Introduction

3D printing is an exciting technology rapidly increasing in popularity and affordability. One of those seemingly endless possibilities includes choosing suitable 3D printing filaments. 
But what are the different types of 3D printer filaments? When should you use them? Each type of filament has unique properties, and choosing the suitable filament can make a big difference in the quality of your prints.

This page is for people who are completely new to FDM 3D printing technology or want additional information on 3D printing technology. 
Please check out their technical datasheet for more technical properties on your filaments.

PLA

If you are just getting started with 3D printing, then PLA (Polylactic Acid) the filament is the best choice. PLA is usually the first filament used by beginners in 3D printing, as it is expected to have relatively predictable results. But PLA isn’t only for beginners. 
Many manufacturers and designers use it for prototyping and tooling. PLA is the default filament of choice for most extrusion-based 3D printers because it can be printed at a low temperature and does not require a heated bed. 
It is also one of the most environmentally friendly filaments on the market today. Derived from crops such as corn and sugarcane, PLA is renewable and biodegradable. As a bonus, this also gives the plastic a sweet aroma during printing. 
Most PLA filaments don’t suffer from moisture absorption, but it is still recommended to keep the filaments away from humid environments.
In summary, for beginner 3D printing, switching to other types of material is not recommended until you are confident with PLA.

3D PRINTER FILAMENT PROPERTIES: PLA

Strength: Medium | Flexibility: Low | Durability: Medium

Difficulty to use: Low

Print temperature: 190 – 230°C

Print bed temperature: 35 – 45°C (Different types of PLA and heatbed materials will affect this temperature)

Shrinkage/warping: Minimal

Soluble: No

Food safety: Refer to manufacturer guidelines

RECAP OF PLA 3D PRINTER FILAMENT

Pros: Easy to print, wide variety of colors/styles, biodegradable

Cons: Brittle, lackluster mechanical properties

ABS

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is less popular than PLA for everyday 3D printing. Concerning its material properties, though, ABS is moderately superior to PLA, despite being slightly more challenging to print – it’s prone to warping without a hot print bed and bed adhesive. 
ABS is not very hygroscopic, but it can still benefit from keeping it insulated from moisture. 
In other words, playing with ABS requires more skill and knowledge to complete good-quality printing than PLA.

3D PRINTER FILAMENT PROPERTIES: ABS

Strength: High | Flexibility: Medium | Durability: High

Difficulty to use: Medium

Print temperature: 220 – 250°C

Print bed temperature: 80 – 100°C

Shrinkage/warping: Considerable

Soluble: In esters, ketones, and acetone

Food safety: Not food safe

RECAP OF ABS 3D PRINTER FILAMENT

Pros: High strength, high durability, resistance to high temperatures

Cons: Warps easily, hazardous fumes, requires a high-temperature print nozzle

PETG

PETG is another great filament for beginners. It is also easy to print but displays properties similar to ABS, a more mid-level material. It has the heat-resistant properties of ABS without toxic fumes and can be sanded much like PLA.
Most FDM printers that can print PLA can print PETG, though it takes a little more effort to get right, especially the filament care.
It’s important to keep the PETG away from moisture, as it can absorb moisture and give lower print quality

3D PRINTER FILAMENT PROPERTIES: PETG

Strength: High | Flexibility: Medium | Durability: High

Difficulty to use: Medium

Print temperature: 220 – 250°C

Print bed temperature: 50 – 80°C

Shrinkage/warping: Minimal

Soluble: No

Food safety: Refer to manufacturer guidelines

RECAP OF PETG 3D PRINTER FILAMENT

Pros: Flexible, durable, easy to print

Cons: Susceptible to moisture, surface scratches easily

Summary

The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing your printer filament is the final application of your print. As you can imagine, we’ve only just scratched the surface regarding the considerations for 3D printing materials. The 3D printing material you choose will be dependent on several different qualifications. The more you work with 3D printing, the more you will be able to experiment and test out what works best for you and your prints.  Last but not least, all filaments absorb moisture from the air, which hurts the printability of the material, so make sure to store the 3D printer filament in a cool, dry place and, if necessary, dry it before use.

More information & Reference

  1. Bambu Lab Store – Filament
  2. Bambu Lab Wiki
  3. Consumables.co.nz – Filaments for Beginners
  4. 3dprintbeginner.com – How to dry your filament
  5. Hubs.com – What is the ideal filament for FDM?
  6. Bambu Filament Guide

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