Virginia Tech Professors Provide Incredible Insight into the Future of 3D Printable Materials

There is little doubt that the single most important area within the 3D printing space is that of materials. Material science could potentially lead the way to thousands of new applications for additive manufacturing technology. It’s not the hardware that will drive things forward the most, but instead the materials that the hardware is able to work with.

When it comes to material science’s intersection with 3D printing, Virginia Tech is among the leaders in both research and development. Two men — Dr. Timothy Long, a Professor in theDepartment of Chemistry at VT and the Director of the Macromolecules & Interfaces Institute (MII), and Dr. Chris Williams, an Associate Professor in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, and the Associate Director of the MII — decided to present a Science AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit.

The two men allowed the open community of Reddit to ask them questions regarding the future of 3D printing and the materials which may lead the way. They then came back hours later to respond to a good deal of these questions, with answers that may surprise you.

When asked about what’s being done to reduce the cost of materials within the space, Long gave quite an interesting reply. He felt that in order to really reduce pricing, we will need printers capable of getting away from materials which are pre-processed (i.e., filament and powders). What if we could just throw raw material into a printer and have it do its magic? The markup on materials such as filaments and powders is staggeringly high. For instance a typical 1kg spool of ABS filament will cost anywhere from $20 to $60, while the same quantity of ABS in granular form will cost around $3 in bulk. … (read more)