In the world of 3D printing, there is an endless list of possibilities, what with the numerous materials you can work with, and the software programs on which you can make your designs. Whether it is prosthetics or tabletop gaming parts, there is one thing in common for all 3D printing products: printing filaments. If you want to become a 3D printing pro, you must get acquainted with all the 3D printer filament types out there. Here are the most common types of 3D filaments used on the market today.
ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is one of the most commonly used printing filaments. Although it’s not the most favored type of filament on the market, you can still find many 3D printing professionals using them. It is also the hardest type of filament to print on despite being moderately superior to other types of filaments like the PLA. You will find many consumer and manufactured household goods made of this type of filament, like the LEGO bricks, for example, or bicycle helmets. If you want a filament with a high degree of durability and the ability to withstand high temperatures, you can use ABS filaments. You have to be mindful of the high temperature you’re applying to the filaments, though, as they tend to warp during cooling.
As you enter the world of consumer 3D printing, PLA filaments are probably the first thing you’ll hear about. PLA is indisputably the best and the most sought-after type of filament due to several reasons. First, it can be easily printed on, and second, it has a lower heating temperature, which gives it an advantage over ABS. This means that it also doesn’t warp easily as it cools. While you won’t need a heating bed, processing your 3D printings will provide you with optimal results. PLA is odorless (sometimes it emits a sweet, candy-like pleasing scent). It also has various styles and colors, so it is more commonly used than any other type of filament on this list. Since it’s made of renewable resources like sugarcane and corn starch, PLA is the most environmentally-friendly filament on the market.
PET, along with its variant PETG, is the most commonly used plastic in the world. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is the polymer used in water bottles. It is also found in fibers and food containers, but it can only be used for 3D printing in its raw form. Due to its efficiency and durability, PETG has become an increasingly popular filament amongst 3D printing enthusiasts. The “G” in the PETG stands for glycol-modified, making the filament clearer, less brittle, and, most important of all, easier to print on. Considering that the previously mentioned types are the most popular types of filaments among 3D enthusiasts, making a PETG vs. PLA vs. ABS is a wise step to take, especially if you have safety concerns. If you want a transparent filament for a special 3D printing, you may want to take a look at the PETT (Polyethylene coTrimethylene Terephthalate), though it might be more rigid than PET or PETG.
Nylon belongs to a popular family of synthetic polymers utilized in many industrial applications due to their heavyweight, flexibility, and durability. In the world of professional 3D printing filaments, nylon is a popular contender. One great thing about nylon is that it can be easily dyed either before or after the printing process. Due to these advantages, nylon can be used for various consumer products, like mechanical components, machine parts, structural parts, or containers. Ensure that you store it away in a dry and cool area because nylon, like PETG, is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture, which might affect the quality of the final printing results.
Although it’s not as favored as other types of filaments mentioned here, PVA is an excellent 3D filament mostly used to make support materials. Support materials are important for certain types of 3D parts with overhangs. Without the support that PVA offers, it will be impossible to perfect these parts. Considering that it is a support material, PVA works best if you have a printer with a dual extruder. Furthermore, this is a biodegradable, non-toxic material that can easily dissolve in tap water. PVA filaments are used to create fresh water fishing products, paper adhesives, personal hygiene products, and so much more.
Understanding the different applications to each filament type will help you better understand their properties and what to use for your projects. 3D printing isn’t a complicated process, but it isn’t something that you can easily do successfully on the first try, so make sure you do several trial-and-errors first to master 3D printing.