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3D Printer Filament Guide

Material Types:

Skill level required to print filament types.

Beginner

  • PLA

  • PETG

  • HIPS

Intermediate

  • ABS
  • Nylon

  • TPU

Expert
  • PC

  • PEEK

  • PEI

  • PEKK


PLA 3D Printer Filament

PLA is the most common consumer 3D printer filament type. It is the easiest to print which makes it perfect for those who are just starting off. It allows you to create prints with a high level of detail and produces minimal to no stringing. PLA is typically not suitable for prototypes due to its subpar mechanical and thermal properties.

Pros

  • Easy to print
  • No enclosure needed
  • Low Odor
  • Large number of colors

Cons

  • Brittle (Low Toughness)
  • Low temperature resistance

Mechanical Properties:

Density (g/cc): 1.25

Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa): 57

Tensile Modulus (MPa): 2900

Tensile Elongation at Failure (%): 8

Max Service Temperature (°F): 130


PETG 3D Printer Filament

PETG is the second most popular consumer filament. It is fairly easy to print, however, unlike PLA it can be used for light-use functional prototypes. 

Pros

  • Easy to print
  • No enclosure needed
  • Low Odor
  • Large number of colors

Cons

  • Minor Stringing
  • Can fuse to build surfaces
  • Slight warping

Mechanical Properties:

Density (g/cc): 1.25

Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa): 46

Tensile Modulus (MPa): 1675

Tensile Elongation at Failure (%): 25

Max Service Temperature (°F): 176


ABS-ASA 3D Printer Filament

ABS is what we consider the "PLA" of the functional prototype community. With a properly setup printer it can be printed somewhat easily and also provides even better mechanical and thermal properties than PETG.

Pros

  • Good for budget functional prototypes
  • High temperature resistance
  • Many colors available

Cons

  • Enclosure required
  • Medium warping
  • Mild odor from styrene
  • Harder to print than PETG

Mechanical Properties:

Density (g/cc): 1.05

Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa): 44

Tensile Modulus (MPa): 1940

Tensile Elongation at Failure (%): 10.5

Max Service Temperature (°F): 221


Nylon 3D Printer Filament

Nylon is a semi-flexible material which makes it great for things that need impact resistance such as gears and drone parts. It has a high tendency to warp and will likely require a Garolite build surface. 

Pros

  • Excellent impact strength
  • High temperature resistance
  • Abrasion-resistant

Cons

  • Enclosure required
  • High warping
  • Harder to print than ABS
  • Absorbs moisture (Hygroscopic)
  • Few colors

Mechanical Properties:

Density (g/cc): 1.05

Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa): 45

Tensile Modulus (MPa): 2100

Tensile Elongation at Failure (%): 8

Max Service Temperature (°F): 221


TPU-TPE 3D Printer Filament

TPU is a flexible material which makes it great for things that need to flex and require excellent toughness. The "hardness" of the material is measured using the Shore A scale ranging from 85A (very flexible) to 95A (very firm).

Pros

  • Flexible
  • Excellent impact strength
  • Good temp resistance
  • Many colors available

Cons

  • Difficult to print without direct drive
  • Stringing
  • Prints slow
  • Absorbs moisture

Mechanical Properties:

Density (g/cc): 1.0

Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa): 8

Tensile Modulus (MPa): 70

Tensile Elongation at Failure (%): >350

Max Service Temperature (°F): 175


Polycarbonate PC 3D Printer Filament

Polycarbonate is at the top of the food chain when it comes to consumer printing. It has the best mechanical and thermal properties of any filament you can print without an industrial-grade printer.

Pros

  • High Strength
  • Impact resistance
  • High temperature resistance

Cons

  • Difficult to print
  • Mild stringing
  • Prints slow
  • Few colors

Mechanical Properties:

Density (g/cc): 1.21

Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa): 62

Tensile Modulus (MPa): 2400

Tensile Elongation at Failure (%): 8

Max Service Temperature (°F): 250


PEI/PEKK/PEEK

PEI PEKK PEEK 3D Printer Filament

These materials are high-end, engineering-grade polymers. Only specialized industrial printers such as Stratasys and Cincinnati are able to print them. They offer the highest mechanical and thermal properties of any other filament available. PEI is also one of the only polymers certified for use in the Aerospace Industry.

Pros

  • Highest strength
  • Highest impact resistance
  • Highest temperature resistance

Cons

  • Requires industrial printer with heated enclosure
  • Mild stringing
  • Prints slow
  • Few colors

Mechanical Properties:

PEI (1010)

Density (g/cc): 1.29

Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa): 56

Tensile Modulus (MPa): 2500

Tensile Elongation at Failure (%): 2.9

Max Service Temperature (°F): 340

PEKK

Density (g/cc): 1.28

Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa): 105

Tensile Modulus (MPa): 3205

Tensile Elongation at Failure (%): 9.5

Max Service Temperature (°F): 329

PEEK

Density (g/cc): 1.31

Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa): 101

Tensile Modulus (MPa): 3720

Tensile Elongation at Failure (%): 27

Max Service Temperature (°F): 290


Mechanics of Materials - Basics:

Unless you have a background in engineering or mechanics of materials, material properties might not be intuitive. We see people asking which material is the strongest when they really mean the toughest, and vice versa. Our goal is to give a high-level overview of the different material properties so that you can better understand them and how they relate to the characteristics of different filament.

Tensile Strength:

It is the ability of a material to resist the externally applied forces without breaking or yielding. The internal resistance offered by a part to an externally applied force is called stress.

Tensile Modulus (Stiffness):

Stiffness is the ability of a material to resist deformation under stress. The tensile modulus (Young's Modulus) is the measure of stiffness. Tensile modulus is found by comparing the ratio of stress and strain. Materials with low stiffness tend to have greater impact resistance (toughness) due to their ability to absorb energy.

Tensile Elongation at Failure:

Elongation at Break, also known as fracture strain or tensile elongation at break, is the ratio between increased length and initial length after breakage of the tested specimen. It is related to the ability of a plastic specimen to resist changes of shape without cracking.

Max Service Temperature:

The highest temperature that a material can be used for prolonged periods of time. The maximum service temperature is found by measuring the strength at different temperatures. A series of tests are carried out with the specimens in a furnace. Well below the maximum service temperature the strength only varies a little. The temperature at which the strength starts to fall sharply is defined as the maximum service temperature.

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3 comments

  • Can you update your filament guide to include ASA?
    Thanks

    Andrew Lawrence
  • Hi Sherman,

    If you go to any of our filament product pages you will find exactly what you are referring to. We give a complete list of starting parameters you can use for each filament type.

    Thank you,

    3DMaker Engineering
  • how about making a page or a chart that has an average ( Filament) tip-temp bed- temp and whatever else you can fit in like run speed, nozzle size and so on It would be a great help for newbies trying to learn !!
    TKS for listening SHERM

    Sherman Cody

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