All About Filament

Most common types of filament: (you can print these on any machine)

Filament is usually sold in 1 Kilo spools; and a kilo of filament will print a lot of parts! Most brands are around $20-30 per kilo. I order from Amazon. Hatchbox, Inland, eSun are good value brands. Our school has a very active makerspace serving about 300 students (7-12). We go through about 15 rolls per year.

  • PLA
    • This will be 90-100% of your prints as a new user.
    • Prints at 180-220C, bed at 60C
    • Easiest to print with, lowest melting point. Reasonably strong. Very stiff.
    • Not appropriate for high-temp environments (like inside your car)
    • Will turn chalky with prolonged uv exposure
  • PETG
    • Prints at 220-240C, bed at 70-90C
    • Strength and temp resistance is more than PLA, less stiffness.
    • Tuning print settings can be challenging. Tends to leave ‘strings’ on the prints unless settings are spot on. Printing too hot can ruin your print bed or hot ends with a PTFE (teflon) lining (which is all the cheap printers). 
  • TPU/flexible
    • Prints at 220C, bed at 50-60C
    • Stretchy, bendy, rubbery, VERY strong prints
    • Not all printers will work with flexible filaments. Must have a “fully constrained” filament path, and even then, “bowden” extruders may not work well. I’ve had great success with the Flashforge and Prusa machines and flexible filament.

Other/Advanced filaments

  • ABS
    • Prints at 230-250C, bed at 100-110C
    • Will probably warp and crack when printing, unless you use an enclosure
    • Stronger than PLA or PTEG. Great temp resistance and part longevity
    • Can be smoothed and welded with acetone
    • Requires a printer that can heat the bed all the way to 110C
    • Emits smells while printing
  • Nylon (aka. PA or Polyamide, various blends have different details)
    • Prints at 260-280C, bet at 90-110C
    • A step up from ABS in every way. Higher temperature resistance, much higher strength, somewhat flexible.
    • Requires an “all metal hot end”, probably requires an enclosure
    • Filament absorbs moisture from the air. Must be stored in desiccant.
    • Colors options are limited, but you can dye the finished print
  • PC-polycarbonate
    • Prints at 280-300C, bed at 120+C (as hot as you can go)
    • Strongest, hottest, most durable, most rigid 3d printing plastic.
    • Requires an enclosure, probably with a heater inside it
    • Smells bad while printing.
  • Filled
    • Prints like parent material.
    • Usually PLA, with particles added: Carbon fiber, wood dust, glow-in-the-dark pigment, etc. 
    • ‘Soft’ or ‘matte’ finish on parts, sometimes layer lines disappear. Carbon-Fiber-Nylon is available. Very strong parts
    • Abrasive! Requires a wear-resistant (ie. steel) nozzle
  • Dissolving
    • Used for dissolving support materials in dual-extruder printers
    • HIPS
      • Prints like ABS
      • Dissolves in “Limonene” citrus-based solvent
    • PVA
      • Soft, rubbery filament. Difficult to print with.
      • Absorbs moisture from the air in minutes. Must be stored in desiccant and dried before use. 
      • Dissolves in water

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