3D printing materials

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Three-dimensional printers are very popular among printing business manufacturers. You can see 3D printers nearly everywhere: in workshops, in offices, even in college classrooms. 

To use a 3D printer, we need to find a high-quality material. ABS along with PLA, these two kinds of thermoplastic materials, were among the most popular. But now, with the development of the printing technology, it became possible to print using many other unusual materials, such as wood, metal, carbon fiber etc.

The general difference between standard and non-standard 3D materials is that the latter ones consist of some exotic substances. It puts them on the front row in the sphere of 3D printing. These materials are quite special because, apart from usual plastic (such as PLA or ABS, for example), metals, carbon fibers, wood or phosphorescent dyes also form the structure of such unique materials with unique properties.

Having such a wide choice of materials for 3D printing, it isn’t difficult to create a beautiful, exquisite object with defined properties. Here we will give you a hint, what kind of materials are used for three-dimensional printing and which of them to use and when.


Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) used to be the most popular material for 3D print. This one is a cheap, durable, quite flexible and lightweight material. ABS is perfect for 3D printing. You do know what ABS actually is – it is used for LEGO parts and for producing bicycle helmets. 

Unfortunately, ABS has recently lost its popularity among users. The reason is that it also has a few serious drawbacks. For instance, ABS melts at 210°C – 250°C. It is not that easy to reach such a high temperature under normal conditions. 

Besides, the use of ABS demands a special heating platform. It’s because this kind of plastic can easily deform while being cooled.

Another dangerous setback of using ABS is that while printing, some heavy vapours can arise in the air which can bring harm to people’s and animals’ lives. It is not recommended to breathe ABS vapours in. Only a well-ventilated area is suitable for printing with it.

Other important features of ABS are mentioned here:

  • High strength and durability 
  • Suited for producing automobile parts, electronics and also toys
  • Low flexibility
  • Can be easily dissolved in acetone
  • Should not be in contact with food
  • Can be deformed when cooling, so you should always keep the cooling process under control
  • Attached heating platform which can maintain the required temperatures 
  • Print difficulty level – medium
  • Requires high nozzle temperature.


The polylactic acid polymer (PLA) beat ABS in popularity and became a very good choice for many 3D enthusiasts. PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic usually made from renewable materials. A big plus of PLA is that it is much more environmentally friendly than other plastic materials.

Another interesting feature of PLA is that this polymer material can be used in the pressroom without fear – its vapours are not toxic and thus are not dangerous. The smell that PLA makes is not as disgusting as ABS’s. Plus, PLA doesn’t deform when cooling so it is not required to have a heating platform (just be sure you can have one, but it’s not necessary at all). Also, PLA is stronger than ABS which leads to more delicate 3D printed outcomes. Some other important information about PLA is given below: 

  • Durable and  user friendly, 
  • Suits printing small toys very well
  • High print speed and smooth transition between layers
  • Cannot be dissolved
  • Sometimes it can be allowed to print food (e.g. confectionary) – for more information address your manufacturer directly
  • The temperature required for printing ranges from 80°C to 230°C
  • Print difficulty level – simple.


Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a good alternative to both ABS and PLA because of its higher durability and flexibility rates. Besides, printing setup is as simple as with PLA, and  there is no unpleasant smell in the room, plus polyethylene waste can be recycled. PET seems to be a sort of perfect material for 3D printing.

Polyethylene terephthalate is frequently used for mobile phone covers. Thanks to its durability, sometimes PET is also used for producing bulletproof vests.

Other obvious advantages of using PET include:  

  • Durable and lightweight at the same time
  • Suits different mechanical parts
  • High wear resistance
  • Good flexibility
  • Not soluble
  • The temperature range suitable for printing is 220°C – 250°C
  • Print difficulty level – medium


Polyethylene co-trimethylene terephthalate (PETT) is PET’s brother. Sometimes you can see the name T-Glase instead of PETT. It is a really durable material. But PETT is different because it’s transparent and also biocompatible. It has also been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Now PETT can be used to produce food containers as well.


High impact polystyrene (HIPS) is most often used in food industry for packaging. HIPS is biodegradable. It has a bright white colour. People as well as pets may contact high impact polystyrene because HIPS can’t technically do them harm.

As for 3D printing, HIPS is not directly used for 3D print as it has some adhesion problems, and it would be a waste of time if you don’t have a special heating platform.

Opposite to that, HIPS can be quite efficient when is used as a secondary material (double extrusion), for the material can provide some structural support for the complex object. After you have finished 3D printing process, you can dissolve HIPS with the use of, for example, acetone. It disappears as if there was some magic in it! Also, HIPS can be used together with ABS

Here are HIPS key features: 

  • High strength
  • Low flexibility
  • Can be dissolved in acetone
  • Not recommended that HIPS and food come in contact with each other  
  • Total print temperature range – 210°C – 250°C
  • Obvious shrinkage during cooling
  • Platform should be heated up to 50°С – 100°С
  • Print difficulty level – medium.


Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) is typically used as structural support when printing complex objects. Just like HIPS, PVA is also an excellent two-filament 3D printing material.

PVA proved to be non-toxic and biodegradable. It can be dissolved in water without any effort. A big plus of PVA is that it can be used with all the FDM 3D printers. But a heating platform is needed. Remember that you never have to exceed the printing temperature so as to prevent PVA from deforming. Quite often PVA is used in combination with PLA.

General features of PVA are mentioned right here below:

  • Durability
  • Low flexibility
  • Soluble in water
  • The best temperature for printing ranges from 180°C to 230°C
  • Can be shrunk when cooling
  • Print difficulty level – low.


Polyamide, also known as nylon, is a popular synthetic polymer. It is a cost-effective plastic, durable, lightweight, flexible and wear-resistant. Nylon is significantly less fragile than PLA or ABS

Nylon can be used to produce many different things, such as parts of complex mechanisms, containers, different consumer goods and even toys. By the way, it can be dyed any colour you wish.

Important specifications about nylon are given below:

  • Can be used for gears and bearings
  • Nylon withstands dynamic stresses
  • High strength and flexibility
  • Not soluble
  • Best temperatures for printing are from 220°C to 260°C
  • Platform which can be heated up to 50°С – 100°С is advised!
  • Print difficulty level – medium.


Laywood can be referred as a sort of wood filaments. Wooden 3D objects with marvellously pleasant tactile sensations is what Laywood can offer. The 3D print market is already rich in different wood filaments. Each of them has its own unique combination of plastic and wood fibers. But, wood is wood, and such materials have certain drawbacks – they are usually not very durable. But, despite that, Laywood and other wood filaments have lots of advantages, too:

  • Pleasant to eye appearance and unforgettable tactile sensations
  • Best recommended to use for home decor
  • Good flexibility
  • Can not be dissolved
  • Food must be kept as far away as possible
  • Total print temperature range is 195°C – 220°C
  • Shrinkage is possible
  • Print difficulty level – medium.


If your job is the architectural or landscape design, you ought to consider this one – laybrick. It contains chalk powder so that reproducing the colour and the texture of stones will be easier. Depending on extrusion temperature, laybrick can create a smooth or a rough surface.

General benefits of using laybrick:

  • Perfect for creating building layouts and landscape 
  • Low strength, no flexibility, can be crumbled easily
  • Not soluble
  • Best temperatures when printing – 165°C – 210°C
  • Heating platform is not required
  • Print difficulty level – medium.

Metal + PLA

In fact, this one is PLA mixed with metal powder. Things that you 3D print with the help of metal+PLA mixture, look as if they were made of bronze, brass or copper. Besides, they can also be polished just like metals. The bonus that metal+PLA gives is that you can make your PLA adhere to metals. This will definitely be a good idea for your next project.

General properties of metal+PLA are here:

  • Good magnetic properties
  • Suits decorating fridges best
  • High strength
  • Low flexibility
  • Not soluble
  • The temperature range suitable for printing ranges from 195°C  up to 220°C
  • Can be shrunk when cooling
  • High extruder temperature is required
  • Print difficulty level – high.


Conductive can open new horizons for your 3D printing. This material consists of small conductive carbon particles. With the new Conductive, you can print 3D electronic circuits. Such circuits can be quite efficient in LEDs and sensors. Conductive can also go in combination with PLA.

General benefits provided by Conductive:

  • Printing low voltage electronic devices
  • Low strength
  • If being bent over and over, can be broken 
  • Not soluble
  • The temperature range is 215°C – 230°C
  • Low shrinkage level
  • Heating platform is not required
  • Print difficulty level – low.

Heat Sensitive PLA

Do you remember those T-shirts that could change their colour depending on the current body temperature? Heat Sensitive PLA is just about the same. It will change its colour reflecting body temperature. There are already several colour combinations offered by different manufacturers. Sometimes when Heat Sensitive PLA is used, things that are made of it, can also show some kind of reaction to light! A few other interesting properties are here below:

  • Ideal for toys, souvenirs and other artwork
  • Good durability
  • Medium flexibility
  • Not soluble
  • Never try using it with food!
  • Best temperature is 215°C
  • Shrinkage is not visible 
  • Print difficulty level – low.

Carbon PLA

This one is PLA with carbon fibers which ensures high durability and good adhesion. But, there are also some drawbacks. Carbon PLA is abrasive and that’s why extruder wear will be much worse. After you used half a kilo of this filament, you will notice that the diameter of nozzles has increased. Besides, it’s recommended that the nozzles should be covered with tungsten carbide. Otherwise, be ready to change the nozzles after a long use. A few more important features of Carbon PLA:

  • High strength and layer adhesion
  • Low flexibility
  • Not soluble
  • Printing temperature range – 195°C – 220°C
  • Little shrinkage 
  • High extruder wear
  • Print difficulty level – medium.

Flexible TPE

Flexible TPE can help you create good-stretching objects. Under such high tension, ABS and PLA would both give in. Though, you have to be trained and experienced enough to work with Flexible TPE. Some more info to learn is here:

  • Extremely high flexibility
  • Ideal for toys, souvenirs and other unusual things
  • High strength and flexibility
  • Not soluble
  • Best printing temperature is 225°C – 235°C
  • Low shrinkage level during cooling
  • Heating platform is not recommended
  • Print difficulty level – high.

Glowing PLA

Glowing PLA is another new material used for 3D printing. It is different from others because Glowing PLA can accumulate light and glow in the dark. If you work anywhere with poor light conditions, this one is for you. Also, there are some other facts about Glowing PLA

  • Best used for making toys, souvenirs, etc.
  • Medium flexibility
  • Not soluble
  • Best temperature when printing is 215°C
  • Not high shrinkage
  • Heating platform is not necessary
  • Print difficulty level – low.


Amphora is a next-generation filament. It is mainly produced by Eastman Chemical Company. Amphora looks like a usual 3D thermoplastic, but in reality this one is a brand new polymer manufactured specially for 3D print industry. Amphora is only a beginner, but it has already left a good impression on customers. Now, Amphora is sold under the names of NGEN and N-Vent. Other benefits of using Amphora are introduced below:

  • No smell during printing
  • Has a higher melting temperature than PLA
  • Good adhesion capabilities
  • Can be in contact with food (approved by US Food and Drug Administration)
  • High durability
  • Lightweight
  • More flexible than ABS and PLA
  • Print difficulty level – medium.


Filamentarno!’ company is responsible for producing consumables for using with FDM 3D printers. They put emphasis on how things look, so Filamentarno will be most interesting for designers, architects and other sorts of inventors.

The low level of shrinkage and increased flexibility provide high-quality printing. No complex printing setup adjustments are required, which is most comfortable for the user. Filamentarno is also suitable for 3D pens – favourite children’s toys. Filamentarno is not dangerous for food.


Glassfil is a transparent thermoplastic with some unique properties, among which – it can transmit ultraviolet and X-rays. It reflects infrared radiation. Besides, Glassfil cannot be destroyed by ultraviolet rays. It is also resistant to moisture and bacterial infection. Additionally, Glassfil can  withstand high and low temperatures. This 3D material is environmentally friendly and has some dielectric properties. 

Most often, Glassfil is used for manufacturing some medical and agriculture equipment and for printing all kinds of household items.

As you can see, there are plenty of different 3D print materials. Each of them has its advantages and disadvantages. But the world industry manufacturers still haven’t invented a new, perfect 3D material. So, it’s obvious that 3D opportunities are everywhere. It’s also obvious that we will learn about new, even better 3D materials in the nearest future. 

Image source: https://t-textile.ru

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