3D Printing community brought up a big variety of different filament types to use for their projects. So how to choose the right type and what everyone needs to know before planning the whole process of printing.
Today we are going to review the following materials:
- ABS and PLA
- HIPS and PVA
- Polycarbonate (PC)
- Soft PLA or Flex EcoPLA
ABS and PLA
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) was the most popular material used to print first 3D models few years ago and it is extremely popular now as well. This material is very durable, slightly flexible lightweight and can be easily extruded, which makes it perfect for 3D printing. It requires less force to extrude than when using PLA, which is another popular 3D filament. This fact makes extrusion easier for small parts. The disadvantage of ABS is that it requires higher temperature than for example PLA material. Its glass transition temperature is about 105°C and temperature 210 – 250°C is usually used for printing with ABS materials.
Also another drawback of this material is quite intense fumes during printing that can be dangerous for people or pets with breathing difficulties. So 3D printer needs to be placed in well-ventilated area. Also good advice is to avoid breathing in the fumes during printing. Considering the cost of 3D materials ABS is the cheapest, which makes it the favorite in printing communities until now.
Polylactic acid (PLA) is another well-spread material among 3D printing enthusiasts. It is a biodegradable thermoplastic that is derived from renewable resources. As a result PLA materials are more environmentally friendly among others plastic materials. The other great feature of PLA is its biocompatibility with a human body. The structure of PLA is harder than the one of ABS and material melts at 180 – 220°C, that is lower than ABS. PLA glass transition temperature is between 60 – 65 °C, so PLA together with ABS could be some good options for any of your projects.
HIPS AND PVA
3D support filaments are the class of materials that come into play when you print 3D objects that have big overlaps. You cannot start printing something in the air if there is no anything underneath of the object. The wonderful solution for this problem has come to mind of one of 3D printing enthusiasts to use temporary material that would support upper layers during printing and would dissolve in water after objects are ready. Today we are going to discuss two filament types that has named properties, that are HIPS and PVA.
PVA filaments (Polyvinyl alcohol) are easy to print with and used to support an object during printing process for those models with overhangs that normally would not be printed. This type of filament is a great material for a 3D printer with dual extruder. It is based on polyvinyl alcohol so it has pretty good properties, the main of them are non-toxicity and biodegradability once dissolved in water. Usually PVA dissolves in cold water but the process would go faster in hot water. Please read technical specification of the material though. Manufactures usually do not recommend to dissolve the material in water with a temperature higher than 70˚C (158˚ F).
Because of its high extensible structure PVA filaments can be considered only for restricted application. It can be used on all common desktop FDM or FFF technology 3D printers and requires a heated build platform (HBP) or simply heated bed set at ±55-60˚C. Do not exceed printing temperatures above 225˚C.
HIPS filament is made from a High Impact Polystyrene material and it is another example of support 3d materials. This material is well spread in food industry for packaging. It is also used to pack CD discs and to produce trays in medicine. All these applications put this material at 5th place after Polyethylene, Polyvinyl, Chloride and Polypropylene among produced polymers worldwide. Naturally this filament has bright white color and it is also biodegradable so there are no adverse effect when it is put in tight contact with a human or animal body. HIPS filaments have curling and adhesion problems, which can be reduced by using a heated bed during the printing. As was published in 3DPPVD blog it was HIPS material that can also be used as support structure during the printing and then dissolved in a colorless liquid hydrocarbon Limonene.
Nylon is another great material to try for your projects. It is known for its great biocompatibility, which is widely used in medical industry. Majority of cartilage replacements and quite a big number of prosthetics are made using this material. There are several types of Nylon material used in 3D printing, the most popular of them are Nylon 618, which has natural white color, and Nylon 645, which is fairly clear but very difficult to work with.
Meanwhile Nylon filaments are not so popular and well-spread comparing to such filaments as ABS and PLA, that is why it is not so easy to find them. But it definitely has a lot of good features that are worth trying. Check out some videos from RichRap to find out more about Nylon filaments.
Nylon 618 does not require a heated bed, it also has low warp. In addition, you don’t need to cool down your tiny or big items after printing, which is very convenient. This material has great self-bonding properties, that makes it quite strong and resistant from delimitation.
Another great feature of Nylon 618 is that you can dye your own material in a color and shade you want. An usual fabric dye can be used for these purposes. Manufactures recommend to print with filaments of natural color and then dye on preferred color. But you can try to change the color of your filament first and then print with one you have got. That is especially convenient if you’d like to have multicolor printed objects. Just put a part of coil in dyeing liquid for a required period of time, then wash coil with water and dye another part of coil with another shade or color. Please make sure to dry your nylon filament after dyeing. The results are quite impressive.
Besides Nylon 618 and 645 you can also try Nylon PA6Polymer (Polyamide 6), which is very durable material and is used to print extremely robust and heavy duty parts. Fibres of Nylon PA6 are tough, possessing high tensile strength, gloss and elasticity. This material is widely used by automobile manufactures due to its great durability. 3D printer settings for this material are similar to ones that are used for ABS filaments. The adhesion to the print bed increases with higher extrusion temperatures. Recommended temperature for printing is 260°C.
Another feature of all types of Nylon materials is that they absorb water from air so it needs to be stored in dry places.
For those who would like to create an object that looks and smells like wood the best idea is to use FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) filament, named also Wood Filament. This filament contains a mixture of recycled wood with a binding polymer. The parts printed with this material do not look like typical 3D prints because of its wood nature. Printing process with Wood is very similar to the one with thermoplastic filaments like ABS and PLA. However with Wood filament you could get this unrepeatable wooden-like appearance. Printers with RepRap technology need to be used for processing and there is no heated bed necessary as it sticks to print bed. Temperature to be set for printing of object with Wood filament is between 175°C and 250°C. Check out the video wood filament features made by Barnacules Nerdgasm.
As this material contains real wood fibers, when printing objects with different temperature they would have different shades of brown wooden-like surface. The higher temperature used during printing the darker brown shade print you’ll get. When the printing is done your print will look and smell like real wood. It can be decorated and post-processed like other objects from wood. For example, you can cut, grind and paint your item. Another great idea to keep in mind when using this filament type is that changing of printing temperature during processing of your item can simulate a tree’s growth ring effect.
This material is more prone to curling than PLA. The drawback of wood filament is that prints are softer and weaker than PLA ones so they easily can be broken. 3D experts advise to set perimeter speed as low as 20mm/s for the best strength, as well as consider turning off PLA cooling fan.
PET (PolyEthylene Terephthalate) has become well known from plastic bottles. In its original state PET filament is a colorless and crystal clear material. But when you heat or cool down the material changes its transparency. The material has more crystalline structure when allowed to cool down slowly after printing. The filament is fairly hard and shockproof, so it makes it ideal for lightweight items.
There are different versions of PET, for example filament PETG is the modification of the one, that is clear thermoplastic with possibility to thermoform and mold the item after being printed. It is also possible to polish the material with flame. Also the thicker layer height the better clarity would have the material.
Generally PET is nice and easy material to print with quite wide temperature range from 160°C to 210°C without any problems. But it needs to be stored in a place where it would not absorb water from air.
PETT “T-glase” which is short for tough glass is another right, clear and stiff filament to try. It is tougher than PET material and can be compared with PLA. Suggested range of print temperature is from 212°C to 224°C. There can be some curling during printing, than can be reduced by turning off cooling fan. There are no unpleasant fumes during printing. This material as well as PET absorbs water from air so needs to be stored accordingly. Moist filament has a reduced strength value. The main characteristics of PETT t-glase are strength especially with the larger nozzles used, biocompatibility and FDA approved to be used for food containers, clarity and shrinkage.
Polycarbonate (PC) is an extremely strong, impact resistant thermoplastic material which is widely used in automotive, aerospace, medical and many other areas. PC has great mechanical properties and heat resistance. 3D parts printed with PC are accurate, strong and durable. PC filament type has the second highest tensile strength among all FDM materials. The material is also biocompatible and can be sterilizable that is why it is so extremely popular for prototyping needs, functional testing, tooling and composite work. The material should be extruded at or above 300°C and high heat deflection temperature is 138°C.
TPE material with its high elastic characteristics feels like rubber that bounces back and forth into the shape. This material is good for FDM printers that at the same time can be used for ABS and PLA filaments. Printing temperature range for TPE filaments is 210 – 230°C. The material has high elasticity and excellent abrasion resistance, as well as consistent diameter and smooth feeding properties. Filament easily sticks to build platform and bonds between layers. All mentioned above allows to print high-quality things. The material doesn’t contain any toxins but still is not recommended for food contact pieces. NinjaFlex filament is one of examples of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) that is especially flexible for 3D printers.
FilaFlex is another high flexible material similar to NinjaFlex but even softer then his close-in neighbor of 3D filaments. The material is compatible almost with all 3D printers and has printing temperature range from 220 to 230°C. It also doesn’t require a heated bed and is non-toxic and resistant to acetone, fuel and dissolvent. Both NinjaFlex and FilaFlex are rubber-like materials and less prone to deformation from stretching then soft PLA, which is another example of flexible materials for 3D printing.
Soft PLA or Flex EcoPLA
Soft PLA is a flexible 3D printing material with great roundness and tight diameter that also feels like rubber. It can be used to print different flexible parts such as soft toys, flip-flops, molds, tires or gripping surfaces.The material is extremely tough and resistant to delimitation which makes it awesome material to experiments but sometimes tricky to print with. There could be several problems during printing with this material including filament buckling and tangling inside of stepstruder. Filament Buckling can be caused by jams before getting to the extruder, which can be eliminated by simply unspooling of needed amount of filament.
Also there could be a lack of support inside extruder and problems with semi-jammed nozzle. But all these and other issues with this filament is just a matter of practice and experiment that definitely worth trying. Great advice in case of jamming issues during printing is to keep down the layer height which would maximize layer-to-layer bonding, reduce print speed and increase distance between nozzle and platform. Other settings should be pretty similar to traditional PLA to achieve the best results. Previously loaded material can cause jamming at the beginning of printing so it’s better to reload filament each time using 3D printer.