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The main two types of 3D printer filament you are going to come across are acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA), with the latter being the easier of the two to print with on most home setups. They are also the cheapest with standard rolls costing as little as $20 for 1KG. So let’s look at the key differences and use cases and if you want to find out more about the different kinds of filaments you can 3D print with, be sure to check this article right here.
PET is the most common plastic used in the world yet not really used in 3D printing which modifies it with a G which stands for glycol-modified – which makes it less brittle, a little clearer, and easier to print with. PETG is a good middle ground between the ease of use and PLA and the stronger, but more difficult to print with ABS.
PETG is a middle ground between ABS and PLA, offering extra strength and removing the brittleness that comes inherently with PLA.
PETG stands for Polyethylene terephthalate glycol.
There. Now remember how to spell it and we’ll come back and quiz you again in 10 minutes
PLA plastic or polylactic acid is a vegetable-based plastic material, which commonly uses cornstarch as a raw material. This material is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester and it is the primary natural raw material used in 3D printing. PLA is a fully biodegradable thermoplastic polymer consisting of renewable raw materials. Among all 3D printing materials, PLA is part of the most popular materials used for additive manufacturing.
PLA+ is a variation of PLA that has added material in order to make the filament less brittle, have a smoother surface finish, and less likely to absorb moisture. Typically, TPU is added into the filament in order to achieve this property. PLA+ will have the feel and functionality of ABS without the smell.
Both materials are more suitable for some use cases than others. If you are looking to print a stronger part, or certainly one that you intend to use outside then PETG should be your go-to of choice. PLA doesn’t play nicely in extreme temperatures either, but if you absolutely must print an outdoor part in PLA, then painting it greatly increases its durability to the elements.
PLA is the more flexible material to work with, and we don’t just mean in terms of stretch! PLA is easy to work with post-processing-wise and is generally better for objects that are complex.
If recycling is important to you and it certainly;y should be then know that PLA is biodegradable. It takes years and years but will still eventually return to its natural state. PLA is also a more chameleon-like product and able to appear as though it is something else because of the vast range of PLAs infused with extra material such as wood or carbon fiber.
When you get a roll of any filament from a supplier such as Amazon it will always come in a vacuum-sealed bag with a small packet of something like Silica Gel inside to remove the moisture from the inside. The vast majority (certainly of cheaper) filaments don’t come with any kind of resealable packing meaning that once you have taken your scissors to the bag the filament is out in the open and that is bad. Filaments absorb even the tiniest amounts of moisture in the air – even if you don’t think there is any there you are wrong and your filament will suck up the particles and over time the chemical consistency of the filament will change and therefore so will its printing properties.
It is great practice therefore to get into storing your filament correctly. For around $50 you can buy filament housings which are storage boxes that are powered and keep the temperature inside at a steady level. The downside being here is that for home consumers they tend to only hold one roll at a time and if you have been on a buying splurge in that Amazon sale you are likely to have a load lying around just drinking in all that lovely moisture.
Enterprising makers have fashioned their own storage solutions – of course they have – which tend to be made out of those large storage containers you can buy at places like IKEA. From there small holes are drilled in the side so the filament can roll out comfortably. there’s a little more to it than that but check this link for further info if you are interested in constructing your own.