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3D Printing Filaments

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is the same  plastic used in Legos. It’s tough, nontoxic and retains color well. It's also easy to shape, but tough to break, as it melts and becomes pliable at about 220 degrees C (about 430 degrees Fahrenheit).

These properties make ABS very suitable for 3D printing. You do need a large heater to reach that 220 degrees C melting point, but ABS becomes soft and pliable when heated and then sets quickly. A printer with a heated print bed is also usually needed as ABS will stick to a hot print bed.

It’s also water- and chemical-resistant. ABS does produce a slightly unpleasant smell when heated, and the vapor can contain some nasty chemicals, so you'll need good ventilation. Because ABS is broken down by UV radiation, it isn't suitable for long-term outdoor use, as it loses its color and becomes brittle.

Pros: Tough, impact-resistant material; Nontoxic and water resistant

Cons: High melting point; Unpleasant fumes; Not suitable for outdoor use

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a polymer plastic, made from biological materials like cornstarch or sugarcane. It is similar to the material used in biodegradable plastic packaging and melts at between 180 and 200 degrees C, depending on other materials that are added for color and texture. PLA is a tough, resilient material with a matte, opaque quality, but it is not as tolerant of heat as ABS is. PLA begins to deform at temperatures above 60 degrees C, and it is not water or chemical resistant. There is a slight smell when it is heated, rather like microwave popcorn, but no toxic odors or vapor.

PLA is generally the preferred option for low-cost 3D printers, because it is easier to print with than ABS, as it is stickier. It will stick well to a print base covered in white glue or blue painter's tape, which means that a heated print bed is not needed. The material is also biodegradable; like other corn- or sugar-based materials, it is slowly consumed by many common bacteria. It will last a long time in normal conditions, though. It's only when buried that it breaks down.

Pros: Easier to print with than ABS; Biodegradable

Cons: Prints degrade over time; Rougher texture than ABS

Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol (PETG) is an extreme high strength filament and can achieve very sturdy and strong prints. It has very low shrinkage, making this perfect for larger flat surfaces.  PET itself, or Polyethylene terephthalate, is actually not what you’ll typically 3D print, that would be PETG or the glycol-modified version of PET. The glycol content keeps the plastic from crystallizing, making it a bit softer, chewier and having it melt at a lower temperature – pretty much ideal for 3D printing on the common machines. PETG print at around 230°C, pure PET at 260°C or more.

PETG is a high-impact, co-polyester material, but it does not hold up well in outdoor applications unless UV resistant stabilizers are added. Because of its soft surface, it is also vulnerable to scratching in high contact environments.  PETG is FDA compliant, so it can be used in medical and food applications.

Pros: Simple to sand, high degree of flexibility, resists warping

Cons: Some stringing, easier to scratch than ABS, higher temp

Polycarbonate (PC) is a dimensionally stable, transparent thermoplastic with a structure that allows for outstanding impact resistance. With high-performance properties, Polycarbonate is the leading plastic material for various applications that demand high functioning temperatures and safety features.

Because of its durable make-up, polycarbonate is often the preferred thermoplastic over materials like PMMA and Acrylic. Polycarbonates are unique in its working temperatures and ability to experience minimal degradation between heating and cooling points. Polycarbonate features a high working temperature of 266 degrees Fahrenheit and cooling temperatures at -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pros: High impact resistance, UV filtration, handles repetitive melting

Cons: Scratchable, can be toxic

High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) is a tough, rigid plastic material with high impact strength which can be guillotined, punched, routered or sawn easily, and is readily available in a wide variety of colors. Used widely for toys, packaging, signs, kicking plates, display and point of sale.

Some people choose to print with HIPS by itself but the real magic of this filament is if you have a dual extruder and you use it as a dissolvable support material.

HIPS is as easy to print with as ABS but is much less likely to warp. HIPS is ideal for printing in conjunction with ABS because it has a similar strength and stiffness profile to ABS which means they complement each other well. HIPS prints best with the bed at 55°C and the extrusion temp around 225°C.

Pros: Impact & water resistant, Dissolvable by L-Limonene

Cons: High printing temp, Ventilation required

Nylon is used to make clothes. In fact, polyamides are most used for synthetic fibers in clothing. Nylon can also be used to make other materials, such as parachutes, ropes, string for tires, carpets, fishing nets and cloth and socks. Nylon was invented by Wallace Carothers at Du-Pont.

Nylon is also an incredibly useful plastic for applications that actually do require both a plastic material as well as a high melting temperature. It is also incredibly diverse. Nylon can be adapted to a wide variety of uses because of the many different variants in production and the adjustable material properties of these variants resulting from the different materials Nylon can be combined with.

Pros: Impact & water resistant, Dissolvable by L-Limonene

Cons: Relatively low impact strength,

Copper filament for 3D printing is used when printing metallic-like objects. This filament contains copper combined with Polylactic Acid (PLA) filament. Print, sand and polish your pieces to achieve the look of copper.

Bronze filament for 3D printing is used when printing rustic-like objects. This filament contains bronze combined with Polylactic Acid (PLA) filament. Print, sand and polish your pieces to achieve the look of bronze.

Wood filament for 3D printing is used when printing wooden-like objects. This filament contains recycled wood combined with Polylactic Acid (PLA) filament and some binding polymers. Printing wood filament is very similar to printing PLA filament.

Options: natural, birch, cherry, pine and walnut.

3D-Solve is a water soluble material that allows you to print your piece with the opportunity to rinse-away supports. Used only as a support material with Modified PLA, PET, PETG, ABS and Nylon.