The standard 3D printing filament known as PLA became the go-to filament for beginners due to its easy nature. Quality PLA filaments will print at extremely fast speeds, and with the correct settings, can stop warping with relatively easy adjustments. PLA is easy to use and due to its widespread demand, many colors and variations are available.
Another great thing about PLA is the low cost. It’s one of the lowest priced filaments available. PLA has an unexpectedly high tensile strength. It is stiff and rigid and can resist pressure without breaking. However, PLA is not intended for high impact uses despite its high tensile strength.
PLA can be printed on basically any FDM 3D printer. Because of its price, accessibility, and ease of use, PLA is a prime choice for quick prototypes, smooth prints and inexperienced users.
Print Temperature: 200 – 210 degrees Celsius
Print Bed Temperature: 50 – 60 degrees Celsius
Experience Required: Beginner
ABS is a next step up from PLA. It has some similar PLA features, but it requires a little more effort. ABS is stronger than PLA and is about just as rigid. ABS needs a heated print bed. Since it shrinks slightly when cooled, the heated bed allows for the print to cool evenly. ABS can require a print bed temperature as high as 110 degrees Celsius.
Each brand and model will have slightly different settings that need to be adjusted to determine the best print quality. Also, every printer is unique in its own way and may need some settings adjustments to print.
In some instances ABS will print better with an enclosure because it helps keep the heat in the printer and regulate the temperature of the overall print.
Print Temperature: 220 – 260 degrees Celsius
Print Bed Temperature: Up to 110 degrees Celsius
Experience Required: Beginner - Intermediate
Cost: Low- Medium
Durability: Medium High
The increasingly popular 3D printer filament, Nylon, is a great choice for printed outputs that need strength. Nylon filaments are some of the strongest filaments available for desktop printers and are extremely durable. Nylon is not only strong, but can also be re-enforced to be more rigid, give it an additional visual appeal, or change the texture. Carbon fiber re-enforced Nylon is a very strong and rigid filament. While there are a few Nylons that can be printed as low as 230 degrees, generally 250 degrees and up is needed in general to print nylons. Nylons need to stay dry! They can absorb water extremely fast and will ruin a print if it has absorbed moisture. A sign of Nylon not being dry is the filament steaming and crackling as it extrudes from the nozzle. The best way to dry Nylon is using a filament dryer such as the PrintDry Filament Dryer. This specific dryer also allows the filament to stay in the dryer while the 3D printer works on a print. This works by feeding the filament in the dryer into a small hole on the dryer’s edge and fed into the 3D printer. Overall, Nylons properties are amazing, but it is very important to have the correct set up and resources (such as a filament dryer) to print successfully. Otherwise, Nylon will warp in a manner that could potentially pull itself off the print bed.
In some cases, Nylon can be printed without a heated bed. With or without a heated print bed, a form of glue or bed adhesion, and a bed material that supports Nylon will all help stop warping. Most importantly, an enclosure will raise the chances of printing Nylon successfully.
Print Temperature: 230 – 300 degrees Celsius
Print Bed Temperature: Room Temperature –
110 degrees Celsius
Experience Required: Intermediate - Expert
Cost: Medium - High
Stiffness: Rigid in thick layers, flexible when thin
The dominant choice for temperature resistance and strength. Polycarbonate is debatably the strongest filament that can be printed of a desktop 3D printer. Polycarbonate filaments usually require an extremely high print temperature, enclosure, and a very high bed temperature. Usually with Polycarbonates, the hotter it is printed, the better (within reason). Printing polycarbonates can take a while to master. Some of Polycarbonate’s toughest problems include poor layer adhesion and warping. There are definitely solutions available to help the fussy filament stick, but it will require effort to perfect. Printing aside, Polycarbonate is an absolutely amazingly powerful filament. Some filaments can also be a synthetic mixture of polycarbonate, such as a polycarbonate and ABS mix. This mix takes some of the features of polycarbonate, but allows for easier printing because of the ABS in the filament.
Print Temperature: 270 – 350 degrees Celsius
Print Bed Temperature: 135 – 150 degrees Celsius
Experience Required: Expert
Cost: Medium - High
Stiffness: Semi -Flexible - Rigid
Available in a wide range of colors, flexible filaments are some of the best filaments for widespread use. Flexible filaments are so durable because they will stretch when a filament such as PLA might snap or crack. Flexible filaments are available from extremely flexible filaments to Semi-Flexible filaments. The possibilities are endless with flexible filaments. Slow speeds are usually required for flexible filaments and powerful extruders will help “grip” the filament as it passes through the push gears in the extruders. Further, flexible filaments do not require extremely high temperature nozzles, allowing for a large number of printers that are able to print flexible filaments. Finally, flexible filaments can be printed warp free with a small bit of tweaking for the settings, providing usable and flexible parts.
Print Temperature: 220 – 240 degrees Celsius
Print Bed Temperature: 45 – 70 degrees Celsius
Experience Required: Medium