What you need to know about 3D printing filaments

by Anne Zavala
3D filaments

Many well-known 3D printing filaments are used by beginners and experts alike. However many designers still don’t know all there is to know about 3D printing filaments. What different types of filaments can you choose from, and how do you know which one fits your project the best? Will you need an ABS 3D printer for your ABS filament and a Nylon printer for nylon filament?

Well, the question with the most obvious answer is the latter. No. Many 3D printers are capable of printing high-quality models with many different types of filament. Some printers can even simultaneously print with two filaments.

Filaments are thermoplastics; they become malleable when heated. This allows them to conform to any shape. There’s a great variety of filament options to choose from. From magnetic filaments to glow-in-the-dark filaments, these plastics take on many functions. Let’s consider some of the most useful and versatile filaments you can use.

ABS filament

With a low price of about $20 for 1kg of filament, coupled with its high impact resistance and strength, it is easy to see why this filament is one of the most popular choices for printing in 3D. It is a relatively easy material to extrude and as such makes it even easier to work with. It has an almost infinite range of applications. It is the cheapest and most versatile filament to work with, however, it produces some fumes and requires a high temperature to melt.

PLA filament

PLA stands for Polylactic acid. It is made from organic materials and therefore produces no harmful fumes. It is comparable to ABS in cost, but it is not without its drawbacks. It has a much lower melting point, under such produces a weaker print.

PET filament

Polyethylene Terephthalate is popularly known for being used in plastic bottles. It is completely stable and emits no harmful fumes. It is recyclable. It is transparent in its raw state but that changes when the heat is applied. However, it is not easy for beginners to make use of it. It is also slightly more expensive than previous filaments.

Nylon filament

It is stronger and more durable but more expensive than ABS and PLA. It is also less brittle. It is completely a thermoplastic material and as such can be melted again and reused. It, however, needs a high temperature to melt it animates toxic fumes when heated. It absorbs moisture so it needs to be stored in a dry place.

PVA filament

Stands for Polyvinyl Alcohol. This is a structurally sound material and can be used as support frames when 3D printing. This is also because this material easily dissolves in water, making the post-production process much easier. It requires a lower temperature to melt it compared to other filaments. However, it can be more difficult to find and cost more than other materials.

Composite filaments

Which category of filaments include sandstone filament, wood filament, and metal filament and even magnetic iron filament. As their names imply is filament contains particles of brick, wood, metal, and iron respectively. Many of these filaments have PLA as their base polymer. They are usually more complex to work with but produce breathtaking results.

Conductive PLA filament, Carbon Fiber filament, and flexible TPE filament are other extremely functional variations of typical 3D printer filaments. They all have their uses and can take your 3d projects to another level.

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