There are so many kinds of filament materials we can choose from to 3D print in these days and it might be handy to have a comparison to decide which material is the best for the given purpose. Let’s have a look at the most common 3D printing materials for home print.
ABS – Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene
ABS is commonly used 3D printer material. Best used for making durable parts that need to withstand higher temperatures. In comparison to PLA filament, ABS plastic is less “brittle” and more “ductile.” It can also be post-processed with acetone to provide a glossy finish. When 3D printing with ABS filament, a heated printing surface is recommended as ABS plastic will contract when cooled leading to warped parts.
PLA – Polylactic Acid
PLA is one of the two most commonly used desktop 3D printing filaments (with ABS filament). It is the “default” recommended material for many desktop 3D printers, and with good reason – PLA is useful in a broad range of printing applications, has the virtue of being both odorless (can bring to mind a smell of sweet candy) and low-warp, and does not require a heated bed. PLA filament is also one of the most eco-friendly 3D printer materials available. It is made from annually renewable resources as a corn starch, potato, soy, tapioca or sugarcane and requires less energy to process compared to traditional (petroleum-based) plastics. Outside of 3D printing, PLA plastic is often used in food containers, such as candy wrappers, and biodegradable medical implants, such as sutures.
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PETG – Polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified
You’ll be hard-pressed to find true PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) filament, as most PET filaments are actually copolymers – PET with an extra molecule. The most common, PETG filament, is an industrial-strength filament with several great features. Figuratively speaking, it combines the ease of use of PLA filament with the strength and durability of ABS filament. First, its strength is much higher than PLA and it is FDA approved for food containers and tools used for food consumption. Unlike ABS filament, it barely warps and produces no odors or fumes when printed. PET filament is not biodegradable, but it is 100% reclaimable. It’s known for its clarity and is also very good at bridging.
ASA – Acrylonitrile styrene acrylate
ASA was developed as an alternative to ABS. With a number of additional features, like improved weather resistance and resistance to yellowing from UVs, making it an excellent choice for parts or prints meant for outdoor use. Where white ABS will turn a pale yellow over time, ASA will remain a bright white for much longer. ASA has print settings very similar to ABS with only the printing temperature being different.
Image source: Amazon
These metal infused PLA filaments are tougher to print than MH Build PLA filament, but because of the metal blended with the plastic, prints are heavier and thus, feel more authentic. Finished 3D prints can be sanded and polished to create beautiful and unique pieces. Unpolished, the filament looks like cast metal fresh from a mold, with a dull, matte, gritty appearance. With just a little finishing and polishing, however, you can easily create any look like you desire. 3D Printing with these metals is perfect for printing jewelry, props, costumes, figurines, and robots. These filaments are great not only for hobbyists looking to make faux metal prints but serious designers as well.
Image source: Tokopedia
Wood-based filaments are typically a composite that combines a PLA base material with wood dust, cork, and other powdered wood derivatives. Typically, the filament consists of around 30% wood particles, but the exact number may vary depending on the brand. The presence of these particles gives the 3D printed parts the aesthetics of real wood. This filament is also less abrasive compared to other composite filaments such as carbon-fiber filled and metal filled, since wood particles are much softer.
Question: What is your favorite material for 3D printing?