3D Printing Material Ultimate Guide - 3D Wholesale

Top 10 3D Printing Materials. Their Properties and Requirements.

When it comes to choosing a filament for your next 3d printing project, it can be confusing, especially for beginners. There are many types and choices, and it's easy to get lost in this stage.

In this article, we'll be exploring the top ten filaments widely available on the market. We focused on typical filaments accessible from multiple manufacturers; of course, there are some fancy filaments such as stainless steel or glow in the dark, etc., and there are many combinations as well. Still, we are talking about these widely used in the 3d printing world.

So here is what you need to know about your printer and project in order to choose the suitable filament to do the job. First, you have to check the characteristics of what your project requires, such as does it have to be strong? Will it be used outdoors? Do I want it flexible or stiff? And you also need to know your printer to see if it could print these types of filaments.

 

Maybe you're busy, so here is it in short.

  1. PLA -- ease-of-use, dimensional accuracy, and low cost.
  2. ABS -- low-cost, can withstand high temperatures.
  3. PETG -- ease of printability, smooth surface finish, and water resistance.
  4. TPE/TPU -- elasticity allowing the material to stretch and bend easily.
  5. ASA -- great for outdoor due to UV, temperature, and impact resistance.
  6. Nylon -- tough and semi-flexible material, high impact, and abrasion resistance.
  7. Polycarbonate -- strength and durability, high heat and impact resistance.
  8. Carbon Fiber Filled -- increases strength and stiffness.
  9. HIPS -- lightweight, dissolvable support material.
  10. PVA -- support material that dissolves in water.

 

Let's start our journey with the most popular material.

PLA 

(Polylactic Acid)

Polylactic Acid, commonly known as PLA, is one of the most popular materials used in desktop 3D printing. It is the default filament of choice for most users because it can be printed at a low temperature and does not require a heated bed. PLA is great for beginners and is the recommended first material to use as you learn about 3D printing because it is easy to print, very inexpensive, and creates excellent parts. It is also one of the most environmentally friendly filaments on the market today. As a bonus, the plastic gives off a sweet aroma during printing.

Characteristics

  • Tensile strength (stress before something breaks) ★★★★
  • Durability (heat, fatigue, water, chemical, resistance) ★★☆☆☆
  • Printability (is it easy to print or not) ★★★★★
  • Density (heaviness) -- 1.24g/cm
  • Stiffness (is it easy to band or not) ★★★★
  • Price (per kg) -- $10 - $40

Hardware requirements

  • Extruder temperature -- 190 - 220°C
  • Require heated bed -- Not required
  • Heated bed temperature -- 45 - 60°C
  • Enclosure recommended -- No
  • Cooling fan -- Yes
  • All metal hotend -- Not required

 

ABS

(Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

ABS has a long history in the 3D printing world. This material was one of the first plastics to be used with industrial 3D printers. Many years later, ABS is still a trendy material thanks to its low cost and good mechanical properties. ABS is known for its toughness and impact resistance, allowing you to print durable parts that will hold up to extra usage and wear. LEGO building blocks are made from this material for that exact reason! ABS also has a higher glass transition temperature, which means the material can withstand much higher temperatures before it begins to deform. This makes ABS an excellent choice for outdoor or high-temperature applications. When printing with ABS, be sure to use an open space with good ventilation, as the material tends to have a slight odor.

Characteristics

  • Tensile strength (stress before something breaks) ★★★☆☆
  • Durability (heat, fatigue, water, chemical, resistance) ★★★★
  • Printability (is it easy to print or not) ★★★★
  • Density (heaviness) -- 1.04g/cm
  • Stiffness (is it easy to band or not) ★★★☆☆
  • Price (per kg) -- $10 - $40

Hardware requirements

  • Extruder temperature -- 220 - 250°C
  • Require heated bed -- Required
  • Heated bed temperature -- 95 - 110°C
  • Enclosure recommended -- Yes
  • Cooling fan -- Not required
  • All metal hotend -- Not required

PETG

PETG is a Glycol Modified version of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), commonly used to manufacture water bottles. It is a semi-rigid material with good impact resistance, but it has a slightly softer surface, making it prone to wear. The material also benefits from excellent thermal characteristics, allowing the plastic to cool efficiently with minor warpage.

Characteristics

  • Tensile strength (stress before something breaks) ★★☆☆☆
  • Durability (heat, fatigue, water, chemical, resistance) ★★★★
  • Printability (is it easy to print or not) ★★★★★
  • Density (heaviness) -- 1.23g/cm
  • Stiffness (is it easy to band or not) ★★☆☆☆
  • Price (per kg) -- $20 - $60

Hardware requirements

  • Extruder temperature -- 230 - 250°C
  • Require heated bed -- Required
  • Heated bed temperature -- 75 - 90°C
  • Enclosure recommended -- Yes
  • Cooling fan -- Required
  • All metal hotend -- Not required

TPE/TPU

(Thermoplastic Elastomers)

TPE is a blend of hard plastic and rubber. This material is elastic, allowing the plastic to be stretched and flexed easily. There are several types of TPE, with Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) being the most commonly used among 3D printing filaments. The degree of elasticity depends on the kind of TPE and the chemical formulation used by the manufacturer. For example, some filaments can be partially flexible like a car tire, but others can be elastic and fully flexible like a rubber band.

Characteristics

  • Tensile strength (stress before something breaks) ★★☆☆☆
  • Durability (heat, fatigue, water, chemical, resistance) ★★★★★
  • Printability (is it easy to print or not) ★★★☆☆
  • Density (heaviness) -- 1.19 - 1.23g/cm
  • Stiffness (is it easy to band or not) ★☆☆☆☆
  • Price (per kg) -- $30 - $70

Hardware requirements

  • Extruder temperature -- 225 - 245°C
  • Require heated bed -- Not required
  • Heated bed temperature -- 45 - 60°C
  • Enclosure recommended -- No
  • Cooling fan -- Required
  • All metal hotend -- Not required

ASA

 Acrylic Styrene Acrylonitrile is a 3D printable plastic with properties similar to ABS. ASA is known for high impact resistance, higher temperature resistance, and increased printing difficulty. It's commonly used in outdoor applications instead of ABS due to its superior resistance to UV and harsh weather conditions. However, ASA still retains many of the same printability drawbacks that are seen with ABS. Warping is still a consistent issue that you need to account for and the potentially dangerous fumes that the plastic emits during printing.

Characteristics

  • Tensile strength (stress before something breaks) ★★★☆☆
  • Durability (heat, fatigue, water, chemical, resistance) ★★★★★
  • Printability (is it easy to print or not) ★★★☆☆
  • Density (heaviness) -- 1.07g/cm
  • Stiffness (is it easy to band or not) ★★★☆☆
  • Price (per kg) -- $38 - $40

Hardware requirements

  • Extruder temperature -- 235 - 255°C
  • Require heated bed -- Required
  • Heated bed temperature -- 90 - 110°C
  • Enclosure recommended -- No
  • Cooling fan -- Not required
  • All metal hotend -- Not required

Nylon

Nylon is a popular material in the plastics industry, known for its toughness and flexibility. Nylon filaments typically require extruder temperatures near 250 ºC. However, some brands allow printing at temperatures as low as 220 ºC due to their chemical composition. Many printers do not include a hotend that can safely reach 250 ºC, so these lower-temperature versions can be useful and potentially save you from needing to upgrade your hotend. One big challenge with Nylon filaments is that they readily absorb moisture from their surroundings. Printing Nylon after it has absorbed moisture will lead to several print quality issues. Thus filament storage becomes very important and requires special attention.

Characteristics

  • Tensile strength (stress before something breaks) ★★★★
  • Durability (heat, fatigue, water, chemical, resistance) ★★★★★
  • Printability (is it easy to print or not) ★★★★
  • Density (heaviness) -- 1.06 - 1.14g/cm
  • Stiffness (is it easy to band or not) ★★☆☆☆
  • Price (per kg) -- $25 - $65

Hardware requirements

  • Extruder temperature -- 220 - 270°C
  • Require heated bed -- Required
  • Heated bed temperature -- 70 - 90°C
  • Enclosure recommended -- Yes
  • Cooling fan -- Not required
  • All metal hotend -- May require

Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate (PC) is a high-strength material intended for harsh environments and engineering applications. It has exceptionally high heat deflection and impact resistance. Polycarbonate also has a high glass transition temperature of 150° Celsius. Meaning it will maintain its structural integrity up to that temperature, making it suitable for use in high-temperature applications. It can also be bent without breaking and is often used in applications where some minor flexibility is required. Most available Polycarbonate filaments contain additives that allow the filament to print at lower temperatures, so make sure to consult the guidelines for your specific brand of plastic.

Characteristics

  • Tensile strength (stress before something breaks) ★★★★
  • Durability (heat, fatigue, water, chemical, resistance) ★★★★★
  • Printability (is it easy to print or not) ★★★☆☆
  • Density (heaviness) -- 1.2g/cm
  • Stiffness (is it easy to band or not) ★★★☆☆
  • Price (per kg) -- $40 - $75

Hardware requirements

  • Extruder temperature -- 260 - 310°C
  • Require heated bed -- Required
  • Heated bed temperature -- 80 - 120°C
  • Enclosure recommended -- Yes
  • Cooling fan -- Not required
  • All metal hotend -- Yes

Carbon Fiber Filled

Carbon fiber filaments use tiny fibers that are infused into a base material to improve the properties of that material. You can buy several popular filaments with carbon fiber fill, including PLA, PETG, Nylon, ABS, and Polycarbonate. These fibers are robust and cause the filament to increase in strength and stiffness. This also means that the 3D printed parts will be much lighter and more dimensionally stable, as the fibers will help prevent the shrinking of the part as it cools. Print settings, such as printing temperature, speed, bed adhesion, and extrusion rates, will be very similar to the standard settings used for the base material. However, due to the added fibers, these specialty materials are more likely to clog and can require special hardware to avoid damaging the printer.

Characteristics

  • Tensile strength (stress before something breaks) ★★★☆☆
  • Durability (heat, fatigue, water, chemical, resistance) ★★☆☆☆
  • Printability (is it easy to print or not) ★★★★
  • Density (heaviness) -- 1.3g/cm
  • Stiffness (is it easy to band or not) ★★★★★
  • Price (per kg) -- $30 - $80

Hardware requirements

  • Extruder temperature -- 200 - 230°C
  • Require heated bed -- Not required
  • Heated bed temperature -- 45 - 60°C
  • Enclosure recommended -- No
  • Cooling fan -- Required
  • All metal hotend -- Not required

HIPS (Support material)

HIPS, or High Impact Polystyrene, is a dissolvable support material that is commonly used with ABS. When being used as a support material, HIPS can be dissolved in d-Limonene, leaving your print free of any markings caused by support removal. HIPS has many of the same printing properties as ABS, making it a logical dual extrusion partner. It is also more dimensionally stable and slightly lighter than ABS, making it an excellent choice for parts that would end up getting worn out or used in applications that can benefit from the lighter weight.

Characteristics

  • Tensile strength (stress before something breaks) ★★☆☆☆
  • Durability (heat, fatigue, water, chemical, resistance) ★★★★
  • Printability (is it easy to print or not) ★★★☆☆
  • Density (heaviness) -- 1.03 - 1.04g/cm
  • Stiffness (is it easy to band or not) ★★★★★
  • Price (per kg) -- $24 - $32

Hardware requirements

  • Extruder temperature -- 230 - 245°C
  • Require heated bed -- Required
  • Heated bed temperature -- 230 - 245°C
  • Enclosure recommended -- Yes
  • Cooling fan -- Not required
  • All metal hotend -- Not required

PVA (Support material)

PVA, or Polyvinyl Alcohol, is a soft and biodegradable polymer that is highly sensitive to moisture. When exposed to water, PVA will actually dissolve, which makes it an instrumental support structure material for 3D printing. When printing extremely complex shapes or ones with partially enclosed cavities, PVA supports can be used and easily removed by dissolving in warm water. Standard supports may have been difficult to print or remove in these situations. PVA can also be used as a model material if there is a need to make quick prototypes.

Characteristics

  • Tensile strength (stress before something breaks) ★★★★★
  • Durability (heat, fatigue, water, chemical, resistance) ★★★★
  • Printability (is it easy to print or not) ★★★☆☆
  • Density (heaviness) -- 1.23g/cm
  • Stiffness (is it easy to band or not) ★★☆☆☆
  • Price (per kg) -- $40 - $110

Hardware requirements

  • Extruder temperature -- 185 - 200°C
  • Require heated bed -- Required
  • Heated bed temperature -- 45 - 60°C
  • Enclosure recommended -- No
  • Cooling fan -- Required
  • All metal hotend -- Not required
        AbsFilamentGuideMaterialPlaPva

        Leave a comment

        All comments are moderated before being published