3D Printer Filament Types And Uses

Photo of author
Written By Alex

Alex Webster loves all things tech. He's a 44-year-old married father of two. Alex has been fascinated with technology from a young age and started his first business at 16. He also is the Chief Editor here at CanTechBeCool

When it comes to 3D printing, the filament you use is critical. Different filaments produce different results and knowing which filament to use for what project is essential. Here is a breakdown of the most common types of filament and their uses:

ABS Filament 

The most common filament used in 3D printers is ABS. It is challenging, high impact-resistant, strong, and slightly flexible, and can be easily extruded. ABS filament can be used for functional parts such as 3D printed phone cases and touchpads, electronic enclosures and mounts, lampshades, toys, etc.

PLA Filament

The PLA filament is a biodegradable thermoplastic made from renewable sources such as cornstarch, sugar cane, and tapioca roots. It can be safely used in homes and classrooms.

Surgical implants and medical sutures are made with this filament, and it can be used in food packaging, candy wrappers, disposable tableware, disposable garments, and hygiene products.

When PLA filament is saturated with water, it becomes brittle, clogs printer nozzles, and requires higher extrusion temperatures.

Metal PLA

Metal PLA is a category of PLA combined with actual metallic powder. It produces 3D printed materials that look like metal.

Magnetic Iron PLA

The magnetic iron PLA filament can be used to create magnet-like objects on a 3D printer. In addition to not being soluble, it requires fine-tuning of nozzle temperature, flow rate, and post-processing, and is expensive.

Conductive PLA filament

A bare circuit board can be 3D printed directly from the print bed using conductive PLA filament. This filament is conductive, dimmable, and printable at lower temperatures than regular PLA. You can use it to make 3D-printed electronic devices, such as buttons or keypads.

Carbon fiber PLA

PLA made from carbon fiber has impressive rigidity, structure, and layer adhesion, and is comparable to a standard PLA in processing. Suitable for mechanical parts, protective casings, shells, and applications requiring high durability.

PVA Filament

Polyvinyl Alcohol or PVA filament is a great 3D printing material that is non-toxic and biodegradable. It is also used as a paper adhesive, thickener, packaging film, feminine hygiene, adult incontinence products, and children’s play putty or slime.

PET Filament

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a stable and harmless plastic that can be printed in different versions, including food-safe PETG.

PET filament is ideal for packaging purposes because of its strength and flexibility. It can be printed at temperatures from 160c to 210c without any issues.

PETG Filament 

A PETG filament is essentially PET with the addition of “glycol-modified” (hence the name PETG). It prints without leaving an odor, is highly durable, and is suitable for protective components and mechanical parts.

PETT Filament 

PETT, marketed as T-Glase filament, is a popular 3D printer filament that is colorless and water clear and is not biodegradable. It is recyclable and is safe for direct food contact.

HIPS Filament

High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) filament is biodegradable and has a bright white color. It is also a tremendous 3D support material.

HIPS filament is used in dual extrusion 3D printers as a support material for complex objects. It can also be used to pack CDs and produce medicinal trays.

Nylon Filament

Nylon filament is a popular synthetic polymer used in many industrial applications. It is strong, lightweight, flexible, chemical resistant, and wear-resistant.

Nylon can absorb moisture readily and has issues with adhesion. So, you have to keep it dry and use moisture remover or silica gel packets when storing it.

Wood Filament

If you want to produce wood-like outputs from your 3D printer, use FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) filament, also known as Wood Filament. The print temperature should be between 175C and 250C.

Sandstone 3D printer filament

Sandstone 3D printer filament combines fine chalk powder with PLA to give you a unique output. It sticks well on the print bed and doesn’t need a heated bed.

TPE filament

TPE filament is super stretchable and is suitable for FDM printers. It can withstand challenging environments that ABS and PLA can’t.

TPU filament

TPU filament is made of thermoplastic polyurethane, which is flexible by nature and resistant to grease, oil, and abrasion.

Glow in the dark filament

A glow-in-the-dark filament is a type of PLA that glows in the dark when charged or exposed to a light source.

PLA filament designed for 3D printing is perfect for children’s toys, novelty items, wearables, phone cases, and visual products. Additionally, it provides a new dimension to arts through 3D printing for budding artists.

The material is specially designed for 3D printing. It produces glossy, opaque, and bright objects.

Amphora 

Amphora is stiff, lightweight, and impact-resistant, making it perfect for mechanical parts. Printing it produces few odors, it is very strong, and it has cleaner overhangs and little warping. 

This thermoplastic resists UV rays, water, and deterioration. It is less popular than ABS and PLA.

Using PLA 3D printer filament will help you create a glow-in-the-dark object. You can also use ABS if you’re looking for a cheaper material.

Beware of Moisture

Moisture is a common issue with 3D printer filaments. The material splatters and splits at the hot end.

Best Filaments for Food Containers

Because these filaments are food safe, PLA, PET, and PETG are the best choices when printing food containers. In the same way, ABS, Nylon, PVA, TPU, Carbon fiber, Metal, PLA, and PETG can be the best choices.

Summary 

In general, there are a variety of filaments available for 3D printing, each with unique characteristics. The most popular filaments are PLA, ABS, TPE, metal, nylon, sandstone, magnet, carbon fiber, and glow in the dark filaments. When choosing a filament material, it is essential to consider the desired results and the printer’s capabilities.