What are 3D Filaments?
3D filaments are special types of plastic, known as thermoplastics. Once heated to the right temperature, these filaments become flexible. This quality enables these filaments to be employed for 3D printing services.
What are the different types of filament used for 3D Printing?
The following are 16 types of filaments which are readily available:
- ABS Filament
- PLA Filament
- PET Filament
- PETT Filament
- Nylon Filament
- PVA Filament
- Sandstone Filament
- Wood Filament
- Metal Filament
- HIPS Filament
- Magnetic Iron Filament
- Conductive Filament
- Carbon Fiber Filament
- TPE Filament
- Glow in the Dark Filament
- Amphora Filament
Comparing Various Attributes of the Filaments
ABS vs. PLA
ABS- The ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a strong and durable 3D Filament. Adversely, it is petroleum based and hence not biodegradable and requires high temperature to reach the melting point. Once melted, it emits unpleasant fumes. Additionally, it is flexible, lightweight and also the cheapest filament available in the market. ABS print temperature range is 210°C – 250°C (high).
ABS is an appropriate filament for printing plastic automotive parts, moving parts, musical instruments, kitchen appliances, electronic housings, and various toys.
PLA- Poly Lactic Acid is made from organic materials, namely cornstarch and sugarcane. It produces a sweet aroma when heated. Comparatively it is easier to use than the ABS and is less prone to warping. However, it is prone to clogging the printer nozzle while printing. It is less sturdy than ABS as well as, the PLA attracts moisture which can be difficult to deal with during the cooling process. Unlike the ABS, this filament is biodegradable.
PLA filament uses include medical stitching and surgical implants. Also, PLA includes food packaging, disposable tableware, and diapers.
PET vs. PETT
PET- Polyethylene Terephthalate is commonly used for manufacturing plastic bottles. This filament is stable and doesn’t emit harmful or unpleasant odors. Also, it is recyclable which makes it bio-compatible. The PET is approved by the FDA and hence is food safe filament. The various key features of the filament include it being water and shrink resistant. It doesn’t absorb moisture from the air, making it difficult for wrapping.
PET print temperature range: 210°C – 230°C. Although it has so many pros, it is not an easy filament to deal with for beginners. Also, the nozzle and printer bed temperatures need a fine tuning,
PETT- Polyethylene Trimethylene Terephthalate is another food safe and biocompatible filament. This is recyclable but not biodegradable. Common applications for PETT filament include food containers and various kitchen utensils. PETT Print Temperature Range: 210°C – 230°C
The strength and flexibility element of PETT is appreciated. The filament doesn’t absorb moisture from the air as well, making the cooling process easier and wrap free. It also doesn’t degrade in water. However, it isn’t an easy filament to deal with for the beginners. The nozzle and printer bed temperatures need to be tuned finely in order to successfully print the needs.
Nylon Filament vs. PVA
Nylon Filament- Polyamide is the synonym of Nylon Filament. This synthetic filament is better at strength and durability in comparison with the ABS and PLA. Alongside, it is more flexible, wear-resistant, light and less brittle than the ABS and PLA. One major attribute includes this can be re-melted and used again without the loss of bond. Contrary to the pros, this filament emits harmful fumes when melted and needs high temperatures for the same. Also storing this filament needs special attention as it absorbs moisture easily.
It’s particularly used in manufacturing various consumer products, tools, mechanical components, machine parts, structural parts, containers.
PVA- Polyvinyl Alcohol is typically used as a support material when printing with ABS or PLA. This filament is a biodegradable, non-toxic material that easily dissolves in tap water. It is water soluble and has a good durability. However, it is expensive and can be difficult to locate than the other filament. Controversially this filament makes printing easy.
PVA print temperature range: 190°C – 220°C (low)
Sandstone Filament vs. Wood Filament
Sandstone Filament- This PLA includes fine chalk powder to produce stone like color and texture. It offers a unique finish and is often used for architectural and landscape modelling. The advantages of using this filament include that it requires no heated bed to commence printing and it doesn’t wrap or shrink during the cooling process. However, it is not a perfectly durable or flexible filament and is prone to breaking once cooled down due to its brittleness.
Sandstone print temperature range: 165°C – 210°C
Wood Filament- This filament includes mixture of recycled woods with a special binding polymer. The outcome of the print, doesn’t just look like wood, but smells like one too. It is commonly used for décor, ornate boxes, tables and chairs. However it is easily breakable and isn’t flexible. It's weaker when compared to PLA.
Wood print temperature range: 200°C – 260°C
Metal Filament vs HIPS Filament
Metal Filament- This material includes PLA mixed with metallic powders. Popular choices include aluminum, brass, bronze, copper, and stainless steel.
Metal filament is utilized for manufacturing hardware products, jewelry items, statues, replicas of artifacts, and much more. This filament is durable and doesn’t need a preheated printer bed. It is not soluble and barely shrinks during the cooling process. However, it is not easy to deal with for beginners. The need of tuning the nozzle temperature and to regulate the flow rate retains always.
HIPS- High Impact Polystyrene is a biodegradable material and is bright and white in colour. HIPS work as great support material. HIPS print temperature range: 230°C – 250°C.
The food industry uses it widely for packaging. Other uses include medicinal trays, signs, all kinds of kid’s toys.
HIPS when paired with ABS becomes an outstanding dual extrusion support structure. It is not toxic even when used in close contact with. However, you may face adhesion and curling issues.
Magnetic Iron Filament vs. Conductive PLA
Magnetic Iron Filament- This filament is PLA material infused with a powdered iron and possesses magnetic attributes. The material is extremely durable and isn’t soluble and it barely shrinks during the cooling process.
However, the material is expensive and doesn’t need a preheated printer bed. Also, the nozzle temperature needs fine tuning and the material isn’t flexible.
Conductive PLA- Conductive PLA filament is perfect for electronics platforms. It is suitable for manufacturing low voltage electrical units. It does not require a heated printer bed and it isn’t soluble. But the heated printer bed will give better results,
However, it is not very flexible or durable and is expensive. Also, it shrinks to some extent while the cooling down process. Conductive PLA temperature range: 215°C – 230°C.
Carbon Fiber Filament vs. TPE Filament
Carbon Fiber Filament- The Carbon Fiber Filament PLA shares similar properties with standard PLA but it’s stiffer. It is rigid and has superior layer adhesion. This filament contains tiny strands of Carbon for which the outcome is impressive and has an excellent structure. This filament is soluble and durable. It barely shrinks or wraps during the cooling process. Carbon Fiber needs no preheated printer bed either.
However, the material wears out printer nozzles, and one needs to invest well for the same if they want to print using carbon fiber filament.
Carbon fiber print temperature range: 190°C – 230°C
TPE Filament- Thermoplastic elastomer or the TPE is also known as Thermoplastic Rubber. TPE has excelling elastic properties and abrasion resistance. For printing it requires no pre heated bed. TPE is a very durable material which isn’t so prone to shrinkage during the cooling down process. Printing using this material gives a consistent diameter. The material also bonds well between the layers.
However, this is not easy to deal with for beginners as the nozzle is prone to leakage of the material due to heating. Also, the nozzle requires good tuning to optimally print and emit results.
TPE print temperature range: 225°C – 235°C
Glow in the Dark Filament vs. Amphora Filament
Glow in the dark filament- It’s an environmentally-friendly filament. One of the major drawbacks is it is abrasive. The problem with abrasive filaments is that they can quickly wear out nozzles. However, it is not food safe. It is similar to PLA which makes printing easy. It barely shrinks during the cooling process and also it doesn’t need any preheated printer bed to print.
Glow-in-the-dark print temperature range: 180-240 °C
Amphora Filament- The notable attributes of this filament include, that it doesn’t emit bad odors during the printing process. Also, it is a strong material with a high melting point. Amphora print temperature range: 220°C – 250°C. This material is used to produce objects which are lustrous, bright, and opaque. This material portrays good layer adhesion. This is also food safe. This filament also shows no or little wrapping.
But this Amphora Filament needs good tuning of bed and the nozzle and not to forget that this isn’t an easy material to print with.
Above listed are 16 types of filaments. That’s a lot to make a choice from. But one should wisely choose according to their needs and not be shy to spend a little extra buck for a better result.