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Heat-Resistant 3D Printing Materials Guide: Compare Processes, Materials, and Applications

As 3D printing hardware has increased in sophistication and ability, the material properties of the resins, powders, and filaments involved have become even more important in establishing new workflows and enabling new applications. Heat-resistant 3D printing materials are in high demand as applications in industries such as automotive, aerospace, energy and gas, and industrial manufacturing become more widespread. 

Most 3D printing materials are some form of plastics, though there are 3D printers that can print metal or ceramic parts. Plastics are not known typically for their heat resistance, but new material developments in fused deposition modeling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA), and selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printing technology have made heat-resistant resins, heat-resistant filaments, and heat-resistant powders available. 

In the following article, we’ll cover the various types of 3D printers, heat-resistant 3D printing materials including heat-resistant filaments, resins, and powders, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Comparison: Heat-Resistant 3D Printing Processes

Surface Finish★★☆☆☆★★★★★★★★★☆
Complex Designs★★★☆☆★★★★☆★★★★★
Ease of Use★★★★★★★★★★★★★★☆
Materials AvailablePLA, ABS, Polycarbonate (PC), PEEK, ULTEMHeat-resistant resins
True silicone
Technical ceramic
Nylon 12, nylon 11, carbon and glass-filled nylon, TPU, polypropylene
Highest Heat Deflection Temperature @ 0.45 MPa260 ºC (PEEK)Plastics: 238 °C (High Temp Resin and Rigid 10K Resin)
Ceramic: up to 1500 °C
188 °C (Nylon 11 CF Powder)
CostBudget printers and 3D printer kits start at a few hundred dollars. Higher quality mid-range desktop printers start around $2,000, and industrial systems are available from $15,000.Professional desktop printers start at $2,499, large-format benchtop printers at $8,999, and large-scale industrial machines are available from $80,000.Benchtop industrial systems start at $24,999, and traditional industrial printers are available from $100,000.
AdvantagesInexpensive consumer machines and materialsAccuracy
Smooth surface finish
Wide range of materials
Biocompatible materials available
Strong functional parts
Design freedom
No need for support structures
Biocompatible materials available
DisadvantagesLower quality
Parts are not isotropic
Limited design freedom
Sensitive to long exposure to UV lightRough surface finish
Limited material options
ApplicationsBasic prototypingFunctional prototyping
Short-run, bridge, or custom manufacturing
Rapid tooling (molds, patterns)
Manufacturing aids (jigs, fixtures)
Dental and medical applications
Functional prototyping
Short-run, bridge, or custom manufacturing
Manufacturing aids (jigs, fixtures)

Measuring Heat Resistance of 3D Printed Parts

a carbon fiber automotive part and a High Temp Resin 3D printed carbon fiber mold

Materials that can maintain their strength even under high temperatures are ideally suited for applications like molding to fabricate end-use products, such as this carbon fiber manifold component (left) made using a High Temp Resin mold printed on the Form 3+ printer (right).

The catch-all term ‘heat resistance’ can refer to several measurable material properties that are specifically applicable in certain situations. The three mechanical properties are:

  • Heat deflection temperature (HDT): measures how well a material resists deformation under strain when at an elevated temperature, or more simply, how stiff a material is when heated. 

  • Vicat softening point: measures the temperature at which a flat head needle can penetrate the surface of a material by a depth of 1 mm, or more simply, the point at which the stability of the solid form begins to break down. This measurement is helpful for flexible materials — for which HDT doesn’t make sense. 

  • Glass transition temperature (Tg): measures the temperature at which a solid material melts. 

These mechanical properties cannot be used interchangeably, as the measurements for a single material will differ considerably when looking at these three standards: a 3D printed resin will deform slightly under strain at one temperature (HDT), be susceptible to scratching or penetration (Vicat softening point) at another, and turn to liquid at a much higher temperature. 

The most commonly used term is HDT for evaluating a material’s usefulness in a heated environment or application. Because HDT measures performance under strain, it’s important to note that there are two common strain measurements used when evaluating HDT: HDT at 0.45 MPa (67 psi) and HDT at 1.8 MPa (264 psi).

Heat-Resistant Filaments for FDM 3D Printing

Fused deposition modeling (FDM), also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF), is the most widely used form of 3D printing at the consumer level, fueled by the emergence of hobbyist 3D printers. FDM 3D printers build parts by melting and extruding thermoplastic filament, which a printer nozzle deposits layer by layer in the build area.

Most FDM printers can print with filaments that offer heat resistance to around 100 ºC, while some industrial FDM 3D printers can also print parts for high-heat applications with heat-resistant filaments that have an HDT of 280 ºC.

Heat-Resistant FDM 3D Printing: Pros and Cons

FDM 3D printer part (left), compared to SLA 3D printer part (right).

FDM printers struggle with complex designs or parts with intricate features (left), compared to SLA printers (right).

FDM 3D printing is well-suited for basic proof-of-concept models, as well as quick and low-cost prototyping of simple parts, such as parts that might typically be machined. It can be fast for simple designs and because many people think of FDM technology and the ‘hot glue gun’ process when they visualize 3D printing, it can be an easy introduction to 3D printing. 

However, FDM has the lowest resolution and accuracy when compared to SLA or SLS and is not the best option for printing complex designs or parts with intricate features. Most professional and industrial FDM 3D printers use soluble supports to mitigate some of these issues and offer a wider range of engineering thermoplastics, but they also come at a steep price.

Printers for Heat-Resistant FDM 3D Printing

There are a wide range of FDM printers available for fabricating heat-resistant 3D printed parts. Many printers have open platforms as well, so that customers can print with multiple types of filaments from different manufacturers. 

The main requirement for FDM 3D printing heat-resistant parts is making sure that the printer extruder and print bed can achieve the higher temperature settings necessary to melt and extrude heat-resistant filaments and to stabilize the parts during the printing process. A closed build chamber is recommended to maintain a consistent and high temperature during printing. Filaments that offer the highest heat resistance, like PEEK or ULTEM, are only compatible with specialized industrial FDM printers.

Because these materials are designed to resist deformation at higher temperatures, melting and extruding them also often present difficulties and can create inconsistent prints, nozzle jams, or other issues.

Heat Resistant Resins for SLA 3D Printing

Resin 3D printing, such as stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers, uses a laser or other light source to cure a liquid vat of plastic one layer at a time, and offers many options for heat-resistant 3D printing materials. 

Resin 3D printer manufacturers mostly manufacture their own materials — so they aren’t as easy to identify and group as FDM 3D printing heat-resistant filaments. Many general-purpose 3D printing resins are not highly heat-resistant, but advanced materials can achieve the highest heat-resistance of all plastics 3D printing processes.

Heat-Resistant Resin 3D Printing: Pros and Cons

3D printed injection mold and molded parts

Resin 3D printing can be used for high heat and high pressure applications. Rigid 10K Resin molds provide a cost-effective alternative to machining aluminum molds for low-volume injection molding.

Resin 3D printers are ideal for creating high-quality parts with smooth surface finishes, tight tolerances, and a wide range of material properties. 

Because resin printers cure liquid plastics with a light source, the layers are chemically bonded to each other in all directions, meaning the parts have isotropic mechanical properties, and aren’t prone to shearing along a particular axis like FDM parts are. This means resin 3D printed parts printed with heat-resistant resins can be relied upon for seals and gaskets, electrical connectors that need to mate with other components, or even automotive, aerospace, and energy utility applications where high temperatures are the standard environment. 

The SLA process also lends itself to smooth surface finishes, few or nearly invisible layer lines, and a high degree of accuracy and precision. Heat-resistant resins are ideal for functional prototypes, manufacturing aids, and end-use parts in maintenance and repair operations (MRO) applications where the end-use environment might be hot. 

Printers for Heat-Resistant Resin 3D Printing

a woman stands in front of a large format SLA 3D printer

Complete solutions like the Form 3+ and Form 3L ecosystems make it possible to design, print, and post-process heat-resistant parts in hours. Customers can bring industrial quality 3D printing in-house, reducing costs and streamlining their workflows.

Material availability for resin 3D printing is highly dependent on the type of printer. Unlike with FDM 3D printing, where common types of plastic are available for different types of printers, SLA manufacturers often formulate and create their own, proprietary materials.

Formlabs offers over 40 high-performance resins for its line of desktop and large-format resin 3D printers with a diverse range of material properties. Certain resins are specifically designed for heat-resistance, such as High Temp Resin, while others are designed for other material properties, such as tensile strength, but achieve a high HDT as well.

Heat-Resistant Powders for SLS 3D Printing

Selective laser sintering (SLS) refers to the powder bed fusion 3D printing process where a laser fuses powder particles layer by layer. The unused material supports the parts during printing so you can create complex, interconnecting designs with no need for support structures.

Much like with FDM 3D printing, SLS 3D printing manufacturers offer powders that are familiar and well-understood in the engineering world, such as nylon, polypropylene, and TPU. All SLS materials are heat-resistant, offering some of the best material properties of all plastic 3D printing solutions.

Heat-Resistant Powder 3D Printing: Pros and Cons

SLS 3D printers excel at producing end-use quality parts that have the strength and durability of injection molded goods. The self-supporting nature of the powder bed makes it possible to print parts without supports, enabling quicker post-processing and the possibility of shapes that would be difficult to print with SLA or FDM technology. 

SLS ecosystems can often recycle powder, leading to higher efficiency and lower cost per part. SLS printers frequently have larger build volumes than other technologies and the self-supporting nature of the technology allows for printing larger batches of parts, which make it possible to accomplish low- to mid-volume production volumes. The high heat that is used to sinter SLS materials means that finished parts can achieve high temperature resistance.

SLS printers can often be more expensive than FDM or SLA technologies, though accessible options like the Formlabs Fuse Series enable in-house production of heat resistant SLS parts at an affordable price. Printed parts also have a slightly rough surface finish, however, this can be easily improved using post-processing solutions.

Printers for Heat-Resistant SLS 3D Printing

a woman presses a button on the fuse series SLS 3d printer

The Fuse Series SLS 3D printer is an affordable, accessible method of producing heat-resistant SLS parts in industry-standard materials like nylon 12 and TPU. 

SLS 3D printing powders are naturally heat-resistant, so the options for choosing an SLS printer aren't too limited if the application requires a higher HDT. The go-to material for SLS 3D printing is nylon, while most SLS printer manufacturers offer a range of familiar thermoplastic powders. Because the materials are often common across manufacturers, other features, such as build volume, price, workflow, and infrastructure requirements are typically the differentiating factors when choosing between brands of SLS 3D printer. 

The Formlabs Fuse Series introduced an accessible, affordable, benchtop-sized solution for both high-quality prototyping and end-use production. With a range of industry-standard powders available, such as nylon 12, nylon 11, nylon composites, TPU, and polypropylene, it offer many options for producing heat-resistant parts.

Metal 3D Printing

a metal part being 3d printed

Metal 3D printing has gained popularity as printers have become more accessible, but they're still out of reach for most businesses.

Metal 3D printing is still less accessible, but it is starting to become a possibility for manufacturers, engineers, and product designers. Metal 3D printing offers multiple materials with a temperature resistance above 1000 ºC.

Heat-Resistant Metal 3D Printing: Pros and Cons

Metal 3D printing is valued for its ability to combine the strength, durability, and heat resistance of metal parts with the design freedom of 3D printing. Metal 3D printed parts are sought after for use in the aerospace and automotive industries, where lightweighting parts through generative design can deliver high performance without added weight; something that wouldn’t be possible through traditional machining methods of metal fabrication. 

The high power inputs required to manipulate, melt, and/or extrude metal or metal-composite materials mean that these metal printers are often extremely expensive — one model deemed ‘entry-level’ costs upwards of $80,000. Industry leaders in the metal 3D printing space offer machines commonly priced at half a million dollars or more, and require extensive infrastructure to support their processes, like separate rooms and dedicated operators.

Printers for Heat-Resistant Metal 3D Printing

There are fewer metal 3D printer manufacturers than for plastic 3D printing, but the number is growing as the demand increases for workflows that can deliver both the strength and industry-familiar materials of metal parts and the design possibilities of 3D printing.

These manufacturers are grouped into roughly two technologies: extrusion and powder bed fusion. Metal FDM printers work similarly to traditional FDM printers, but use extrude metal rods held together by polymer binders. The finished “green” parts are then sintered in a furnace to remove the binder.  Selective laser melting (SLM) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) metal 3D printers work similarly to SLS printers, but instead of fusing polymer powders, they fuse metal powder particles together layer by layer using a laser. 

Heat-Resistance in 3D Printing

As industries like aerospace engineering and automotive manufacturing increase adoption of 3D printing technology, heat-resistant materials are increasingly in high demand. The geometric flexibility, design freedom, and rapid iterative cycles of 3D printed parts mean that companies can reduce costs while pushing the boundaries of part performance.

Plastic and metal 3D printing process offer a wide range of heat-resistant 3D printing materials — some are familiar, like nylon and metal powders like aluminum or titanium, and some are unique to the 3D printing world. Each technology and material has unique benefits, and some are suited better for certain applications. 

To learn more about which 3D printing technology and material is right for your application, contact our experts. To explore Formlabs’ range of heat-resistant materials, visit our materials catalog.