How to Choose the Right Filament for Your 3D Print
3D printing has become easier and easier to start, however, it is still pretty tricky if you would like to go deeper into the professional level. One of the challenges is choosing the right 3D printing filament. Different 3D printer filament can lead one same model to a totally different outcome. What to use? How to print? The below article will provide our recommended choice based on different properties.
3D Printer Filament basics
Whether it’s the PLA and PETG for beginners or the nylon, TPU and other material for professional users, all the filaments for 3D printing are thermoplastics. Thermoplastics material can be heated and cooling multiple times for shaping without significantly changing its intrinsic chemical or mechanical properties. The filament is fed into the extrusion and gets heated in it, then extruded through a nozzle tracing path written in the 3D file, build the model layer by layer.
3D Print Filaments for Beginners
PLA and PETG are the two most common novice-friendly filaments. Beginners can print them a standard configuration and easily get good results.
The king of 3D printer filament: PLA
Thanks to its relatively lower printing temperature, not-easy-to-warp and inexpensiveness, PLA is the most commonly used filament in consumer 3D printing. PLA is suitable for 3D printing fast prototypes and models. However, compared with other filaments, PLA is brittle and has poor heat resistance, it tends to deform around 60°C and above. So avoid using it make items that require be bent, twisted or put in a high-temperature environment.pan>
3D Printer filament properties of PLA
|Easy to print||High|
|Print temperature||180 – 230°C|
|Print bed temperature||20 – 60°C (optional)|
|Pros||Easy to print, abundant choices of colors/styles, biodegradable, low-cost|
|Cons||Brittle, low glass transition temperature|
A stand out all-around filament: PET-G
PETG is a variant of PET, which is one of the most commonly used plastics in making water bottles and food containers. The ‘G’ in PETG stands for “glycol”, which makes PETG clearer, less brittle and easier to print with than PET. Being as flexible and durable as ABS meanwhile being easy to print with as PLA, PETG combines the best of both worlds.
PETG is an all-around filament that meets most of your 3D printing needs, especially for functional parts. But PETG will be sticky when printed. This makes it a poor choice for printing supports but good for layer adhesion. Besides, PETG is hygroscopic, meaning it tends to absorb moisture from the air, which will negatively affect the printability of the material. You should make sure to store PETG filament in a vacuum bag or box.
3D printer filament properties of PETG
|Easy to print||High|
|Print temperature||220 – 250°C|
|Print bed temperature||50 – 75°C|
|Pros||Easy to print, flexible, durable|
Filaments for Advanced and Professional Users
For more complicated designs, there are plenty of higher-level filaments that provide advanced properties. Also, these materials are trickier to print.
The plastic used in LEGO: ABS
ABS is one of the most popular plastics in industrial manufacturing with good mechanical properties and low prices. But for consumer 3D printing, a closed-frame printer is required, because ABS requires stable warm ambient temperature when printing to reduce warping.
3D printer filament properties of ABS
|Flexibility||Slightly higher than PLA|
|Easy to print||Low|
|Print temperature||230 – 265°C|
|Print bed temperature||80-110°C|
|Pros||Easy to print, durable, high strength|
|Cons||Toxic odor, prone to warp, UV sensitivity|
Filament ideal for safeguard: TPU
TPU is a rubber-like material that combines strength, high elasticity and durability. Being liquid, abrasion and heat resistant, TPU is the perfect material for producing components that safeguard devices, such as phone cases. It needs to be printed at a slow print speed and tacking a tight filament path when it comes to printability.
3D printer filament properties of TPU
|Easy to print||Medium|
|Print temperature||220 – 250°C|
|Print bed temperature||60°C|
|Pros||High elasticity, abrasion resistance, liquid resistance|
|Cons||Hard to extrude, longer printing time|
Toughness and Flexibility: Nylon
Nylon, also called Polyamide (PA), is a kind of strong, durable and abrasion-resistant material with a high melting point and hygroscopic. Properties of high strength, durability and abrasion resistance lead itself to 3D print parts that need good resistance. Nylon is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture in the air like PETG, so make sure to store it in a cool and dry place. When 3D printing, an enclosed 3D printer or an airtight container that allows filament extruded is a must.
3D printer filament properties of Nylon
|Easy to print||Medium|
|Print temperature||240 – 260°C|
|Print bed temperature||70-100°C|
|Pros||High strength, durability and abrasion-resistance|
3D Print Filaments for art and Fun
Except for functional applications, you also can 3D print something for recreation. The 3D printer filaments below are popular for their finish, which provides a more artistic element to prints.
The material tricks your eyes: Wood-filled & Metal-filled
Of cause, you can’t 3D print objects with real wood. The wood-filled filament is actually a PLA infused with wood fiber, makes the objects look like real wood. There is a variety of wood selection such as Pine, Cedar, Ebony, even Cherry and Coconut. Be careful with the print temperature when 3D printing wood-filled filament, it’s prone to burn or caramelize if the temperature is too high.Because
the heat from the 3D printer is not able to reach the melting point of the metal, here come metal-filled filaments. Like wood-filled filament, metal-filled 3D printer filament is a mix of metal powder and either PLA or ABS. The printed objects have the look and feel of metal; their weight is also metal-like.
It is worth noted that both wood-filled and metal-filled filaments can accelerate the degradation of your 3D printer’s nozzle. These two filaments are good choices for printing objects displayed with aesthetic needs. Metal-filled 3D printer filament is also suitable for printing tools or finishing components.
Self-explanatory: Glow-in-the-dark filament
As shown in the name, glow-in-the-dark 3D printer filament gives off an eerie green light in the dark. This filament mixes phosphorescent materials with either PLA or ABS base, which can absorb and later emit photons. Leave your print in the light for a while and turn off the light, your print will glow in the dark.
The light is not limited to green. Actually, there are other colors like blue, red, pink, yellow and orange available in the market. But green is the most popular and classic color. Its spooky glow is really suitable for 3D printing Halloween projects.
How to choose the right filament
After overviews of all the common 3D printer filaments, it comes to the decision. How to match the properties with your need? Read on and you will find out.
What do you want to 3D print?
The application of the materials is decided by properties. The properties apply to functions. Therefore, to find out which filament is the right one, you need to know what functions you expect on your print. If your print needs to protect other things, the material has to be strong and abrasion-resistant. If your print aims to be beautiful, then use some colorful or shiny filaments.
What 3D printer do you use?
3D printers decide the working conditions of filaments, especially for the advanced material. Some materials, like ABS and nylon, require an extremely high print temperature that most desktop 3D printers are not able to reach. ABS also requires an enclosed printer for best outcome quality. Make sure your 3D printer is able to hit the spot so that you can get the best quality of prints.
3D printing is a limitless realm that brings your universal creativity into life. If 3D printing is like magic, filaments must be the spells. You get what you want as long as you use the right spell. What is shown in this article is just the tip of the iceberg. Now go deep into the filament space, find the right spell among all these 3D printer filament types and get the best results of your prints.