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3D Printing Filament Buying Guide — What Material Is Best for You?

3D Printing Filament Buying Guide — What Material Is Best for You?

Fused Deposit Modeling (FDM) printers are inexpensive and available. They are the most popular method of 3D printing among beginners and other small enterprises. The FDM printer is a type of 3D printer which employs filament on a spool to produce 3D objects. There are, however, various kinds of filament, each of which is suitable for particular applications and ineffective for others.

To get the best out of your 3D printing experience, you must pick the proper type of material for your 3D printer, whether it's PLA, ABS, or something more exotic. We will look at eight of the best basic filament kinds in this article to help you make the best choice. Let’s begin.

What Makes a Filament Safe for Use?

Biocompatibility is a property of several 3D printing filaments; this is what makes them ideal for medical and food applications. Other materials are more resistant to the weather and can withstand rain, chemicals, and rapid temperature changes. Before choosing to use a particular filament for a particular purpose there are 3 primary things you should look into;

  • Biocompatibility refers to how something interacts with the human body without causing harm.
  • Printing safety: Some filaments release chemicals during printing, which might be harmful to your health.
  • Chemical resistance: Filaments have varying levels of chemical resistance which allows some to preserve their strength and longevity better than others.

The Best 3D Printing Filament Types for Your Printer

  1. PLA filament

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is the most popular and user-friendly 3D printing filament. It is made from fermented corn, cassava, maize, sugarcane, or sugar beet pulp, as opposed to most plastics. Therefore, it's non-toxic and compostable using an industrial composter. PLA is the safest of the filaments because the material melts at a low temperature of between 190 and 215 Celsius and can then be extruded. PLA can be printed on almost any FDM 3D printer in the world.

When should I use PLA 3D printing filaments?

PLA is brittle when compared to other types of 3D printer filament. For this reason, it is best to avoid using it for products that will be bent, twisted, or dropped frequently, such as phone covers, large toys, or tool handles.

PLA tends to warp at temperatures of 60°C or higher, therefore you should avoid using it with things that require it to tolerate higher temperatures. PLA is a good general choice of 3D printer filament for all other uses. Common models that can be printed with PLA are small toys, prototype pieces, and containers.

  1. ABS filaments

ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) filament has a wide range of applications. It can withstand a lot of heat, is easy to sand, and can be polished to a flawless gloss with acetone. The most significant drawback is toxicity.

As ABS melts, you don't want to breathe in the toxic fumes it emits, so before using ABS, make sure you're in a well-ventilated place. Asides from that, it's more durable and heat-resistant than PLA. Most printers can print ABS, but for best results, you'll need a heated bed that can reach 100 degrees Celsius, and enclosing your printing model is a good idea.

When should I use ABS printing filament?

ABS is a robust material that can endure a lot of pressure and heat. It is also considerably adaptable.  ABS is a good multi-purpose 3D printer filament because of these features, but it thrives when it comes to products that are frequently handled, dropped, or heated. Phone cases, high-wear toys, tool handles, vehicle trim components, and electrical enclosures are just a few examples.

  1. PETG filament

PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol) is a great alternative to ABS since it is chemically identical to the plastic used in water and soft drink bottles. It possesses the heat resistance of ABS without harmful emissions and can be sanded in the same way that PLA can. PETG can be printed on most FDM printers that can print PLA, though it takes a little more work to get it perfect.

 When can I use PETG 3D printing filament?

PETG is generally a good type of 3D filament, it sticks out from many other types of 3D printer filament because of its adaptability, durability, and resilience to high temperatures and pressures. This makes it the perfect 3D printer filament for functional components including mechanical parts, printer parts, and protective features that may be subjected to prolonged or abrupt stress.

  1. Nylon filament

Nylon is a popular synthetic polymer that is used by many families in a variety of industrial applications and is excellent for usage in human bodies, having been employed in medical and food applications. It thrives as a 3D printing filament where toughness, versatility, and resilience are essential. 

When nylon is printed, it is said to emit a volatile organic compound called Caprolactam. Making an enclosure for your 3D model and printing in a well-ventilated room is essential for your health. Nylon is also chemically resistant to a wide range of substances, including alcohol and acids.

When should I use nylon 3D printing filament?

This sort of 3d printing material takes full advantage of nylon's tenacity, flexibility, and longevity to make tools, functional designs, or mechanical parts (like hinges, buckles, or gears).

  1. PC filament

In addition to being one of the strongest 3D printer filaments, polycarbonate (PC) is extremely durable and can resist both physical damage and hot temperatures of up to 110°C. It's also naturally transparent, which is why bulletproof glass, dive masks, and electronic display panels are made of PC filament.

When should I Use polycarbonate 3D printing filament?

PC is a suitable 3D printer filament for components that need to maintain strength, sturdiness, and shape in high-temperature conditions, such as electrical, industrial, or automobile components, due to its physical qualities. Its optical lucidity can also be used for lighting projects, screens, and other applications that require transparency.

  1. PVA filament

Industrial applications take advantage of the fact that polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) is soluble in water. Packaging for dishwasher soap "pods" or bags full of fishing bait are two examples of popular uses.

In 3D printing, the same concept is applicable, making PVA an excellent support material when used in conjunction with another 3D printer filament in a dual extrusion 3D printer.

It's also important to be cautious when storing it, as moisture in the air might harm the filament before it can even be printed. If you want to preserve a spool of PVA viable for a long time, you'll need dry boxes and silica capsules.

When should I use PVA printing filament?

PVA filament is an excellent support material for complex prints that have overhangs.

  1. Cleaning filament

3D printer cleaning filament, like the other filaments, is used to clean 3D printer extruders rather than produce 3D models. Its goal is to get rid of any leftover material from prior prints that may have accumulated in the hot end. Cleaning 3D printer filament is a good standard practice, but it's especially important when switching between materials with different print temperatures or hues.

The typical technique involved in using the cleaning filament involves manually inserting the cleaning material into the heated print head to force out the old material, then cooling the hot end slightly and tugging the filament out again.

When should I use cleaning 3D printing filament?

You should consider cleaning your 3d printer with the cleaning filament between prints, especially when using two different materials with drastically different temperature requirements. Asides that, it is generally a good idea to give your hot end some TLC now and then.

Choosing the right 3D printer filament material

When it comes to filament selection, the most critical consideration is the final application of your print. In the end, the function of the object you're printing will determine which filament you use.

  1. Filaments for beginners

If you are new to 3D printing procedures, some materials like PLA and PETG will be easier for you to use until you become more familiar with the process.

PLA is the most popular material for 3D printing, especially among hobbyists because it is simple and inexpensive to print with a standard configuration. PETG is likewise simple to print, however, it has qualities that are similar to ABS, a more mid-level material.

  1. Professionals and experienced users

Users with more knowledge about 3D printing can make use of Polycarbonate, ABS, and nylon filaments because they are capable of printing more sophisticated designs. For these mid-level materials, you can use a regular configuration, but you may need to change your cura or printing application software.

  1. Materials to make prototypes and tools

3D printing is frequently used to create prototypes and tools that aid in the manufacturing process. The most typically utilized materials are PLA and PET-G. If you require your prototype or tool to be resistant to harsh chemicals, high temperatures, or duress, a more sophisticated material, such as ABS should be considered.

Conclusion

Picking the proper material for your next 3D project doesn’t have to be tough.  There are a plethora of options for you to pick from. We hope this article has given you enough information you need to make a choice that would properly suit your needs.

When choosing materials to work with it, safety isn't the only factor to keep in mind. You should also consider the material’s strength, flexibility, and printing convenience.

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