3D Printer printing PLA

Today’s post is about filament material for 3D printing. This guide will explain the differences between the different material types of filaments used for 3D Prints. The temperature ranges are guidelines and one must look at the specs on their filament package along with their printer specs to select the proper temperature for printing. I selected the top 4 materials most commonly used for 3D printing and explain how each is unique. Now you can decide what filament material to use when you are 3D printing some of these cool 3D prints.

PLA Filament Material Type for 3D Printing

Definition: Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester. It is made from renewable resources such as corn starch.

When to use PLA: General printing. Most of the items I’ve printed using PLA. Just don’t leave it on your dashboard!

Quirks or Cons: Since PLA melts at such a low temp it is prone to melting and cannot be left out in the heat or sterilized. This makes PLA not food safe. Please don’t leave your PLA printed bobblehead in the car!

Recyclability: PLA is technically biodegradable, but it needs to be recycled in an industrial composting system.

Print Speed: 30 to 90mm/sec

Temperature for printing Range:  185°C to about 205°C or 365°F to about 401°F.

Bed Temperature: 20°C to about 60°C

Buy it: Hatchbox

Wood PLA Filament Material Type for 3D Printing

Definition: Wood PLA is PLA mixed with wood partials. Usually 35% wood.

When to Use Wood PLA Filament: Items you would like to stain. In My Mother’s day post the vase or the statue would both look great with wood.

Quirks and Cons: It can clog your nozzle, so it’s recommended to use a slightly larger nozzle. The hotter the nozzle temperature the darker the wood PLA will look.

Recyclability: The wood in the PLA is usually from recycled resources, which is great. I cannot find any information on how to recycle the wood filament.

Print Speed: 65 to 75 mm/s

Temperature for printing Range: 190°C to about 220°C or 374°F to about 428°F

Bed Temperature: 50°C to about 75°C

Buy It: Overture

ABS Filament Filament Material Type for 3D Printing

Definition: Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene is a plastic formed by those 3 chemical compounds. It’s what they make Legos with.

When to Use ABS: Building blocks, gears, and interlocking parts

Quirks or Cons: This type of filament needs to be printed in an enclosed 3D printer. This helps regulate the temperature as ABS must cool down at a very slow rate since it shrinks as it cools. If it cools unevenly or too fast it will warp. Cooling fans would need to be turned off.

Recyclability: ABS is not biodegradable, but it is 100% recyclable. Be sure to check your local recycling center since it’s listed under Recycling Code 7. That is not always available, so if you toss it in your recycling bin it might end up in the landfill and not recycled.

Print Speed: 40-60 mm/s

Temperature for printing Range:  230°C to about 270°C or 446°F to about 518°F. Since manufacturers use additives in their ABS to increase or lower the temperature range, the printing temperature will vary depending the brand.

Bed Temperature: 80°C to about 110°C

Buy It: Hatchbox

TPU Filament Material Type for 3D Printing

Definition: Thermoplastic polyurethane is a flexible, rubber-like material.

When to use TPU: Wearable prints such as rings or bracelets, protective parts or coverings phone covers and toys

Quirks or Cons: It’s Hygroscopic and can stringy and prone to clogging the nozzle.

Recyclability:  is not biodegradable, but it is 100% recyclable. Be sure to check your local recycling center for details.

Print Speed: 15 mm/s to 20 mm/s

Extruder Temperature Range: 210°C to about 250°C or 410°F to about 482°F

Bed Temp: 20°C-60°C

Buy It: Overture

PETG Filament Material Type for 3D Printing

Definition: Polyethylene Terephthalate with a glycol modification) 

When to use PETG: WHen you want a print that can withstand a higher temperature and a glass-like look.

Quirks or Cons: PETG is considered hygroscopic, which means it absorbs moisture from the air and can be damaged in high humidity situations. PETG technically is food safe, but with the lines that happen during the printing process, I would advise against having food be touching the PLA and reusing it.

Recyclability:  Even though PETG is similar to PET/PETE they cannot be recycled together. This means while PETG is recycleable it is best to be collected separately and taken to a recycling station. Please don’t throw it in your home recycling bin.

Print Speed: 50-60 mm/s

Extruder Temperature Range: 220°C to about 245°C or 428°F to about °F

Bed Temp: 50°C to about 75°C

Buy It: Overture

I hope this article helped you decipher the difference between the different 3D printing material types and now you know when to use which one. I know there are so many other products that you can use to 3D print, but these are the most common and all you will need to know for beginning to 3D print!