Unleash your creativity with 3D printing!

3D Printing Spot Logo

The 3D Printing Materials Guide

The 3D Printing Materials Guide | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

The Spot Team

/

July 28, 2020

The range of materials available for 3D printing is incredibly diverse, with new innovative materials entering the market each year.  Thermoplastics are the most common 3D printing material, but it is possible to print using almost any material imaginable.

With the diversity of available materials, it can be difficult to know which material is available and which material is optimal for your particular project. This 3D printing materials guide provides answers to those questions.

Listed below is a comprehensive list of 3D printing materials including:

  • Benefits
  • Negatives
  • Requirements
  • Common Uses and
  • Technology Needed

Table of contents:

PLASTICS

PLA (Polyactic Acid)

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  Is one of the most common types of 3D printing material and comes in a wide range of styles and colors. Is a vegetable-based material thus biodegradable.  It is a good choice for home use and PLA is relatively inexpensive.

Benefits:

PLA is great for beginners as it is easy to use and produces better surface details than many other materials.  It is non-toxic and biodegradable.  It gives off a slightly sweet odor while printing.

Negatives:

PLA is sensitive to heat and not as durable or strong as ABS, making it less suitable for use in parts that will be exposed to high levels of heat or stress.  It is biodegradable giving it a shorter lifespan.  Not food safe.

Requirements:

3D printer with bed temperature 45 to 60 Celsius.  Extruder temperature 190-220 Celsius. Cooling fan.  No ventilation required.

Common Uses:

Packaging such as plastic films, containers, figurines, low-wear toys.  Great for prototyping.

Technology:

FDM, SLS, SLA

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  Is one of the most common types of 3D printing materials. Is an oil-based material with a higher melting point than PLA.  It is used in both industry and home printers and ABS is relatively inexpensive.

Benefits:

ABS is strong and durable, has good electrical insulation properties, more flexible than PLA, heat and chemical resistant, forgiving to scratches and is a preference when mechanical uses are important.  It is easy to finish, sand, glue and paint.  It has a long life.

Negatives:

The oil in ABS makes it nonbiodegradable and expensive to recycle.  It produces plastic fumes (because of styrene) when printing so is best used with ventilation.  It is harder to print than PLA due to curling and warping.  Not UV resistant.

Requirements:

3D printer with heating bed temperature of 80 to 100 Celsius.  Run temperature of 230 to 250 Celsius.  Must cool slowly.  Ventilation is preferred.

Common Uses:

Keys on a keyboard, LEGO toys, car bumpers and bicycle helmets.

Technology:

FDM, SLA, SLS, SLM

ASA (Acrylic Styrene Acrylonitrile)

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  Is similar to ABS, in terms of benefits and negatives, but with enhanced UV resistant properties.  It is used in industry and home printers, but ASA is relatively expensive.

Benefits:

ASA shares many of the same properties as ABS but with greater UV resistance and high impact and wear resistance making it good for outdoor products.

Negatives:

ASA shares many of the same flaws as ABS including the tendency of curling and warping.  It is important to vent when printing with ASA, because of the dangerous fumes (contains styrene) produced during printing. It requires higher extruder temperatures.

Requirements:

3D Printer with a heating bed temperature of 90 to 110 Celsius.  Extruder temperature of 220 to 245 Celsius.

Common Uses:

Outdoor parts such as sunglasses, birdhouses and signage.

Technology:

FDM

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  PET is the most widely used plastic in the world, but is rarely used for 3D printing in its raw form.  Is well known because of its use in plastic bottles.  3D printers usually use variations of PET like PETG, PETE, PETT.  It is used mainly in industry as PET is very expensive. Because it is rarely used in 3D printing look to PETG for specific benefits and negatives.

PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol)

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  Is PET enhanced with glycol.  Is an industrial strength filament which boasts the best features of PLA and ABS which are ease of printing, strength, durability and heat resistance.  It is mainly used in industry as PETG is very expensive.

Benefits:

PETG is FDA approved for contact with food and liquids.  Is rugged and sturdy and can be sterilized.  Is easy to work with, minimal warping, and no odors while printing.  PETG produces a translucent, smooth and glossy finish that can be painted, silk screened and hot stamped.  It is water resistant and UV resistant making it usable outdoors.

Negatives:

Parts printed with PETG are flexible and more easily scratchable.  Is not good for bridging or support structures due to stickiness.

Requirements:

3D printer with a hot end that can reach a minimum temperature of 235 Celsius.  Heat bed recommended; but no enclosure required but shouldn’t be a cold environment.

Common Uses:

Water bottles, clothing fibers, snap fit parts, outdoor pots.

Technology:

FDM

PC (Polycarbonate)

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  It can be used in industry and home, but PC is very expensive.

Benefits:

PC is impact, heat, and chemical resistant with incredible strength and toughness.  Is a clear plastic, lightweight and protects against UV rays.  It is moderately flexible.

Negatives:

PC is very difficult to print, requires very high temperatures, has a tendency to warp and ooze while printing, and absorbs water when exposed for long periods of time.

Requirements:

A 3D Printer with both a heated bed and enclosure. The bed must be capable of producing a temperature between 80 to 120C. The printer will need an extruder capable of temperatures 260 to 310C and with an all metal hot end.

Common Uses:

Electronic cases, carabiners, baby feeding bottles, and car headlamp lenses, DVDs and bulletproof glasses.

Technology:

FDM

PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone)

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  Is popular in the medical, automotive and aerospace industries for its high-performance qualities.  Is primarily used in industry as PEEK is expensive.

Benefits:

PEEK filament has good mechanical and chemical resistance properties under high temperatures.  Is low moisture absorption, good wear resistance, and long-life span.  PEEK has a favorable weight to strength ratio making it a suitable replacement for some metals. Its flame-resistant properties make it suitable for the aerospace industry.

Negatives:

PEEK is difficult to work with, is costly in terms of both material and the 3D printer requirements.  This makes PEEK most suitable for industrial applications.

Requirements:

A 3D printer with a closed heat chamber, a extruder capable of a minimum 343 Celsius, a print bed capable of a minimum 120 Celsius.

Common Uses:

The aerospace, automotive and medical sectors use PEEK for high performance parts such as bearings, pumps, cable insulation, compressor plate valves, and even dental implants.

Technology:

FDM/FFF

HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene)

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  Is commonly used a support material as it is easily dissolved in d-Limonene, leaving no marks.  It can be used in industry or at home and HIPS is relatively inexpensive.

Benefits:

HIPS come in many colors, has good tolerance, easy to print and easy to detach from the printed object.  Is water resistant.  It is similar in printing quality to ABS, but lighter than ABS.

Negatives:

HIPS require a high printing temperature, heated bed and heated chamber along with ventilation.

Requirements:

A 3D printer with a heating bed temperature of 100 to 115 Celsius.  Extruder temperature of 230 to 245 Celsius.  A heating enclosure is recommended.

Common Uses:

Supporting material for ABS objects, wearables, and protective cases.

Technology:

FDM


NYLON

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  Is one of the most popular materials for 3D printing.  It can be used in industry or at home and NYLON is moderately expensive.

Benefits:

NYLON is strong, durable and versatile with good abrasion resistance.  Is resistant to chemicals and is thin and very flexible which is good for wear and fatigue.  It has no unpleasant odor when printing.

Negatives:

NYLON easily absorbs moisture making it not suitable for moist and humid environments.  Is prone to warping.  Requires air tight storage.

Requirements:

A 3D printer with a heating bed temperature of 70 to 90 Celsius.  Extruder temperature of 225 to 265 Celsius.  A heating enclosure is recommended.  It is good to print in a ventilated area.

Common Uses:

Plastic gears, screws, nuts and cable ties. Nylon has also been used for medical implants.

Technology:

FDM

PP (Polypropylene)

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  Is unique in that it is soft and flexible.  It can be used in industry or at home but PP is expensive.

Benefits:

PP is fatigue, impact, heat and water resistant.  Is very light.  It produces a smooth surface, is flexible and soft.

Negatives:

PP has low strength and tends to warp as it is difficult to adhere to beds or adhesives. It is highly flammable, susceptible to UV degradation, and is difficult to paint as it lacks bonding properties.  It is difficult to control the printing.

Requirements:

A 3D printer with a heating bed temperature of 85 to 100 Celsius.  Extruder temperature of 220 to 250 Celsius.  A heating enclosure is recommended.

Common Uses:

Packaging, car bumpers, Tic Tac lids and such.

Technology:

FDM

PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol)

Is a thermoplastic which means it becomes malleable when heated.  It can be used in industry or at home but PVA is expensive.

Benefits:

PVA is best known to dissolve in water making it a good support material.  Is soft, biodegradable and easy to model.  Is resistant to oil and grease.

Negatives:

PVA is moisture sensitive so that also makes it a negative, can clog the nozzle, requires airtight storage.

Requirements:

A 3D printer with a heating bed temperature of 45 to 60 Celsius.  Extruder temperature of 185 to 200 Celsius.

Common Uses:

Support material, tide pods.

Technology:

FDM

COMPOSITES

Simply stated composites are a combination of multiple materials.  Often composites begin with PLA or ABS with another material added.  See below for some common composite filaments.

CARBON FIBER

Is a combination of PLA or ABS and short carbon fibers.  The fibers are under 1 mm in length and very strong thus increasing the strength of the base material.  Carbon fiber can be used in industry or at home, but carbon fiber is expensive.

Benefits:

Carbon fiber filament provide increased strength and stiffness, are stable and lightweight.

Negatives:

Carbon fiber filament is abrasive, causes increased oozing, more brittleness and tendency to clog.

Requirements:

A 3D printer with a heated bed temperature of 45 to 60 Celsius.  Extruder temperature of 200 to 230 Celsius.  Steel nozzle required.

Common Uses:  

Bicycle frames, tennis racquets, car chassis, automotive wheels.

Technology:

FDM

TPE / TPU (Thermoplastic Elastomer/ Thermoplastic polyurethane)

Combines plastic with soft rubber giving it the properties of both materials.  Is more rigid than some other flexible filaments. TPE and TPU are the same except TPU is harder.  TPE/TPU can be used in industry or home but TPE/TPU is on the expensive side.

Benefits:

TPE and TPU are soft and flexible, have a long shelf life, and impact resistant.

Negatives:

TPE and TPU is harder to print, lacks bridging qualities, creates blobs and is stringy.

Requirements:

A 3D printer with a heated bed temperature of 45 to 60 Celsius.  Extruder temperature of 225 to 245 Celsius.

Common Uses:

Rubber-like cases, lids, panels, soles for foot ware, grip sleeves, phone cases.

Technology:

FDM


METAL FILLED

Metal filled filament is material infused with varying percentages of metal powder like bronze, brass, stainless steel or copper to make a filament heavier than standard plastic filament and give it the appearance of metal.  But don’t be fooled, this is not metal printing.  Metal filled filament can be used in industry or at home but Metal filled filament is expensive.

Benefits:

Metallic finished look, heavier than plastic, and a normal temperature can be used to extrude.

Negatives:

Printed parts are brittle, doesn’t offer bridging or overhangs, clogs over time.

Requirements:  

A 3D printer with a heated bed temperature of 45 to 60 Celsius.  Extruder temperature of 190 to 220 Celsius.  Requires a wear-resistant nozzle.

Common Uses:

Metallic replicas, sculptures, jewelry and other art objects.

Technology:

FDM

WOOD FILLED

Wood filled filament typically uses cork, wood dust or other derivatives combined with PLA material.  This combination gives the 3D print a wooden look and feel.  Wood filled filament can be used in industry or at home and wood filled filament is inexpensive.

Benefits:

Wood filled filament has an effective wood look and feel, no expensive nozzles required, and has a good and pleasant smell when printed.

Negatives:

Wood filled filament is prone to stringing, typically require a large nozzle to avoid partial clogs.

Requirements:

A 3D printer with a heated bed temperature of 45 to 60 Celsius.  Extruder temperature of 190 to 220 Celsius.

Common Uses:

Toys, home decor and props.

Technology:

FDM

CERAMICS

Ceramics is used across a wide range of industries. Some of the best-known applications of ceramics are kitchenware and pottery, but the material is also used in many other areas such as dentistry. In the past you would need to have an industrial ceramic 3D printer in order to print using ceramics. More recently the WASP Ceramic 3D printer has opened this material up to the consumer market.

Benefits:

Parts printed with ceramics have heat and wear resistant properties. They also have a smooth finish which makes them appealing for the visual arts and homeware.

Negatives:

Ceramic 3D prints are relatively fragile and have a porous surface. Ceramics can be a difficult material to work and require a specialized printer.

Requirements:

WASP Ceramic 3D printer or industrial ceramic 3D printer.

Common Uses:

Homeware, pottery, sculptures and dental implants.

Technology:

Binder jetting, powder sintering

WAX

Wax 3D printing does not actually use natural wax. Instead it uses a material which has very similar properties to pure wax. You can print wax using an FDM 3D printer. When using an FDM printer you use a filament called MoldLAY. The best approach for 3D wax printing is material jetting.

Benefits:

Wax has a very smooth surface which can be used to produce complex molds. When the mold is hardened other materials such as gold or silver can be poured in. This is why wax is most commonly used by the jewelry industry.

Negatives:

Wax can be challenging to work with and for the best results requires a specialized printer.

Requirements:

3D FDM printer or 3D material jetting printer.

Common Uses:

Molds for the jewelry and dentistry industry.

Technology:

FDM, Material jetting

PAPER

3D printing with paper is possible due to a technology called Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL). This process allows you to produce 3D prints using standard office printing paper. SDL combines paper and glue to build the layers and uses an extremely sharp blade to cut the desired shape.

Benefits:

The main benefit of paper is cost. The SDL process was developed by the MacCormack brothers because of concerns over increasing cost of 3D printing materials. Using readily available paper as the printing material opens up 3D printing to a new market. Another key benefit of SDL is that you can print full color 3D models without any post-processing.

Negatives:

One of the primary downsides is that you need a specialized SDL printer in order to print with paper. This means that paper is not a material that most 3D printing users will have access to.

Requirements:

A 3D printer capable of Selective Deposition Lamination.

Common Uses:

Common use cases for 3D prints from paper include models, theatrical props and visual art.

Technology:

Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL)

SANDSTONE

Sandstone can be used to produce high quality, multi-color prints. While sandstone is very brittle, it is ideal for printing objects such as architectural models or figurines which are exposed to little handling.

Benefits:

Sandstone is most commonly used because it is capable of producing multi- color prints without the need for post-processing. Sandstone is also relatively inexpensive.

Negatives:

Prints produced from sandstone are extremely fragile. This means that they are really only suitable for prints that will not be exposed to much handling. Sandstone will also discolor if it comes into contact with water. To protect sandstone 3D prints you can use an epoxy resin coat.

Requirements:

A 3D Printer capable of temperatures between 165 to 210C. A heating bed is not required, but a cooling fan is recommended.

Common Uses:

Architectural models, figurines and art sculptures.

Technology:

FDM

RESINS

SLA RESINS

Stereolithogrpahy (SLA) was actually the first 3D printing technology to be developed. It is capable of producing 3D prints with a high degree of accuracy and smooth surfaces. The SLA process creates prints by building layers of resin which are cured with an ultraviolet (UV) laser beam.

Benefits:

Small run injection molds can be produced using SLA resin. This makes a cost-effective approach for prototyping. The 3D prints have sufficient strength to allow for some machining.

Negatives:

The main downside of printing with SLA resin is cost. Using this printing material is more expensive than thermoplastics.

Requirements:

SLA 3D printer

Common Uses:

Prototypes, concept models and sculptures.

Technology:

SLA

POLYJET RESINS

PolyJet resins are able to produce detailed and smooth prints. This makes them ideal for producing prototypes and molds. As with SLA resins, the print is built up layers which are cured with UV light. PolyJet differs from SLA resins, in its ability to combine multiple 3D printing materials.

Benefits:

The key benefit of PolyJet is that it allows the user to create different blends with properties that are optimal for that particular print. PolyJet can produce layers down to 0.014mm. This allows printing of extremely complex shapes and very fine details. PolyJet also allows for a very wide range of colors within a single print.

Negatives:

Generally speaking, models built with FDM will be more robust and durable than those that are built with a PolyJet. PolyJet parts will often incrementally change over time.

Requirements:

PolyJet 3D Printer

Common Uses:

PolyJet include injection molds, medical parts, and jewelry.

Technology:

PolyJet

Home /

The 3D Printing Materials Guide

Similar Posts You Might Like

ABOUT US AT 3D PRINTING SPOT

Our purpose is to provide the most helpful, and easy-to-read 3D printing content possible ALL IN ONE SPOT.  We will explain a technical topic in ordinary language, so ordinary people can unleash the creativity of 3D printing.  Come back often as we produce content multiple times a week.

SUBSCRIBE TO
3D PRINTING SPOT

CONTENT, NEW RELEASES & REVIEWS

Thank you! Be sure to check your email!
Something isn't right. Try to submit your email again.

3dprintingspot.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

© 2021 3D Printing Spot
Contact UsTerms & Conditions | Privacy Policy