Selecting the Right Filament for Your 3D Printing Application

Selecting the Right Filament for Your 3D Printing Application

Choosing the right filament for your 3D printing application is like selecting the key ingredient for your recipe. If appropriate ingredients are used, the outcome turns out worthy while on the other hand, if ingredients are not suitable then no matter how much time and skills you put in, the result won’t be promising. We at Grit 3D, have been working with a lot of different kinds of 3D printing materials from various brands since 2016. Based on years of research and experimentation, we have summarized a few points that can help a beginner in selecting the material best suited for their application.

Which material should you choose?

These days, there are tons of different materials available for 3D printing; from basic materials like ABS, PLA, etc to complex and precisely engineered materials like PEEK, PA12, etc. So, the question still remains: which material should you be going for? The answer is not very simple since there is no single material type that fits all applications and is suitable for all users. The choice of material can be based on physical appearance, application criticality, environmental conditions, ease of operation or even printer limitation. In order to make things easy for the people starting with their first 3D printer as well as for the curious minds who want to understand about common materials, we are starting with four common materials which are ABS, PLA, PET-G and TPU. We are listing down two reasons to use and two reasons not to use these materials.

Use ABS because

  • Possesses high stiffness and strength which makes it suitable for development of functional parts and load bearing applications.
  • Suitable for post-processing and acetone polishing.

Avoid ABS because

  • Difficult to print since it requires high bed temperature (Upto 100’C), high nozzle temperature (Above 250’C) and also requires heat trapping set-up.
  • Printing of ABS produces a strong unpleasant odor as well as toxic fumes.

Use PLA because

  • Environmentally friendly and very easy to print (can be printed on various build surfaces like an acrylic sheet, Kapton tape, glass plate, etc).
  • Highly attractive in appearance and a large variety of colors are available

Avoid PLA because

  • Strength is very low compared to other plastics, so it is not suitable for functional parts.
  • Very low glass transition temperature (around 50-80’C) makes it very unstable. Even interaction with sunlight can lead to its deformation.

Use PET-G because

  • Possesses high impact strength and durability. Suitable for fatigue-intensive applications.
  • Provides remarkable flexibility as compared to ABS or PLA.

 

Avoid PET-G because

  • Printing is a bit difficult because PET-G is a sticky material and causes so much stringing during printing. So, the printed parts can come out to be ugly and difficult to clean.
  • PET-G is not suitable for sanding, coating, and other post-processing techniques.

TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane)

Use TPU because

  • Rubber-like performance in terms of flexibility can be achieved in TPU. Flexible and durable parts can be made.
  • Offers high impact resistance and elongation; and has low warpage and shrinkage during printing.

 

Avoid TPU because

  • Prints at a very low speed and has poor adhesion* between the layer (*If not properly taken care of).
  • Filament retraction is not possible due to its flexibility, which results in the poor surface quality of prints.

by Rabi Imran

Author Info: Rabi is an active 3D Printing Evangelist in Pakistan, with the main focus on transforming SMEs,s and Corporate to transition towards Additive Manufacturing, embracing innovative solutions for emerging problems.

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