printing material for a while, as anyone who's browsed the jewellery section on the site will know. But during a six-week trial, users will be able to order objects printed in "premium silver": it's sterling silver that's been manually polished to a very smooth, very shiny finish.

Because this is only a trial, there are some details that Shapeways are still working out: the manual polishing may remove a level of detail from printed objects, for example, so through trial and error the site will be updating its guidelines so that users aren't disappointed with their finished objects. Pricing, too, is still being worked out. At the moment, it costs $28 per cmfor objects up to 3.4cmand $75 for bigger objects; there's also a handling fee of $45 for objects under 1.7cm3, $78 for objects between 1.7 and 3.4 cm3 and objects bigger than 3.4 cmincur no handling fee. 

The premium silver trial comes to an end on Tuesday 14 May, so if you want to buy something printed using it, now's the time to do it. If there's enough enthusiasm for it, it'll become a permanent option. Find out more about Shapeways's premium silver material, including some design guidelines, over on the Shapeways blog.

Carbomorph: the future of 3D printing?

A new kind of 3D printable material has been developed at the University of Warwick - and it might be about to completely change the way we think about things that can be 3D printed.

"Carbomorph", a kind of carbon filler and biodegradable polyester mix, is conductive and piezoresistive, which means it can easily have electronic tracks and touch-sensitive parts embedded in it. (Yeah, we just had to go and look up "piezoresistive", too.) So far, the researchers have used carbomorph to print a motion sensing glove, a mug that can sense liquid, and even touch sensitve gaming controllers.

Dr Simon Leigh, who led on the project, said, "It's always great seeing the complex and intricate models of devices such as mobile phones or television remote controls that can be produced with 3D printing, but that's it, they're invariably models that don't really function. We set about trying to find a way in which we could actually print out a functioning electronic device from a 3D printer. In the long term, this technology could revolutionise the way we produce the world around us, making products such as personal electonics a lot more individualised and unique."

And the reason this is so exciting is that carbomorph can be used in existing consumer 3D printers, and can apparently be sold fairly cheaply. Which means anyone, anywhere, with a 3D printer can now create electronics that react to touch. When this stuff becomes readily available, we reckon Thingiverse is gonna be flooded with weird and wonderful personalised electronics...

Read more about it at the University of Warwick's website.

Why not try 3D printing in wood?

Wood has always been used as a solid material for creating elaborate sculptures, furniture, and decorative objects, but usually, those involved a lot of carving, sanding, and sawing. Now, though, one inventor reckons they've found a way to make that process easier... by creating a 3D printing material that's made from wood.

Kai Parthy created LAYWOOD-3D, a 3D printing filament that's 40% wood and 60% polymers. When it's printed, the temperature of the filament can be altered to create authentic-looking wood grain on the finished object. And when the object is finished, it can be worked with in the same way as normal wood.

Currently, the filament is available for sale in trial amounts (which can be used with RepRap printers) via eBay.

Testing 3D printing materials for durability

If you've ever wondered how durable the various 3D printing materials on the market are, well, wonder no more. VistaTek had an independent lab test the eight most commonly used 3D printing materials and test them - check out the video above to see the results!