Contrary to popular belief, everyone has trusted an engineer with their life. In fact, every time you get in an elevator, drive over a bridge, or lay down to sleep you are putting your life in the hands of an engineer. Majority of the time we lend this trust without a single ounce of hesitation but, would you trust a 3D printed part with your life? Our engineer said he would, read on to see if he survived.
The Evolution of 3D Printing
The 3D printing industry has witnessed significant development since its inception in 1981. In particular, additive manufacturing via FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) has seen tremendous progress since Scott Crump discovered it in 1988 and founded Stratasys. What started as a concept to make hobbyist parts has evolved into a highly impactful route to significantly lower manufacturing costs.
Nowadays, our society has taken 3D printing to unprecedented heights by printing parts that are as strong as their injection molded counterpart. In fact, we get a lot of customers in the aerospace and automotive industries inquiring about how structurally robust our ABS material is and if they can print functional parts. We were inspired by this question and, on the momentum of a late-night bet, launched out to investigate the functionality of 3D printed parts. We wanted real life, in-practice feedback on 3D printed parts that require functional use. For whatever reason, we decided it would be a good idea to start with “would you trust your life hanging off of a 3D printed climbing hold?”.
How to Gauge Strength
In addition, we wanted to directly compare the structural performance of Stratasys M30 ABS filament with M2 Materials ABS filament, both on paper and on the rock-climbing wall. On paper, we hypothesized that the Stratasys M30 ABS may, the key word here is “may”, hold a 180 lb. human on a wall with a 50-degree angle. Stratasys M30 ABS material has a tensile strength of 3750 psi (26MPa). We looked at how the M2 Materials filament compared and predicted that M2 would out-perform the Stratasys M30 ABS based on a tensile strength of M2 Materials filament at 7200 psi (50MPa), which is almost double of the Stratasys material. We printed these climbing holds with a Stratasys Dimension 1200es SST, a Stratasys Fortus 900mc, and a Stratasys Fortus 400mc. We collaborated with Central Rock Gym of Massachusetts, and let several top tier athletes test the 3D printed climbing holds. You guessed it- one of them was an engineer.
A note worth mentioning is that a major factor in 3D printing functional parts is how the part is designed, printed, and affixed to the wall. All these metrics and procedures were consistent between all parts and tests. At first, we proceeded with extreme caution, if a hold breaks it could send shrapnel into one’s face or even worse, you could fall and get injured. That said, we do not recommend repeating any of this study or printing functional parts where someone could get injured (legal jargon).
Stratasys M30 ABS Test Results: We printed 4 different climbing holds with Stratasys M30 ABS and 3 of them completely failed. We were pretty hesitant to try the 4th one, although I will mention that 2 of them did not fail immediately, but it did not take too long.
M2 Materials ABS Test Results: We printed the same 4 holds with M2 Materials ABS and all 4 of them successfully held. In fact, several of them were left on the climbing wall to do long duration strength testing and as of today, several months after installation, they are still up.
In summary, the engineer lived with the M2 Materials climbing holds and has high interest in future applications of utilizing 3D printed holds in his climbing training. Ultimately, the functional performance of a 3D printed part is highly dependent on the application, materials of construction, and structural requirements. We have found that the M2 Materials ABS out-performs other ABS materials and has rather impressive functional performance. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments. Happy Printing!
If you are impressed with the superior quality of our alternative to Stratasys filaments, you can check them out here.
Disclaimer: M2 Materials carefully designed and conducted this case study; however, this does not mean that you will experience the same results. Therefore, M2 cannot be held liable for experiments that you conduct independently. Even though our filaments are designed to work with Stratasys 3D printers, if you feel that experimenting with Stratasys filament alternatives is not for you, then it's best to continue using Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) filaments.