Art by Guillaume Meyer

3D Printed Materials Beamed Into Substance Source

Nicolas Paulhac on December 6 2017 | Technology, Substance Source, News, Content

From experiments by creative hobbyists to the aerospace industry, going through character artists, game or VFX exploring new creative universes, additive manufacturing is leaving its (3D) print on our conception of modern product design as the fundamental brick to the industry 4.0.

This winter, Substance Source expands with more than 50 tweakable materials dedicated to 3D printing.

We have mimicked the visual characteristics of 10 additive manufacturing technologies to help artists previsualize the results of 3D printing in photorealistic ways.

Like any process of material transformation, the tools used for 3D printing leave a mark on the surface of the material. We believe that materials incorporating these effects are more necessary than ever – both for creating exciting previews, and from a purely tactile, aesthetic point of view.

With these materials, we want to give designers and artists the opportunity to create new tactile experiences using these "process-driven" textures.

Each material is built with a specific set of modifiable parameters that vary the visual attributes. The possible variations range from color and roughness to slice shape and regularity, as well as random printer nozzle micro-spills of material amount and distribution.

What is additive manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing describes the fabrication techniques of objects that are built layer by layer. Starting from a 3D model, the additive manufacturing machine (otherwise known as the 3D printer) establishes successive slices of material to create the 3D object as well as the path of the print head.

Originally dedicated to internal prototyping as a means of visualizing models in pre-production, additive manufacturing has evolved and is used to produce end-use products in almost all industries.

Compared to traditional manufacturing approaches like forming (materials are guided into a desired shape like injection molding) and subtractive manufacturing (objects are constructed by successively cutting material away from a solid block like milling and CNC machining), additive printing offers a revolution in the way we think and design parts and products, as many functionalities can be integrated in a one-step process blurring the frontier between “cosmetic” and “functional” parts.

Products created using additive manufacturing techniques can be created with a variety of materials, from plastics to metals to ceramics. Layer-by-layer construction technology is constantly evolving and makes it possible to produce shapes and products that impossible to achieve using conventional methods. For example, it’s possible to print pre-assembled objects and representations of non-orientable and organic shapes – or even nano-structures.

Technique and Process

The 3D printer uses STL files as blueprint to deposit thin layers of material at the micron scale to build the final object, layer by layer. Materials can range from powders to liquids or sheets.

The Substance Source material selection consists of:

  • 10+ woven meshes and complex assembly materials made in 3D printing.
  • 40+ Materials based on ten 3D print technologies including modifiable parameters such as layer topography, alterations and variations related to the printing process.

Categories of 3D Prints:

All of these technologies push the creative boundaries in terms of products assembly and texture meshes. It is now possible to generate complex structures such as alveolar patterns inspired by biomimicry or intertwined meshes.
Here are some examples within our selection inspired by cutting edge explorations in these areas. These structures are all procedurally generated with Substance Designer and we encourage you to download the SBS graphs available on Substance Source and practice your creativity on new 3d patterns.


Ferro-fluids are colloidal liquids made of ferromagnetic nanoparticles, which are tiny particles suspended in a fluid. Each particle is completely coated with a surfactant to prevent agglutination. Ferrofluids are used in electronic devices to form liquid seals around the spinning drive shafts in hard disks or more commonly in Mechanical engineering or even for artistic experiments combined with inks to create colorful patterns. This material has also very promissing applications in many advanced research domains like spacecraft propulsion, optics, medical (magnetic drug targeting) or future energy harvesting solutions.

Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP)

The continuous process happens in a pool of liquid photopolymer resin. An ultraviolet light beam shines through the bottom of the pool, illuminating the precise cross-section of the object. The light causes the resin to solidify. The printing process is continuous and allows for quick production cycles.

Direct Metal Deposition (DMD)

DMD uses a laser to melt metallic powder. Unlike most of the other technologies, it is not based on a powder bed but it uses a feed nozzle to spray powder into the laser beam. It is very similar to Fused Deposition Modeling as the nozzle can move to deposit the fused metal.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

DMLS uses a precise laser to micro-weld powdered alloys to form fully functional metal components.

Electron beam melting (EBM)

EBM technology build objects by melting metal powder layer by layer with an electron beam in a high vacuum, which fully melts the metal powder.

Fused deposition modeling (FDM)

The FDM process builds objects by extruding strings of melted material, which harden immediately, to form layers. A filament made of plastic or a metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to produce a part.

Multijet (MJP)

MJP is a printing technique similar to inkjet printing, but instead of droping ink onto paper, the machine uses piezoelectric printhead technology to deposit layer-by-layer of photocurable plastic resin or casting wax materials.

Powder Binding (jet binding)

Jet Binding is a method of solidifying a powder with a binder. The powder is layered on a construction platform with a roller. On each layer, a binder material is selectively projected from the ink jet printheads, which causes the powder to solidify. One benefit is that pigments can be incorporated into the binder, which allows colored 3D objects to be created.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

With the SLS process, tiny particles of plastic, ceramic or glass are fused together by the heat of a high-powered laser to form a three-dimensional solid object.

Stereolithography (SLA)

SLA is a technology that uses a UV-sensitive liquid resin. A UV laser beam sweeps the surface of a resin tank and selectively hardens the material corresponding to a cross-section of the object, building the 3D part from bottom to top.

Discover our selection of 3D print materials on Substance Source and view objects in a photo-realistic way before you even start the printer.

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