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The Ultimate 3D Printing Filament Guide for Your FDM Project

2024.03.13  239 clicks

Written by Abigail    March 13, 2024


What is 3D printing filament? 


3D printer filament is the thermoplastic feedstock for fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers. Available in a spool, it’s the raw material that is gradually melted and extruded by the printer’s nozzle to create three-dimensional objects layer by layer. The filament comes in various diameters, with 1.75mm and 2.85mm being the most common sizes used by desktop printers.

The choice of filament is crucial as it determines the mechanical properties, finish, and durability of the printed object. Each type of filament has unique characteristics suitable for different applications, from prototyping to functional parts. Understanding the properties of 3D printer filaments is essential for selecting the right material for your project.


3D Printer Filaments 3DSPRO


Types of 3D Printer Filaments


1. ABS Filament

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a common thermoplastic polymer typically used in FDM 3D printing. It’s known for its strength, flexibility, and high-temperature resistance, making it an ideal choice for applications that require durability and thermal stability.

 

Key Features of ABS Filament

Durability: ABS is tough and can withstand physical impacts and pressure.

Heat Resistance: It maintains structural integrity at higher temperatures compared to other filaments like PLA.

Flexibility: While it’s strong, ABS still offers some flexibility, which prevents breaking under strain.

Finish: Objects printed with ABS have a smooth, glossy finish, which can be sanded or chemically polished for an even more professional appearance.


Applications

ABS is suitable for printing custom parts that might be subjected to high temperatures or mechanical stress. It’s often used for items like phone cases, toys, and automotive body parts.


Printing with ABS

Printer Settings: ABS requires a heated bed and an enclosed print area to prevent warping.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for ABS is typically between 210°C and 250°C.

Post-Processing: ABS can be finished with acetone vapor to create a smooth surface.


ABS filament is a versatile material that caters to a wide range of 3D printing needs, from hobbyist projects to industrial applications.


2. ASA Filament

Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate (ASA) is a 3D printing filament that is known for its exceptional weather resistance and UV stability, making it an excellent choice for outdoor applications. It shares many characteristics with ABS, but stands out for its ability to retain color and physical properties when exposed to the elements.


Key Features of ASA Filament

UV Resistance: ASA won’t degrade or discolor when exposed to sunlight over time.

Weatherability: It withstands harsh weather conditions, including rain and snow.

Durability: Similar to ABS, ASA is strong and can handle wear and tear.

Finish: Provides a high-quality finish with less gloss than ABS, suitable for parts that will be visible in the final product.


Applications

ASA is ideal for signs and displays that need to endure outdoor conditions. It is also often used for car components that require durability and UV resistance.


Printing with ASA

Printer Settings: Like ABS, ASA requires a heated bed and benefits from an enclosed print area.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for ASA is typically between 230°C and 260°C.

Post-Processing: ASA can be sanded and painted, though it requires less finishing than ABS due to its superior surface quality.


ASA filament is a robust material designed for demanding applications, particularly where long-term outdoor use is anticipated. Its resilience to weather and UV light makes it a preferred choice for many practical 3D printing projects.


3. PLA Filament

Polylactic Acid (PLA) is one of the most popular 3D printing filaments used in FDM technology. It’s biodegradable and derived from renewable resources like cornstarch or sugarcane, making it an environmentally friendly option.


Key Features of PLA Filament

Low Warping: It has minimal warping, making it ideal for large prints and complex geometries.

Eco-Friendly: PLA is biodegradable and made from renewable resources.

Ease of Use: It’s known for its ease of printing, adhering well to the print bed without the need for a heated bed or enclosure.

Aesthetic Quality: PLA has a glossy finish and comes in a wide range of colors and translucencies.


Applications

PLA is great for conceptual models such as art, jewelry, and home decor due to its fine detail and aesthetic quality. It is also often used in schools due to its safety and ease of use.


Printing with PLA

Printer Settings: No heated bed is required, but it can benefit from a temperature of around 50°C.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for PLA is typically between 180°C and 220°C.

Post-Processing: PLA can be sanded, glued, and painted, though it’s not as easy to smooth as ABS.


PLA filament is the go-to material for many hobbyists and professionals alike due to its user-friendly properties and lower environmental impact.


4. PET Filament

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a versatile and popular filament in 3D printing, known for its clarity and strength. It’s the same material used in plastic bottles and food containers, making it a familiar and recyclable option.


Key Features of PET Filament

Strength and Durability: PET is strong, impact-resistant, and doesn’t shatter easily.

Clarity: It can be transparent, which is great for applications requiring visibility.

Food Safe: With the proper certification, PET can be used for creating items that come into contact with food.

Ease of Use: It has very little odor and produces minimal warping, making it user-friendly.


Applications

PET is deal for mechanical parts due to its strength and durability. With the right certification, it can be used for kitchen gadgets or food storage.


Printing with PET

Printer Settings: A heated bed is recommended, typically around 70°C to 80°C.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for PET is usually between 220°C and 250°C.

Post-Processing: PET can be sanded and is chemically resistant, allowing for various finishing techniques.


PET filament is a practical choice for those looking for a strong, durable, and versatile material that is also recyclable.


5. PETG Filament

Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol (PETG) is a variant of the standard PET filament that has been modified with glycol to provide even better performance characteristics for 3D printing. It combines the ease of use of PLA with the strength and durability of ABS.


Mechanical Properties of PETG Filament

Durability: PETG is known for its toughness and resistance to impact.

Flexibility: It offers more flexibility than PET, which reduces the risk of cracking under stress.

Temperature Resistance: PETG has a higher temperature resistance than PLA, making it suitable for applications that require exposure to heat.

Clarity: It can be transparent, allowing for the creation of clear or translucent prints.


Applications

The strength and durability of PETG make it ideal for parts that need to withstand stress or strain. It is often used in the medical industry due to its chemical resistance and sterilizability.


Printing with PETG

Printer Settings: A heated bed is recommended, typically around 75°C to 90°C.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for PETG is usually between 230°C and 250°C.

Post-Processing: PETG can be sanded and glued, and it’s less prone to warping, making it easier to work with than some other filaments.


PETG filament is an excellent choice for a wide range of 3D printing applications, offering a good balance between ease of use and functional performance.


6. PC Filament

Polycarbonate (PC) is a high-performance filament known for its excellent strength, toughness, and heat resistance. It’s a popular choice for engineering applications and for parts that require structural integrity under stress or heat.


Key Features of PC Filament

High Strength: PC is incredibly strong, making it suitable for load-bearing applications.

Heat Resistance: It can withstand temperatures up to 110°C, making it ideal for parts that will experience high heat.

Transparency: PC can be transparent, offering clarity for projects that require see-through components.

Dimensional Stability: It has low shrinkage and warping, ensuring precise and stable prints.


Applications

PC is often used in engineering and industrial applications. It is suitable for components that must endure high temperatures and impact.


Printing with PC

Printer Settings: A heated bed is necessary, typically around 80°C to 120°C.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for PC is usually between 260°C and 310°C.

Post-Processing: PC can be sanded, drilled, and painted, but it requires careful handling due to its strength.


PC filament is a top-tier material for 3D printing, offering exceptional properties for advanced projects. Its robustness and durability make it a go-to filament for professional-grade applications.


7. PP Filament

Polypropylene (PP) is a plastic commonly used in a variety of applications due to its resistance to fatigue, flexibility, and semi-translucency. PP filament is popular in 3D printing for its lightweight properties and chemical resistance.


Key Features of PP Filament

Chemical Resistance: PP is resistant to most acids and bases, making it suitable for containers and parts that will be exposed to chemicals.

Fatigue Resistance: It’s highly resistant to fatigue, allowing for the creation of parts with living hinges.

Flexibility: PP offers a good balance of strength and flexibility, which can be advantageous for snap-fit parts.

Low Density: It is lighter than other plastics, which is beneficial for applications where weight is a concern.


Applications

PP is ideal for creating parts that require repeated flexing, such as bottle caps. Due to its fatigue resistance, it is also used for non-stress parts in the automotive industry.


Printing with PP

Printer Settings: PP can be challenging to print due to its low adhesion properties; a heated bed and adhesion promoters are recommended.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for PP is typically between 220°C and 250°C.

Post-Processing: PP can be difficult to bond with adhesives, but it can be welded with a hot air gun or similar tool.


PP filament is a practical choice for projects that require durability, chemical resistance, and flexibility.


8. Nylon (PA) Filament

Nylon, also known as Polyamide (PA), is a synthetic thermoplastic linear polymeric material that is widely used in 3D printing for its strength and durability. It is particularly valued for its flexibility and resistance to abrasion, making it suitable for functional parts that require a degree of toughness.


Key Features of Nylon Filament

Durability: Nylon is exceptionally strong and resistant to impact and abrasion.

Flexibility: It has a high degree of flexibility, which helps in creating parts that can bend without breaking.

Heat Resistance: Nylon can withstand higher temperatures, maintaining its properties under thermal stress.

Moisture Absorption: It absorbs moisture, which can affect dimensional stability but also makes it less brittle.


Applications

Due to its strength and durability, nylon is ideal for mechanical components. It is often used for protective gear and casings that require a tough exterior.


Printing with Nylon

Printer Settings: A heated bed is recommended, and some Nylons may require an enclosed print area to reduce warping.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for Nylon is typically between 240°C and 260°C.

Post-Processing: Nylon can be dyed to different colors after printing and can be smoothed with various techniques.


Nylon filament is a material for many engineers and designers due to its robust mechanical properties and versatility.


9. Carbon Fiber Filament

Carbon Fiber Filament is a composite material that combines a standard thermoplastic base (such as PLA, PETG, or Nylon) with carbon fibers. This blend results in a filament that offers enhanced stiffness, strength, and dimensional stability, making it a top choice for high-performance applications.


Key Features of Carbon Fiber Filament

Enhanced Strength: The addition of carbon fibers significantly increases the filament’s rigidity and strength.

Lightweight: Despite its strength, carbon fiber filament is lightweight, which is advantageous for parts where weight is a critical factor.

Dimensional Stability: It has minimal shrinkage and warping, ensuring precision in printed parts.

Surface Finish: Prints have a unique, textured surface that is visually appealing and can hide layer lines.


Applications

Carbon fiber is ideal for components that require a high strength-to-weight ratio. It is suitable for creating frames, supports, and other load-bearing parts.


Printing with Carbon Fiber Filament

Printer Settings: Requires a hardened steel nozzle to prevent wear from the abrasive fibers.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature varies depending on the base material but is typically higher than the standard filament.

Post-Processing: The filament can be sanded for a smoother finish, though its nature often reduces the need for post-processing.

 

Carbon Fiber Filament is a premium material in 3D printing, favored for its performance and aesthetic qualities. Its properties make it ideal for professional-grade projects that demand the best in terms of strength and weight.


10. CPE Filament

Co-polyester (CPE) filaments are a group of thermoplastic materials that offer a beneficial combination of properties from both PET and PLA. They are known for their high dimensional stability, impact resistance, and minimal warping, making them suitable for a wide range of applications.


Key Features of CPE Filament

Chemical Resistance: CPE is resistant to chemicals, including oils, greases, and solvents.

Dimensional Stability: Exhibits minimal shrinkage and warping, which is crucial for precision parts.

Durability: Offers excellent toughness and abrasion resistance.

Ease of Use: Similar to PLA, CPE can be easier to print with than some other filaments.


Applications

CPE is ideal for prototyping parts that require precise dimensions and strength. It is suitable for creating durable goods that can withstand everyday use.


Printing with CPE

Printer Settings: A heated bed is recommended, typically around 70°C to 85°C.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for CPE is usually between 240°C and 270°C.

Post-Processing: CPE can be sanded and finished with various techniques to achieve the desired aesthetic.


CPE filament is a versatile material that bridges the gap between ease of use and functional performance.


11. PVA Filament

Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) is a unique filament used primarily as a support material in 3D printing. Its defining feature is its water solubility, which allows for easy removal of support structures without damaging the primary print.


Key Features of PVA Filament

Water Solubility: PVA dissolves in water, which means support structures can be removed by simply submerging the print in water.

Compatibility: Works well with a variety of materials, particularly PLA and some types of nylon, making it ideal for prints with intricate designs.

Non-toxic: Safe for use in any environment, PVA is non-toxic and biodegradable.


Applications

PVA is essential for models with overhangs or internal cavities that are impossible to print without support structures. While, it allows for the creation of prototypes with fine details, as the supports can be completely dissolved, leaving a clean finish.


Printing with PVA

Printer Settings: It does not require a heated bed, but if one is used, a temperature of 50°C to 60°C is recommended.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for PVA typically ranges from 180°C to 220°C.

Post-Processing: After printing, the PVA supports can be removed by immersing the print in water for a few hours, depending on the size and complexity of the supports.


PVA filament is an excellent support material that simplifies the 3D printing process for complex and detailed models.


12. PEEK Filament

Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK) is a high-performance engineering thermoplastic that offers exceptional mechanical, thermal, and chemical resistance properties. It is one of the most advanced filaments available for FDM 3D printing and is often used in demanding industrial applications.


Key Features of PEEK Filament

Superior Mechanical Properties: PEEK has excellent strength-to-weight ratio, stiffness, and dimensional stability.

High-Temperature Resistance: It can withstand continuous use at temperatures up to 250°C and is resistant to thermal degradation.

Chemical Resistance: PEEK is impervious to a wide range of chemicals, including hydrocarbons and organic solvents.

Biocompatibility: It is biocompatible, making it suitable for medical implant applications.


Applications

PEEK is ideal for components that require lightweight materials with high strength, thermal resistance, and excellent electrical properties. Due to its biocompatibility and sterilizability, it is also great for surgical instruments, implants, and devices.


Printing with PEEK

Printer Settings: Requires a high-temperature printer capable of reaching nozzle temperatures of 360°C to 400°C and a heated bed of 120°C to 160°C.

Post-Processing: PEEK can be machined, drilled, and welded, offering versatility in finishing techniques.


PEEK filament is a premium material choice for professional applications that demand the highest performance in terms of strength, thermal stability, and chemical resistance.


13. POM Filament

Polyoxymethylene (POM), also known as Acetal or by the brand name Delrin, is a highly crystalline thermoplastic with excellent mechanical properties. It's favored in precision parts that require high stiffness, low friction, and excellent dimensional stability.


Key Features of POM Filament

High Stiffness: POM is very rigid, which makes it suitable for parts that must retain their shape under stress.

Low Friction: It has a low coefficient of friction and is wear-resistant, ideal for gears and moving parts.

Dimensional Stability: Exhibits minimal shrinkage and warping, ensuring accurate and consistent prints.

Chemical Resistance: It is resistant to many solvents, fuels, and chemicals, making it useful for automotive parts and containers.


Applications

POM's low friction and wear resistance make it perfect for creating high-performance gears. It is suitable for prototyping parts that will be subject to mechanical stress or chemical exposure.


Printing with POM

Printer Settings: A heated bed is recommended, typically around 100°C to 130°C.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for POM is usually between 210°C and 230°C.

Post-Processing: POM can be machined and polished to achieve a smooth surface finish.


POM filament is a specialized material that is best suited for technical applications where precision and durability are paramount.


14. PMMA (Acrylic) Filament

Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA), commonly known as acrylic, is a transparent thermoplastic often used as a lightweight, shatter-resistant alternative to glass. In 3D printing, PMMA filament is valued for its optical clarity and aesthetic qualities.


Key Features of PMMA Filament

Optical Clarity: PMMA can be as transparent as glass, making it ideal for applications requiring clear visibility.

Aesthetic Flexibility: It can be colored or tinted, offering a range of visual options.

Impact Resistance: While not as tough as polycarbonate, PMMA is still more impact-resistant than glass.

UV Resistance: It resists yellowing and degradation under UV light, preserving its clarity over time.


Applications

Due to its light-transmitting properties, PMMA is used to create lamp covers and light diffusers. It is ideal for projects and decorative items that benefit from its glass-like and transparent appearance.


Printing with PMMA

Printer Settings: A heated bed is recommended, typically around 80°C to 100°C.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for PMMA is usually between 230°C and 250°C.

Post-Processing: PMMA can be polished to enhance its transparency and can be glued using specific adhesives.


PMMA filament offers a unique combination of visual appeal and functional properties, making it a popular choice for projects that require a glass-like finish with the practical benefits of plastic.


15. PVC Filament

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is a common and versatile plastic used in a wide range of products. In 3D printing, PVC filament is appreciated for its durability, chemical resistance, and ease of use.


Key Features of PVC Filament

Durability: PVC is tough and has a high resistance to impact and wear.

Chemical Resistance: It can withstand exposure to a variety of chemicals, making it suitable for industrial applications.

Ease of Printing: PVC filament can be printed at lower temperatures than some other plastics, which can be beneficial for energy savings and printer longevity.

Versatility: It can be used for a wide range of products, from simple household items to complex industrial parts.

 

Applications

Due to its durability and chemical resistance, PVC is commonly used to create plumbing and electrical conduits. It is also used in a variety of consumer products, including toys, containers, and household tools.

 

Printing with PVC

Printer Settings: A heated bed is not strictly necessary but can be used at around 60°C to 70°C.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for PVC is typically between 210°C and 230°C.

Post-Processing: PVC can be glued, painted, and sealed, offering a range of finishing options.


PVC filament is a practical choice for 3D printing projects that require a durable and chemically resistant material.


16. TPU Filament

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) is a type of filament known for its flexibility, durability, and resistance to oils and greases. It’s a popular choice for 3D printing applications that require the printed objects to be flexible or elastic.


Key Features of TPU Filament

Flexibility: TPU can be stretched and flexed while still maintaining its original shape.

Durability: It’s resistant to abrasion and has a high level of toughness.

Chemical Resistance: TPU stands up well against oils, greases, and many solvents.

Variety of Hardness: Available in different grades of hardness, TPU can be used to print everything from soft, rubbery items to firmer, more rigid objects.


Applications

TPU is ideal for phone cases, camera covers, wristbands, watch straps, and other protective gear. It is also perfect for creating watertight seals due to its flexibility and durability.


Printing with TPU

Printer Settings: A direct drive extruder is often recommended for TPU to reduce the chances of filament buckling.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for TPU is typically between 220°C and 250°C.

Post-Processing: TPU objects generally require little to no post-processing due to their flexibility and finish.


TPU filament is an excellent material for creating objects that need to withstand stress, strain, and various environmental factors while maintaining their form and function.


17. TPE Filament

Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE) are a class of filaments that combine the properties of rubber with the processing capabilities of thermoplastics. They are known for their flexibility, elasticity, and soft touch, making them ideal for a range of applications that require a “grippy” or soft surface.


Key Features TPE Filament

Flexibility and Elasticity: TPE can be stretched and flexed significantly while still returning to its original shape.

Soft Touch: Offers a rubber-like feel, which is comfortable to handle and provides excellent grip.

Durability: Resistant to impact, abrasion, and many environmental factors.

Variety of Hardness Levels: Available in different shore hardnesses to suit various applications, from soft and flexible to firmer yet still bendable.


Applications

TPE is ideal for phone cases, wearable accessories, and other items that benefit from a soft, flexible touch. It is also used in children’s toys for its soft texture and safety due to its non-toxic nature.


Printing with TPE

Printer Settings: For better control, a direct-drive extruder may be required. A heated bed can be used at around 30°C to 50°C.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for TPE is typically between 200°C and 230°C.

Post-Processing: TPE parts usually require little to no post-processing due to their finish and flexibility.


TPE filament is an excellent choice for projects that require parts with a soft feel and the ability to withstand bending and flexing.


18. HIPS Filament

High-impact polystyrene (HIPS) is a filament known for its strength and ease of use. It's often used as both a standalone material and as support for more complex prints. Similar to ABS in its properties, HIPS is also dissolvable in limonene.


Key Features of HIPS Filament

High Impact Strength: HIPS is durable and can withstand sudden impacts, making it suitable for robust parts.

Ease of Printing: It prints smoothly and adheres well to the print bed, reducing the likelihood of warping.

Solubility: It can be dissolved in limonene, which makes it an excellent support material for complex prints.

Post-Processing: This can be glued, painted, and sanded, allowing for a high-quality finish.


Applications

HIPS is ideal for prototypes that require subsequent assembly or painting. It can also be used in dual-extrusion printers to support overhangs and complex geometries.


Printing with HIPS

Printer Settings: A heated bed is recommended, typically around 100°C to 115°C.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for HIPS is usually between 230°C and 245°C.

Post-Processing: HIPS supports can be removed by soaking the print in limonene, leaving a clean and smooth surface.


HIPS filament is a versatile material that serves a dual purpose in 3D printing. It is both a reliable printing material and a soluble support structure.


19. Metal Filament

Metal Filament is a type of composite 3D printing material that blends fine metal powder with a base thermoplastic polymer. This unique combination allows for the creation of prints with metallic properties and finishes, which can be post-processed to achieve the look and feel of solid metal.


Key Features of Metal Filament

Metallic Properties: Provides the weight, feel, and aesthetic of metal in the finished print.

Post-Processing: Can be sanded, polished, and even electroplated to enhance the metallic appearance.

Machinability: After printing, the objects can be worked with tools designed for metal materials.

Versatility: Available in a variety of metals, including stainless steel, bronze, copper, and more.


Applications

Metal filament is ideal for creating intricate designs in jewelry and art pieces that benefit from a metallic finish. It is suitable for parts that require the thermal or electrical properties of metal or need to mimic the properties of metal components.


Printing with Metal Filament

Printer Settings: This printer requires a heated bed and may need a nozzle capable of handling the filament's abrasive nature.

Temperature: The extrusion temperature for metal filament is typically higher than standard filaments, often between 200°C and 230°C.

Post-Processing: Parts printed with metal filament can be sintered in a kiln to burn out the plastic and fuse the metal particles, resulting in a 100% metal part.



Metal filament offers the ability to create 3D prints with the look and feel of metal, providing a unique blend of practicality and aesthetics for both hobbyists and professionals.



Choose the Right Materials for Your Project


Selecting the appropriate material for your 3D printing project is crucial for its success. The choice will impact not only the printing process but also the functionality and longevity of the printed object.


Key Considerations for 3D Printer Filament Choice

Mechanical Properties: Assess the strength, flexibility, and durability required for the object. Materials like Nylon and ABS offer high strength and durability, while TPU and TPE provide flexibility.


Thermal Properties: If the object will be exposed to heat, consider materials with high-temperature resistance, such as PC or PEEK.


Chemical Resistance: Due to their chemical inertness, materials like PP or PETG are excellent choices for objects that will come into contact with chemicals.


Electrical Properties: If electrical insulation is necessary, materials like ABS or PEEK might be suitable.


Biocompatibility: For medical applications, materials like PEEK or certain grades of PLA can be appropriate.


Aesthetic Requirements: For objects where appearance is key, consider materials like PLA for a wide range of colors or metal filaments for a metallic finish.


Environmental Factors: If the object is used outdoors, materials with UV resistance, such as ASA, or weather-resistant properties are essential.


Regulatory Compliance: Ensure the material meets any specific industry regulations, especially for food contact, medical, or aerospace applications.


Post-Processing: Some materials, like ABS, can be smoothed with acetone, while others, like metal filament, can be sanded and polished.


Printer Compatibility: Verify that your printer can handle the material’s requirements, such as a heated bed for ABS or a high-temperature nozzle for PEEK.


Cost and Availability: Consider the cost of the filament and its availability. Specialty materials like PEEK are more expensive and may not be as readily available as PLA or ABS.


By carefully considering these factors, you can choose the most suitable material that will ensure the success of your 3D printing project.



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