Types of 3D printing materials

What is 3D printing material

This can come from either Filament(Solids) or Resin(Liquids)

Filament
Resin

Filament

Filaments come in many varieties of colours, thicknesses, densities, hardness, melting temperature, etc. However we are going to look at a few main types of filaments here.

In addition to the thermoplastics that comprise the common 3D printer filament, 3D printing filament can be (or consist of) nylon, polycarbonate (PC), carbon fiber(CF), polypropylene(PP), and many more

 There are special blends that conduct electricity or glow in the dark.

Filaments like PLA, ABS, and PETG are the most common.

WHAT IS PLA?

Polyactic acid (PLA) is king and is the best for beginners as it has a low warp rate and minimal abrasion to the nozzle while also having a low shrink rate after extrusion

MORE INFORMATION
  • PLA has a lower printing temperature than ABS
  • It doesn’t warp as easily, meaning it doesn’t require a heating bed (although a heating bed definitely helps).
  •  Using PLA doesn’t give off an odor during printing (unlike ABS).
  • PLA is available in a nearly endless abundance of colors and styles.
  •  In the exotics sections, many of these speciality filaments use PLA as the base material
  • PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic
  • PLA is more environmentally friendly than most types of 3D printer filament, being made from annually renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane.
3D PRINTER FILAMENT PROPERTIES: PLA
  • Strength: High | Flexibility: Low | Durability: Medium
  • Difficulty to use: Low
  • Print temperature: 180°C – 230°C
  • Print bed temperature: 20°C – 60°C
  • Shrinkage/warping: Minimal
  • Soluble: No
  • Food safety: Refer to manufacturer guidelines
WHEN SHOULD I USE PLA 3D PRINTER FILAMENT?

Compared to other types of 3D printer filament PLA is brittle, so avoid using it when making items that might be bent, twisted, or dropped repeatedly, such as phone cases, high-wear toys, or tool handles.

 PLA tends to deform around temperatures of 60°C or higher.

  • Pros: Easy to print, wide variety of colors/styles, biodegradable
  • Cons: Brittle, lackluster mechanical properties

WHAT IS ABS?

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)  ranks as our second most popular 3D printer filament, after PLA. In its material properties ABS is a fraction superior to PLA, despite being slightly more difficult to print with.

MORE INFORMATION
  • ABS  has high durability
  • It has capacity to withstand high temperatures
  • but a tendency to warp during cooling
  • It can have an intense smell, potentially hazardous fumes.
  • You need to print with a heated bed and in a well-ventilated space (or with an enclosure).
3D PRINTER FILAMENT PROPERTIES: ABS
  • Strength: High | Flexibility: Medium | Durability: High
  • Difficulty to use: Medium-Hard
  • Print temperature: 210°C – 250°C
  • Print bed temperature: 80°C – 110°C
  • Shrinkage/warping: Considerable
  • Soluble: In esters, ketones, and acetone
  • Food safety: Not food safe
WHEN SHOULD I USE ABS 3D PRINTER FILAMENT?

ABS is tough – able to withstand high stress and temperature. It’s also moderately flexible – these properties make ABS a good general-purpose 3D printer filament, but where it really shines is with items that are frequently handled, dropped, or heated.

  • Pros: High strength, high durability, resistant to high temperatures
  • Cons: Warps easily, hazardous fumes, requires high-temperature print nozzle

WHAT IS PETG?

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most commonly used plastic in the world. Best known as the polymer used in water bottles, it is also found in clothing fibers and food containers. While “raw” PET is rarely used in 3D printing, its variant PETG is an increasingly popular 3D printer filament.

MORE INFORMATION

The ‘G’ in PETG stands for “glycol-modified”, and the result is a filament that is clearer, less brittle, and most importantly, easier to print with than its base form. For this reason, PETG is often considered a good middle ground between ABS and PLA, the two most commonly used types of 3D printer filament, as it is more flexible and durable than PLA and easier to print than ABS.

Three things you should keep in mind when using PETG:
  1. PETG is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. As this has a negative effect on the material, make sure to store the 3D printer filament in a cool, dry place.
  2. PETG is sticky when it’s being printed, making this 3D printer filament a poor choice for support structures, but good for layer adhesion. (Just be careful with the print bed!)
  3. Though not brittle, PETG scratches more easily than ABS.

Polyethylene coTrimethylene Terephthalate (PETT) is another PET variant. Slightly more rigid than PETG, this 3D printer filament is popular for being transparent.

3D PRINTER FILAMENT PROPERTIES: PETG (PET, PETT)
  • Strength: High| Flexibility: Medium | Durability: High
  • Difficulty to use: Need to confirm still in testing with the C4K test method
  • Print temperature: Need to confirm still in testing with the C4K test method
  • Print bed temperature: Need to confirm still in testing with the C4K test method
  • Shrinkage/warping: Need to confirm still in testing with the C4K test method
  • Soluble: No
  • Food safety: Refer to manufacturer guidelines
WHEN SHOULD I USE PETG (PET, PETT) 3D PRINTER FILAMENT?

Need to confirm still in testing with the C4K test method

RECAP OF PETG 3D PRINTER FILAMENT

  • Pros: Need to confirm still in testing with the C4K test method
  • Cons: Need to confirm still in testing with the C4K test method

WHAT IS TPE?

As the name implies, thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are  plastics with rubber-like qualities, making them extremely flexible and durable. TPE is commonly used to produce automotive parts, household appliances, and medical supplies.

MORE INFORMATION
  • TPE is a broad class of copolymers (and polymer mixtures),
  • TPE is soft and stretchable, these filaments can withstand the kind of physical punishment that neither ABS nor PLA can tolerate.
  •  TPE can be difficult to extrude.

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is a particular variety of TPE,

Compared to generic TPE,

 TPU is slightly more rigid – making it easier to print.

  • TPU is also a little more durable and can better retain its elasticity in the cold.

Thermoplastic copolyester (TPC) is another variety of TPE

  • TPC is Similar in most respects to TPE
  • TPC’s main advantage is its higher resistance to chemical and UV exposure,
3D PRINTER FILAMENT PROPERTIES: TPE, TPU, TPC (FLEXIBLE)
  • Strength: Medium | Flexibility: Very High| Durability: Very High
  • Difficulty to use: Medium
  • Print temperature: 210°C – 230°C
  • Print bed temperature: 30°C – 60°C (but not needed if ambient temperature stable)
  • Shrinkage/warping: Minimal
  • Soluble: No
  • Food safety: Not food safe
WHEN SHOULD I USE TPE, TPU, OR TPC 3D PRINTER FILAMENT?

TPE or TPU when creating objects that need to take a lot of wear. If your 3D printed part will bend, stretch, or compress, use these filaments.

TPC can be used for similar applications, but does especially well in harsher environments, like the outdoors.

  • Pros: Extremely flexible, perfect for parts that bend or compress
  • Cons: Difficult to print, requires tight filament path and slow print speed