Deciding on the Right 3d Printing Filament for Your Design

how to choose the right 3d printing filament

Several factors determine the successful outcome of 3D printing processes. One of the foremost among these is choosing the right 3D printing filament.

Nowadays, 3D printing services make use of a large and ever-expanding inventory of 3D printing materials. While the most popular ones continue to be thermoplastics, comprising PLA and PETG, the options have expanded to include nylon, polycarbonate, metals, wood and many more.

Some Fundamental Considerations

The fundamental considerations when researching and deciding on different filaments for 3D printing, it is essential to facto in specifications about tolerance and roundness. These features are a key indicator of a filament’s quality.

Tolerance specification defines how much larger or smaller the diameter of a filament is likely to be than the size indicated diameter, at any given point. On the other hand, the characteristic of roundness, defined as a percentage or a measurement of deviation, is the consistency of the filament’s shape is.

Size or the diameter of a 3D printing filament is another crucial determinant when it comes to making your choice. What this means is that the printer’s nozzle must be able to smoothly fit in your chosen 3D printing material without getting jammed.

For this, the user must be aware of the machine’s specifications for the right size. Mostly, the available filaments in the market vary in diameter between 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm.

Basic 3D Printing Filaments

In the following section are listed some of the most commonly used as well as some novel options in filaments used in 3D printing.

PLA (Polylactic Acid)

PLA is, perhaps, the most utilized 3D printing materials. In fact, it is usually the default filament recommended in most 3D printing processes. Its features include:

  • High strength
  • Easy to print
  • Odorless 
  • Minimum shrinkage/warping
  • Print bed temperature: 20°C – 60°C
  • Available in a wide range of colours and styles

Benefits:

  1. PLA is an eco-friendly 3D print material made from renewable resources, such as cornstarch. It requires far less energy than any other comparable material, not to mention conventional plastics.
  2. Many specialty filaments, such as conductive or glow in the dark, use PLA as their base material. 

Uses: Cosmetic prints, prototypes, low-stress applications.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

ABS is only second to PLA when it comes to popular 3D printer materials. Its features include:

  • High strength
  • High durability
  • Print temperature: 210°C – 250°C
  • Print bed temperature: 80°C – 110°C
  • Soluble in esters, ketones, and acetone
  • Available in both 1.75mm and 3mm diameters

Benefits: 

  1. It can withstand higher temperatures than PLA filament.
  2. ABS is less brittle, and more ductile, as compared to PLA.
  3. When mixed in acetone, ABS can be used to provide a glossy finish to surfaces.

Uses: Interlocking parts like gears, parts exposed to very high temperatures, such as handles on a tool, automotive trim components, electrical enclosures, phone cases, etc.

PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate)

The most common form of plastic used in the world, its variant, PETG, is gaining in popularity as a filament for 3D printing. The ‘G’ means “glycol-modified”, that is responsible for a clear filament. It is often considered a great middle point between ABS and PLA. Its features include:

  • Less brittle than PLA or ABS.
  • Easy to print
  • High strength
  • High durability
  • Print temperature: 220°C – 250°C
  • Print bed temperature: 50°C – 75°C
  • Minimum shrinkage/ warping

Benefits: 

  1. Highly resistant to heat
  2. Highly flexible
  3. Can withstand high impact, making it ideal for functional objects that are required to withstand stress.

Uses: Mechanical parts, printer parts, and protective components.

Nylon

Nylon is an immensely popular choice from the group of synthetic polymers used in industrial applications. Its features include:

  • Highly flexible
  • High strength
  • Durable
  • Print temperature: 240°C – 260°C
  • Print bed temperature: 70°C – 100°C

Benefits: 

  1. Nylon can be dyed before or after printing

Uses: Tools, prototypes, or mechanical parts.

Polycarbonate (PC)

Another filament known for its high strength and durability, the transparent Polycarbonate is being increasingly used for printing commercial products. Its features include:

  • Extraordinarily strong
  • Extremely durable
  • Print temperature: 270°C – 310°C
  • Print bed temperature: 90°C – 110°C

Benefits: 

  1. Highly resistant to heat
  2. Can withstand high impact
  3. Its transparent feature gives it an edge

Uses: Electrical, mechanical, or automotive components, lighting fixtures, electronic display screens, bulletproof glass, scuba masks, etc.

Wood

Wood in itself cannot make for a feasible 3D printing material. It can be blended with PLA to produce an exotic filament.

  • Come in a variety of standard wood, such as Pine, Birch, Cedar, Ebony, and Willow
  • Also available in the less common types, such as, Cherry, Coconut, Cork, and Olive

Benefits:

  1. Aesthetically attractive
  2. Ideally suited for visual models

Uses: Desks, tables, figurines, and trophies, scale models for architectural purposes.

Metal 

Metal filaments are blending of metal powder with either PLA or ABS. its characteristic features include:

  • Available in a wide range of metals, such as bronze, brass, copper, aluminium, stainless steel, gold, silver, titanium, platinum, etc.
  • Provides a metallic finish

Benefits: 

  1. It can be polished, or weathered, depending on the post-processing requirements of the project.
  2. Can be used in both aesthetic as well as functional projects

Uses: Figurines, toys, specific tools, or finishing components.

PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol)

PVA is another filament that is commercially very popular. Its main feature is:

  • Soluble in water

Benefits:

  1. An ideal support material when paired with another filament

Uses: A great choice as a support material for complex prints with overhangs.

When opting for a service provider for 3D printing, keep this guide in mind. It will help you make the best material choices for your 3D print project.

Author:

Zeal 3D Printing is the leading 3D printing service provider in Melbourne. They are offering 3d design, printing, and scanning services for health, education, manufacturing, and defense industry.

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