3D printing technology just added a little spring to its step with a new maker material called “Elasto Plastic,” an off-white flexible polymer made by Shapeways. The substance sports a grainy texture that retains its strength when used for large structures over 5mm. As an experimental material, it will not be available in Shapeways shops, but it will be available for purchase during a six-week trial that ends on July 9.
The Elasto Plastic has the ability to be compressed, and it can return to its memory unless extremely stressed. It does not extend when pulled and maintains its geometric integrity at rest. When printing, the finished product will come out larger than designed (0.4mm in the Z direction and 0.2mm in the X and Y directions) and features may be offset from anywhere between 10 and 30 percent depending on the scale of the object. Since printers will still lay down the material one level at a time, some items could experience a “staircase effect” where there are viable striations.
Elasto Plastic is heatproof up to 194°F, is not dishwasher or food safe, non-recyclable, and not watertight. In its current version, the polymer is probably best for art pieces, wearable items, and mechanical components that need a certain amount of free movement or impact absorption. Being porous, it takes dye well, although the Shapeways team have not yet tried to paint the Elasto Plastic.
Elasto Plastic will cost $1.75/cm3. The Shapeways community is looking for user feedback, so makers are encouraged to get prototyping to see if the company would like to keep the material as a permanent material.