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I have searched the internet and found various 3D printers with different advantages and materials which they can print - some even multi color.

However, I cannot seem to find a printer that can print multiple material with different properties; for instance, simultaneously printing PLA and metal. Is there currently such a printer available or in development?

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  • $\begingroup$ What metal printing technology do you have in mind? $\endgroup$ – amra Feb 3 '16 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ To extend @amra's question: with "different material properties", do you mean common desktop 3D printer filaments, or such as plastic alloys, flexible materials etc., or completely different filaments with different extruder mechanisms? $\endgroup$ – Tormod Haugene Feb 3 '16 at 12:34
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Yes and no.

for instance simultanious printing of plas plastic and lets say metal. Is such a printer available or in development ?

Practically speaking, no. Metal printing requires significantly higher temperatures than plastic, and the two processes are so incompatible that there is currently no good solutions that would allow one printer to print both in the same print. Whether extruding filament, laser sintering, or curing resins, the materials involved have to be fairly similar in processing environment to print adjacent to each other without issue.

There are many printers that are intended to print multiple materials by changing the print head. You might, for instance, use a ceramic paste extruder, then change the head for the next print using plastic.

There have been efforts in the past, and some efforts are ongoing, to resolve this. For instance wood's metal, a low temperature alloy, can be poured at temperatures compatible with plastics, so it's possible to create a printer that prints plastic, leaving troughs or voids in the plastic, then the same printer during this print would pour molten woods metal into these areas, which then solidifies into an internal metal structure. These are intended for circuitry and electrical use, however significant problems still exist because the thermal expansion differences in these materials lead to stress and result in poor reliability.

So while some of these processes are being developed, this is still just in the experimental stage and there are significant problems to overcome before printers can print widely different materials in a single printing session.

Of course you can find plastics with such a wide range of characteristics that they can be seen as printing different materials. Plastics imbued with wood fibers, printing next to conductive plastics with graphite, printing next to flexible plastics, etc, etc are now possible, and depending on your requirements they may meet your needs.

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  • $\begingroup$ thanks for you extensive comment ! you say : So while some of these processes are being developed, this is still just in the experimental stage and there are significant problems to overcome before printers can print widely different materials in a single printing session. do you know which experimental printers this are ? $\endgroup$ – pwghost Feb 15 '16 at 8:23
  • $\begingroup$ @pwghost here's one example: blog.reprap.org/2012/04/some-more-printed-circuitry.html?m=1 $\endgroup$ – Adam Davis Feb 15 '16 at 14:28
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For the most part, you can achieve this with a dual extruding printer. However, dual extrusion is best for either multi-color printing or printing with support material. For example, printing the part with PLA and all support material with water soluble PVA.

In practice, printing two completely different materials is not sound engineering practice as they have the potential to not make a well enough bond to each other. So, the case of pure metal and pure plastic, the two materials will not bond well because they will not both be in the same physical state together at any point in time.

However, your best option would be a printer like the MarkForged which uses a composite approach by combining a common binder (ABS, PLA, Nylon, etc.) and a strong material such as Carbon Fiber, Fiberglass, or Kevlar.

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  • $\begingroup$ thanks for your comment, hmm interesting so there is no printer at all, which can print multiple materials ? why isn't there any research in this area to make it happen ? no demand for something like that ? $\endgroup$ – pwghost Feb 4 '16 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ Technically Dual extruding FDM printers can print different materials, but they're going to be plastic or composite. I don't really think there is going to be a need for a machine like that. The focus is more into Material Science and developing composite material anyways. Metals are heavy, but the properties are great. Plastic is light, but the properties generally suck. The focus now, is to just combine them. These sorts of composites can be used on FDM and FFF printers. $\endgroup$ – tbm0115 Feb 4 '16 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ do you think there's a market for plastic,glass (si) and metal printing in one machine? $\endgroup$ – pwghost Feb 16 '16 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe, it just depends on what your focus for manufacturing would be. I personally don't see a how/why you would try to print glass aside art/crafts or refurbishments. You can, however achieve some of the properties of glass in the plastic. $\endgroup$ – tbm0115 Feb 16 '16 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ me and somebody else have thought out a method which makes it (we think) possible to print metal, plastic and silicon in one model this makes it possible to creat metal/plastic/glas models and circuitry ect 1 ony step in one machine . Personally i think theres a market for that because it would make it possible to create complete functioning products. if we can get the resolution to 5um we can make pic controllers etc $\endgroup$ – pwghost Feb 16 '16 at 14:59

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