3D Printer Filament Types Explained (2018)

So you’re thinking about buying a 3D printer or maybe you’ve already bought one. You’re suddenly introduced to a world where anything is possible and your imagination is running wild with an abundance of amazing things that you could print. But before you can make your dreams a reality, you need to decide what filament to buy.

There are so many different varieties of 3D filament, which makes it difficult to decide which one to go for, especially if you are new to 3D printing. At Technology Outlet, we stock multiple types of premium filaments available in 1.75mm and 3mm sizes. But which one should you buy? Let's help you make that decision.

Range of 3D Filaments

They may look similar, but each filament type has subtle differences. They can have different strengths, densities, print temperatures and so on. If you’re on a desktop, have a look at our expert breakdown table for a comprehensive feature comparison.


PLA (Polylactic Acid)

This is generally the 3D filament of choice for most printers. PLA is a natural, environmentally friendly and biodegradable filament made from renewable resources such as cornstarch, potato starch and sugar cane.

There’s a huge range of PLA filaments, each with slightly different strengths and printing temperatures. It is easy to print with as you don't have to tinker around with the print settings and the print quality is solid. This makes it a great filament for beginners.

Compared to a lot of other filaments, PLA is quite brittle. If you need a more durable option, PLA Plus and Carbon Fibre PLA are great alternatives.


ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

ABS is probably the second most popular filament. It is stronger and more durable than PLA, but it has a much higher printing temperature so you will most likely need a printer with a heated print bed. It is non-toxic and keeps its colour well.


HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene)

HIPS is similar to ABS, but it uses something called Limonene as a solvent. It is also a little bit stronger and less likely to warp. It is biodegradable and safe to use, but like ABS, it requires high temperatures for printing. HIPS is a great 3D support material for lightweight prints.


PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol)

PVA is a stiff, non-toxic and biodegradable filament. It is water soluble, which means it dissolves in water so it must be kept dry before you use it. It is reasonably easy to print with and makes a good support material, particularly with PLA filament. It’s often used with dual extruder 3D printers to provide support for overhanging features.

 


ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate)

Similar to ABS, but the main difference is that ASA is UV light resistant. This means that the print will not be damaged by the sun over time making it the perfect choice for your outdoor prints such as pots and planters. It’s important to note that ASA needs to cool very slowly to reduce the risk of cracking.

 


Nylon (Polyamide)

Nylon is arguably the most versatile filament. It is very strong and can be flexible or rigid depending on how thick the print is. It also needs to be kept dry as it can be affected by moisture.


Wood

Combination of very fine wood particles, PLA and a polymer that binds them together. The final print looks like wood, but the filament can be quite problematic to work with and may require sanding to get the finish you want. It is also easier to break than other filaments. 


Flexible

Not all 3D designs need to be strong and rigid. Flexible filament opens up opportunities to make rubber-like prints such as watch straps as well as other accessories like phone covers. May require modification of the printer or extruder.

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Metal

Another category of PLA, which is combined with metallic powder. You can make prints that look like steel, bronze, brass and copper once polished. It’s extremely strong and durable and can be used for applications such as jewellery making. You will need to experiment with it to find the best print settings, but when you get it right, you'll be amazed with the results.


PET-G (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

PET-G is an incredibly strong filament. There is very little chance of warping and virtually no fumes when printing. It combines the ease of use of PLA filament with the strength and durability of ABS filament. It is also very good at bridging.

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Conductive

This modified PLA is slightly flexible and is conductive to low voltage circuitry so it can be used for simple electronics like LEDs and sensors. It can be paired with standard PLA filament on a dual extruder printer to create a basic circuit board. It is important to note that it is not particularly durable.



Also, don’t forget to take care of your 3D printer with cleaning filament. If you print regularly then over time, carbon and other residues can build up in the nozzle, which can then start to affect the quality of your prints. The cleaning filament flushes out residue and keeps your nozzle blockage-free. This is very beneficial when you change between different types of filament.

To determine what filament you need, it’s important to consider what type of objects you will be printing. But before you buy, you must check that your printer is compatible with the filament. Whichever filament type you decide is best for you, Technology Outlet has got you covered. Check out our Mystery Colour Box of PLA filament for a huge discount.
Next article What is 3D Printing and How Does it Work?

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