3D printer filament comparison
3D printing requires several essential accessories — and you won't get anywhere without the right type of 3D printing filaments. In this article, we'll learn about the different types of 3D printing filaments, their advantages and disadvantages and how to choose the right filament for your project.
The materials used most commonly in 3D printing are thermoplastics, namely PLA and ABS.
PLA, or polyactic acid, is the most popular material for home 3D printing. The main reason behind this is that PLA is very easy-to-use thanks to its low printing temperature and no need for a heating bed. Another user-friendly feature of this material is that it doesn't give off a strong smell when melted. PLA is environmentally-friendly as it's a biodegradable material.
All of these benefits coupled with the ease of use and a relatively cheap price, make PLA the number one choice for home users and hobbyists, as well as in professional projects.
The downside of using a PLA filament is the material's low flexibility. That's why, it is usually not recommended to use it for printing objects that are intended to be bent or could be frequently dropped: phone accessories, high-wear items, moving parts, etc. The material is ideal for making prototypes, models, containers, simple toys, etc.
ABS, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, is the second most popular 3D printing filament material. The main advantages of using ABS filaments are the material's high durability and the ability to withstand high temperatures. The quality of an ABS filament is actually slightly higher than that of a PLA filament — however, the printing process is also a bit more complex.
First, you will need to use a higher temperature setting when working with ABS and get ready for strong fumes when the material is melted. When printing with ABS, you will definitely need a heating bed and make sure to air out your working area.
Due to the material's strong durability, it is frequently used in high-ware items like phone accessories, tools, electrical enclosures and others.
Nylon is used extensively in industrial projects and is considered to be the number one 3D printing filament choice when it comes to strength, durability and flexibility. Nylon can also be dyed, both before and after the printing process — making it easy to modify objects on the go.
As for the disadvantages, nylon reacts badly to moisture and humidity. The material absorbs water and needs to be stored in a cool and dry place. With the materials notably high durability and medium flexibility, it is often used in the making of moving parts like hinges, gears, etc. It is also a frequently used filament for creating working prototypes.
PC, or polycarbonate, is highly resistant to impact and heat. It's one of the strongest 3D printing filaments and boast very high durability. The material is transparent and moderately flexible. However, just like nylon, it absorbs moisture and it's important to store it in a cool dry place.
Polycarbonate is transparent, explaining its popularity in consumer items like scuba masks, electronic displays, glass and so on. Objects made from PC filaments are able to withstand high-temperature environments (up to 110°C) and is also widely used in automotive components.
We are all well-familiar with PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, as this material is primarily used in water bottles and food containers. PET itself is not often used in 3D printing, however, its version, called PETG is a popular filament. The main advantages of PETG is that the material is relatively flexible and quite easy to print with, putting right it in the middle niche between PLA and ABS.
But the filament is not without its drawbacks: the material absorbs moisture, is quite sticky and is more prone to light damage (like scratches and cracks) than ABS. The filament is often used in making mechanical parts.
Here is a brief summary table about above materials:
|Strength||high||very high||very high||extremely high||high|
|Durability||high||very high||very high||extremely high||high|
|Ease of use||easy||medium||medium||medium||easy|
|Print temperature||180°C - 230°C||210°C – 250°C||240°C – 260°C||270°C – 310°C||220°C – 250°C|
|Shrinking||Minimal shrinking||Considerable shrinking||Considerable shrinking||Considerable shrinking||Considerable shrinking|
|Downside||low flexibility||strong fumes||absorbs moisture||absorbs moisture||absorbs moisture, sticky|
Other filaments material
Based on the nature of the project you are working on, you may want to venture beyond the most commonly used filaments and explore other options.
Wood: the material used in 3D printing is not actual wood, but wood fiber infused PLA. The material's tactile appeal and beauty make it a popular choice for DIY projects — however these qualities come at the price of lower durability and flexibility.
Metal: once again, you will not be using the actual metal, but rather a mix of metal powder and PLA (or ABS). The weight and look of the printed objects are very close to real metal and you can choose between brass, bronze, copper, aluminum, stainless steel and others.
Glow-in-the-dark: it's pretty obvious why you might want to use glow-in-the-dark 3D filaments, they are simply a lot of fun. Able to absorb and emit light, it is perfect for making fun toys and holiday decorations.
This is by no means a complete list of 3D printing filaments. As 3D printing is becoming more and more widespread, the selection of materials used in the printing is also growing. Consider the needs of your project and keep an open mind: there are so many options to choose from!
|You may also want to read:|
|3D Printer buying guide|
|Use a 3D printing pen, make your own amazing artwork|
|Build new worlds: all you need to know about 3D printing|
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