Are 3D Printers Actually Extruders?

With the advent of 3D printing technology, many professional plastic extrusion engineers are at a bit of a loss as to how to characterize this new technology. Is it a form of extrusion or should it be categorized as a completely new process, unrelated to traditional plastic extrusion?

The process used in a 3D printer does have some commonalities with traditional plastic extrusion manufacturing. Plastic is warmed and then processed into the size that is needed for the finished product. This is similar to the traditional extrusion process where plastic is heated and then pulled through the processor in order to create tubes, channels and other extruded plastic profiles that can be used in a wide variety of industries.

One thing that does make the 3D process very different from traditional extrusion is the level of knowledge needed in order to create the plastic profiles and the variety of colors, finishes and materials available. While 3D plastics can be manufactured in several different colors by changing the printer head, there is clearly a much wider variety of options in extruding plastics at the professional level, including custom colors and multi-color plastic extrusions.

Additionally, industrial-type plastic extrusions means that there are many options available in terms of materials that can be used during the process. From polycarbonate extrusions to santoprene extrusions, there are virtually a limitless amount of choices which is only gauged by the specifications of the project and the budget of the company ordering the extruded plastic tubing or other types of custom plastic extrusions.

Are 3D printers actually extruders? In a broad sense, yes, but they simply don’t offer the capacity or flexibility that an industrial extruder can offer. Contact Extrudex today for more information on our custom plastic extrusion services.