3D printing has, for some time, been the talk of the plastics industry. It is being hailed by many as a major influencer in all aspects of design and manufacturing - across potentially a huge range of industries. The idea that one can simply put a material into a device and then a computer can "print" it into a 3D object is indeed an exciting prospect. For the plastics industry, this technique offers a whole host of opportunities; plastics companies have been falling over themselves to produce plastics materials that can be easily used by the growing number of 3D printing companies.

Shapeways Elasto Plastic

Highly versatile material 

One product that is taking the nascent 3D printing industry by storm is Shapeways' new Elasto Plastic. Shapeways, which already offers a range of strong and flexible plastics suitable for 3D printing, has developed Elasto Plastic to help enable anyone make anything they desire. Elasto Plastic is the company's first "maker only" material - a rubbery, flexible material with a textured surface and highly durable consistency. 

The material has the ideal properties for those that want to 3D print a wide range of products. It has been developed to have an extremely high impact resistance, while also being easily bended, making it a highly versatile material for creating plastic goods. 

Opportunities to invest 

The 3D printing industry offers a wealth of opportunity for businesses, and those with funds to invest are increasingly looking to the emerging sector for inspiration and potential high returns. Those looking to invest in emerging industries may turn to a range of investment tactics to see a healthy return on their money as the industry develops. One possible way to make money is through investment via spread betting, when an investor parts with their money based on predictions made by bookmakers. Spread betting is not just linked to sports; financial spread betting often offers investors the opportunity to place bets on the performance of individual companies, or of an entire industry. According to money.co.uk, which has produced a helpful guide on financial spread betting, it is linked to "movement within the stock market and other financial indices." Financial spread betting is a popular way to make money out of the performance of companies and industries without actually having to buy stocks and shares. This is particularly popular among new industries and companies, where the risk of investing is deemed to be much higher. 

Taking 3D printing to the masses

All eyes are on Shapeways, which has quickly positioned itself as a firm player in the global 3D printing industry. The company hopes that Elasto Plastic will become considered as a mainstream - even default - material for those that want to make their own plastic goods. The potential for this product spans both the trade and the consumer industries. Shapeways states: "The new, improved Elasto Plastic is a great option for Makers as it is an incredibly durable material with a lot of really interesting properties such as high impact resistance, flexibility and compression (depending on the geometry), along with a high level of static friction because of the surface texture. Though not strictly water-tight, it can hold liquids, but it does not like high temperatures or fire."

Pushing the limits

Shapeways hopes that its new Elasto Plastic material will help to "push the limits" of the 3D printing industry, making it possible for 3D manufacturers to truly test the capabilities of their existing machines and materials. The company already acts as a central community for those involved in the 3D printing industry; its hubs encourage creativity, innovation and feedback on what is a groundbreaking development in the worlds of printing and manufacturing. The Elasto Plastic material was developed after analyzing qualitative industry feedback; although still in an experimental, development phase, the material is now ready for purchase and use by printers. 

Redefining perceptions

Once printed using Elasto Plastic, the 3D objects can be easily painted, colored and dyed, thanks to the slightly rough texture of the material. The material has already been used to print objects such as iPhone cases and covers, small toys and clothing accessories.  

Shapeways concluded: "We think this new material will redefine people's perception of what's possible with 3D Printing and we can't wait to see what you make!"