The world of printing has significantly changed over the past few decades with the introduction of sophisticated technologies available today. 3D printing is one of the greatest game changers so far and choosing the right option especially when it comes to filaments is of great importance. Every 3D printer requires a 3D filament for it to print a 3D object.
3D filaments are usually plastic in nature and each filament is specific to different printing tasks. The choice of a filament will depend on the type of 3D printing that you need to do, your budget and preference. Below are some of the best and common 3D printing filaments that you can choose from.
1. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
This is the most common and known 3D printer filament because of its impact-resistance ability and toughness. Due to this, ABS is widely used for different applications. It can be extruded without difficulties, strong and flexible. It has a print temperature range of 210-250 degrees Celsius.
The main application areas of ABS are automotive parts, moving parts, toys and electronic housing. It can also be used in kitchen appliances, Lego bricks, bike helmets and music instruments. The high print temperature range, however, makes it consume more energy.
2. Poly-lactic Acid (PLA)
PLA is derived from biodegradable resources like potato starch, sugar cane, and corn. These resources are renewable. PLA is also popular and is normally scaled against ABS. It’s environmentally friendly nature makes it have an advantage over ABS! It is almost becoming the most popular 3D printing filament.
The filament normally does not produce toxic substances during and after printing and therefore it is safer to use in classrooms and homes. The plastic in PLA never contracts while cooling down and therefore the need for a heated bed is eliminated. It has a print temperature range of 180°C – 230°C hence requires less energy for printing as compared to ABS.
Common areas of application include food packaging, disposable tableware, candy wrappers, disposable garments, diapers and surgically implanted mesh screws. PLA is however vulnerable to clogging at the nozzle, is adhesive to water molecules making it hard to print and requires higher extrusion energy.
3. Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA)
PVA exhibits special characteristics like being soluble in water. It is biodegradable and non-toxic. It has a print temperature range of 180°C – 230°C. PVA is normally easy to print and it provides ample support during printing for the materials with overhangs. It is usually used as a thickener, paper adhesive, packaging film, children’s play putty, slime, adult incontinence products and in feminine hygiene.PVA is however expensive and hard to find.
4. Poly-Ethylene Terephthalate (PET)
This 3D printing filament is made from plastic bottles. The best thing about PET is that it is harmless because of its very stable. PET is fully recyclable and does not emit any funky smells during and after printing. It has a print temperature range of 220°C – 250°C.
The main areas of application include phone cases, packaging and mechanical parts requiring impact resistance and flexibility. It can be used in DWS Lab Xfab which is the best 3D printer under 500 USD.
5. Poly-Ethylene co Trim-ethylene Terephthalate (PETT)
This 3D printing filament is normally marketed or promoted as a T-Glase filament. It is water clear, non-biodegradable but can be recycled. PETT has a print temperature range of 210°C – 230°C. The main areas of application include printing of food containers like utensils, soda bottles, and cups. This is because PETT is a safe polymer to make a direct contact with food.
6. High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS)
This 3D printing filament has no negative effects when it comes into contact with pets or people. It is highly biodegradable making it environmentally friendly. HIPS is usually white in color (bright). It is somehow similar to ABS filament apart from the fact that limonene is the solvent used here. It can also provide support for 3D materials with overhangs just like PVA filament.
HIPS has a print temperature range of 210°C – 250°C. It is best used as a secondary material during a dual extrusion to provide support. Food packaging, CD packs, and printing of medicinal tray are some of the common applications of HIPS 3D printing filament.
7. Nylon (Polyamide)
This 3D Printing filament is strong, wear-resistant, flexible, light and cost-effective. As a result of its high melting point and strength, nylon is ideal for printing functional and mechanical parts. It has a print temperature range of 210°C – 250°C. Nylon, however, produces toxic substances when it breaks down due to heating which makes it harmful.
3D printing filaments are available in wide varieties. You can choose the best to suit your needs. Also remember to choose the best quality as some of them clog the nozzles. The best thing to consider is the type of object that you intend to print and the price of the filament.