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Polypropylene 3D Printing
Polypropylene is a widely used commodity plastic that is harder and more resistant to heat and creep than polyethylene. There are three primary types of polypropylene: atactic, syndiotactic, and isotactic. These terms refer to the molecular structure of the polypropylene in question, which can change the material’s mechanical properties. For simplicity and clarity, this article only discusses isotactic polypropylene, which is the main type used in commercial applications.
In this article, we’ll discuss what polypropylene is, its applications, the challenges of manufacturing and 3D printing polypropylene, and possible alternative materials.
What is Polypropylene?
Polypropylene is a non-polar, semi-crystalline thermoplastic polymer. It is naturally a light translucent beige, but it can be made opaque or colored with pigments. Transparency can be achieved in polypropylene but not as readily as some other plastics, including polystyrene and acrylic.
This material is primarily known and used for its fatigue resistance. Parts made up of this material can hold up to repetitive use better than most other commercial plastics. In addition to this, polypropylene is waterproof and lightweight, having a high strength-to-weight ratio. No other commodity plastic can compete with the low density of this material.
While polypropylene is used for a variety of applications, it should not be used in working conditions requiring high strength or exposure to extreme temperatures. This material reaches its melting point in the range of 320-331°F, has a HDT of 122°F, and is brittle below 32°F. Additionally, while polypropylene may be made transparent for optical clarity, it has a low transmissivity. If a higher transmissivity is required, it is better to go with acrylic or polycarbonate.
Because of its excellent mechanical properties, polypropylene is used in many products and industries that we encounter every day. These industries may include medical, culinary, electrical, automotive, packaging, and consumer goods.
Medical & Culinary