3D Printing Materials

There is a large variety of 3D printing materials to choose from so it may be tough to decide on the most appropriate filament for a particular project. All 3D printing materials have their own distinctive features, strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, there are necessary factors like texture, durability, resistance, cost, etc. that need to be considered to avoid mistakes in 3D printing.

Examples of 3D printing materials

3D printing materials comparison chart

Wondering what’s the best material for your 3D project? We want to help you understand all 3D printing materials, so you can choose the best filament for your next job. As Tractus3D we have made a comparison of the common 3D printing materials.

Where to look for when choosing 3D printing materials?

An industrial 3D printer will enable you to print a with a wide range of 3D printing materials, also called filaments. The materials that you want to use determine the temperatures that you have to print with. Some 3D printing materials require high temperatures while others need a lower temperature. If you want to print with a number of different 3D printing filaments then you will need to look at a printer with more functionalities, affecting the industrial 3D printer price. There are a few features like a closed chamber and heated build platform which are required to be able to handle the more demanding 3D printing materials. Where do you exactly have to look for when choosing 3D printing materials?

We've made a 3D printing materials comparison for you and summed the main things to consider about the 3D printing filaments.

1. Features of 3D printing materials

First you need the consider the properties of the 3D printing materials based on the end result you want to get.

1a. Strength

When you want to create durable objects, the strength of the material is important. It is an indication for the maximum of stress a 3D printing material can withstand before breaking. This is important to know when you are considering 3D printing products that may experience sudden or sustained stress, such as protective components, prosthetic devices, jigs and fixtures and mechanical parts.

1b. Durability

When a 3D printing filament is durable, it will not weaken over time. That said, be sure to check the specifications of the filament manufacturer in question.

1c. Flexibility

Flexibility has to do with how easy it is to bend the 3D printing materials. A flexible filament allows you to create complex elastic designs that would otherwise be impossible. When you want to create cables or wires for instance, the 3D printing filament needs a certain amount of elasticity.

1d. 3D printing difficulty

Depending on your experience level you might want to know more about the ease of printing. This is an indicator of how simple it is to print with a particular 3D printing material. It is measured, among other things, by the frequency of failed prints, flow accuracy and ease to feed the filament into the printer.

1e. Uses

Where is the material in general used for?

2. Resistance of 3D printing materials

There are multiple types of resistance you may want to consider when it comes to choosing your best 3D printing material. Let’s discuss the most important ones.

2a. Heat resistance

First you need to consider the heat resistance of the filament. This is the maximum temperature the object can sustain before softening and deforming. The exact temperatures a printed part can withstand, will depend on the specific polymer blend which varies by manufacturer. So please first check this out before you start on your project.

2b. Chemical resistance

This indicates if a 3D printing material is resistant to solvents, bases, acids or other harsh environments. For instance, in semiconductor processing harsh chemicals are used. The 3D printing material has to be able to tolerate these. Note that the chemical resistance of each polymer is mainly determined by the chemical structure of the material and the strength of the weakest link in this specific structure. Actual properties may change due to processing method, compound type, extruded dimensions and other variables.

2c. Water resistance

This is an indicator for the amount of water a 3D printing material will absorb. When you want a 3D printing object to be placed outdoors, it is important that the filament is insensitive to extreme conditions without deforming shape or appearance.

3. 3D printer features

Some filaments require some extra 3D printer features like a heated bed or closed chamber.

3a. Heated bed

Some 3D printing filaments need a heated bed to print the material effectively. A heated build platform improves the adhesion of the first layers to the build plate. Each 3D printing material requires a particular build platform temperature for optimal adhesion.

3b. Heated chamber

A closed chamber preserves the heat inside the 3D printer so the temperature inside stays at the required level. Because temperature fluctuations are kept to a minimum, the risk of warping is minimized. Some 3D printing materials require a stable temperature so you have to make sure your 3D printer has an closed chamber.

3c. Nozzle temperature

To obtain optimal results for your prints you need to take into account the 3D printer’s nozzle temperature. All 3D printing materials are different so make sure that on forehand you know what works and what doesn't.

3D printing materials comparison

Most 3D printers can only handle a small range of 3D printing materials but a Tractus3D printer can work with almost all filaments. From ABS to PEEK, you will find that you have an overwhelming lot of 3D printing materials to choose from. Wondering what’s the best material for your 3D project? We want to help you understand all 3D printing materials, so you can choose the best filament for your next job.

PEEK

Within the range of 3D printing materials, PEEK is one of the strongest. It's a colorless, organic thermoplastic compound that achieves the best results compared to other 3D printer filament types.
PEEK 3D printing filament has a wide selection of distinctive qualities. All of those make PEEK a fascinating 3D printing material for a variety of industries, like Medical, Aerospace, Oil and Gas trade and Automotive. PEEK is the best 3D printer filament type for low-volume production. Also, when it is difficult to create prototypes using metal and traditional techniques, PEEK is a great alternative.

Object that is made with the 3D printing material PEEK
Object that is made with the 3D printing material Ultem

ULTEM

Polyetherimide (PEI) is a superior compound that's amorphous. It has excellent thermal properties, a high-level of dimensional stability, extreme flame retardancy and resistance to lots of chemicals. Therefor 3D printing with ULTEM is used in a very wide selection of industries.
This 3D printing material is for instance used in the aerospace, the automotive and medical industry. It has the ability to handle demanding applications in a way other thermoplastic materials can’t.

ABS

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) comes with a wide range of uses and applications, making it a very good material to 3D print with. This 3D printing material has significant properties, such as its strength and the fact that it is lightweight. It can handle many different chemicals as well. ABS material is also recyclable, which means that it is better for the environment than some other plastics by causing less waste. The fact that ABS is also very affordable makes it a 3D printing material that is favoured by many industries. The cost of 3D printing with ABS is low, saving businesses and industries all around the world a considerable amount of money.

Object that is made with the 3D printing material ABS
Object that is made with the 3D printing material PETG

PETG

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is the most widely used plastic in the world. In fact, if you look around you, you may notice that this polymer is used in many different applications such as the creation of water bottles, right through to the fibers of your clothing. Most foods and beverages are delivered and packaged using PET as well. It is actually used in so many consumer products, that it is too many too sum up here.

PLA

Polylactic Acid or PLA as it is known, is created using green renewable sources such as starch, corn or sugar cane. This means that it is better for the environment than other materials because it can be recycled and be used in the 3D printing process for models and prototypes. PLA is a popular choice in 3D printing because it is the easiest 3D printing materials to print. It’s ideal for those who want fast prototyping. It is also one of the 3D printing materials that is most reliable in terms of availability.

Object that is made with the 3D printing material PLA
Object that is made with the 3D printing material TPE

TPE

Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) is a flexible material. It has a wide range of features, making it a suitable choice for various applications when it comes to 3D printing. It is extremely fatigue resistant when it comes to flexing which makes it perfect for those applications where it will be required to flex. Due to its superb electrical properties, it is often found in applications where it is required to prevent electricity conduction such as wiring. Capable of heavy use, it is also resistant to tear, abrasions and high impact. For businesses that are looking to enhance the way in which they work and improve the impact on the environment, Thermoplastic Elastomer is a specifically good material as it is recyclable.

TPU

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) is a flexible, abrasion resistant material that is used in a number of manufacturing processes for both consumer and industrial use. When it comes to 3D printing, TPU 3D printed parts are durable and have the ability to withstand ambient temperatures of up to 80 degrees Celsius. There are different versions of TPU material having different characteristics that can be suited to a specific need.

Object that is made with the 3D printing material TPU
examples of high performance 3d printing materials

Metal 3D Printing Materials

Metal is an increasingly popular 3D printing material and is often used by aerospace and automotive manufacturers. Metal, when used in the 3D printing, process can create strong products efficiently for a wide range of uses. The technology is moving to the point where it is now possible to print with metal in higher volumes.

3D printing materials comparison chart

Wondering what’s the best material for your 3D project? We want to help you understand all 3D printing materials, so you can choose the best filament for your next job. As Tractus3D we have made a comparison of the common 3D printing materials.

Do you have a question about 3D printing materials first? We are there for you!

Please ask us any questions you have about 3D printing materials. We are happy to help and to provide you with whatever assistance you need in researching the ideal 3D printing filament for your business - in whatever way works best for you.