Listing down the most common and widely used 3D printer filaments, this article aims to draw a comparison between Nylon, ABS, PLA and PETG to help choose consumers what’s best for their needs.
All these printing materials have proven to be exceptionally popular, owing to their convenience over the years and are the top preference for many.
We are now going to take a comprehensive look into different aspects of the filaments so users can have general information at their disposal.
|Materials||Strength||Durability||Flexibility||Ease of Use||Resistance||Safety||Price|
Made from organic materials, PLA has a tensile strength of almost 7,250 psi, making it quite a contender when printing parts that require to be fairly strong.
However, it’s more brittle than ABS and is not preferred when the end-product needs to be as tough as a tank. It’s also commonplace to see toys being made of PLA.
ABS has a tensile strength of 4,700 psi. It’s also quite strong since it is the desired filament for many businesses, particularly for ones producing headgear and spare parts of automobiles, solely because of its superb strength.
That being said, ABS is also much more recommended when it comes to flexural strength, which is the capacity of an object to hold its form even when it is being excessively stretched. It can bend but not snap, unlike PLA.
PETG boasts a slightly greater physical strength when compared with ABS. To compare with PLA, it is miles ahead. It’s an all-rounder commonly available filament but has less rigidity, making it a bit prone to wear and tear.
Nylon, also known as Polyamide, is a thermoplastic that offers great mechanical strength but low stiffness.
However, it is highly useful for various industrial applications where there is a high strength to weight ratio involved. It has an approximated tensile strength of 7,000 psi which makes it far from being brittle.
In terms of strength, Nylon takes the cake because over the passage of time, it has been used in military-grade equipment, playing a major role in the formation of tents, ropes and even parachutes.
Nylon, thus, comes out on top in this category.
Being a biodegradable filament, objects made from PLA can be deformed with ease if placed in an area having high temperatures.
This is because PLA has a low melting point and due to it melting just above 60°C, durability is not really a strong point for this organically made filament.
Although ABS is weaker than PLA, it makes up for that in terms of durability where toughness is one of the many plus points ABS has to offer.
Its sturdiness has allowed it to play a part in the manufacture of headgear. Moreover, ABS is more designed to withstand long term wear and tear.
Physically, PETG is better in terms of durability than PLA but just as good as ABS. Although less rigid and hard than ABS, it possesses the tough capacity to withstand harsh outdoor conditions as it tolerates the sun and the changing weather altogether.
All in all, PETG is considered a much better filament than PLA or ABS since it is more flexible and on par with durability.
All those experiencing trouble in making durable prints should readily opt for Nylon since the longevity of Nylon printed objects is unmatched by any other filament.
It offers extreme durability, making it the best choice when making prints that are required to endure a great deal of mechanical stress. Besides, the semi crystalline structure of Nylon makes it even more tough and very durable.
Category Winner: Nylon just comes out on top facing off against the likes of ABS in terms of durability. Objects printed with Nylon are more resilient than any other filament used and are sure to stick around the longest.
A brittle filament like that of PLA will instantly snap when an overwhelming, or an above-average stretch is applied to it for that matter.
As compared to ABS, it is far less flexible and will rip if challenged greatly. Therefore, highly pliable print making cannot be expected within the domain of PLA.
Being less brittle overall than PLA, ABS is somewhat flexible to the extent where it can be deformed a little, but not entirely crack. It has proven to be a lot more flexible than PLA and can withstand extensive stretching.
Generally, ABS offers great toughness with impressive flexibility, making it a great option in this category.
PETG, being regarded as the ‘new kid on the block’, is approaching the path to stardom purely because it offers a wide range of features such as flexibility, resilience and strength in a very admirable manner.
It’s just as flexible as many end users want their prints to be, and just as durable.
Being strong and highly durable, Nylon offers convenient malleability, which means that it can be formed into a specific shape without breaking.
This is one of the key qualities of Nylon, making it so preferable. Nylon owes its toughness to it being flexible, along with having a lighter weight and feel.
Its resilient characteristic of pliability combined with its strength, makes it the jack of all trades in filament industry.
Being the winner of another attribute, Nylon is a filament that has an upper hand in terms of flexibility when faced off against ABS and PETG. The prints made when using Nylon as a printer filament are of tremendous quality, being fully flexible and very durable.
Ease of Use
PLA is recommended for anyone who has just gotten into the world of 3D printing. This means that the filament is exceptionally easy to get used to for beginners and is nothing too much to handle.
It demands a lower temperature of both, the heating bed and the extruder, and does not require preheating of the printing platform, nor does it demand an enclosure over the printer.
Relatively, ABS is a bit more difficult to work with since it is fairly resistant to heat. Overtook by PLA, for ABS, a heated printing bed is a must, otherwise, users will have a hard time getting it to adhere properly.
It’s also very prone to warping due to a high melting point. Additionally, as the temperature increases, controlling the curling prints gets trickier.
Just like ABS, PETG can be a hassle to handle at times since it is hygroscopic in nature. This means that it tends to absorb water in the air. Therefore, keenly taking care of when using it is a must.
Nevertheless, PETG offers very low shrinkage and thus, isn’t very prone to warping. Beginners will have an easy time getting used to PETG as it requires a low temperature setting for prime performance. It also doesn’t need drying, prior to printing.
Being a greatly useful printing filament with exceptional capabilities, Nylon isn’t something beginners can start with perfectly. The filament has a downside of also being hygroscopic and absorbing moisture from the environment.
Therefore, it has to be confined within a dry structure, otherwise, rendering the whole process unworkable.
Moreover, its working conditions preferably involve an enclosed chamber, a high temperature and drying the filament prior to printing.
Inside the mind of a person who’s just begun 3D printing, PLA will leave an outstanding impression. It easily sticks to the bed, doesn’t produce any unpleasant odors and works just fine for everyone. PLA is second to none when it comes to ease of use.
Having a really low melting point, PLA cannot tolerate heat to a big level. Therefore, being less heat resistant than any other filament, PLA cannot sustain strength and stiffness when the temperature rises above 50°C.
Moreover, since PLA is a brittle filament, it can only offer minimum impact resistance.
According to Markforged, ABS has four times more impact resistance than PLA. This owes to ABS being a solid filament. Moreover, since ABS has relatively high melting points, it is highly resistant to heat and does not deform upon increase in temperature.
ABS is chemical resistant as well, however, Acetone is commonly used post-process to provide a glossy finish to the prints. However, ABS is quite vulnerable to UV radiation and cannot stand the sun for too long.
PETG offers terrific chemical resistance, more than any other printing filament, to substances such as alkalis and acids. Not only this, but PETG is water resistant as well.
PETG has quite an edge over ABS in terms of UV resistance. Temperature wise, PETG can mostly tolerate a temperature around 80°C, therefore, bowing down to ABS in this regard.
Nylon, being a tough filament, is supremely impact resistant. Also, known to be UV resistant, Nylon offers greater chemical resistance than ABS and PLA which allows a bigger range of industrial applications.
Moreover, it is also abrasion resistant, which consolidates the fact that Nylon is a very tough printing filament. Upon extensive use, it’ll also be evident that prints made from Nylon are ought to be shock tolerant as well, thus, increasing the credibility of Nylon.
Having ten times more impact resistance than ABS, more chemical and UV resistance than the latter and PLA as well, Nylon yet again proves itself as one of the best in terms of resistive characteristics.
PLA has been regarded as the ‘safest’ 3D printer filament to work with. This is mainly because of the fact that PLA breaks down into Lactic Acid which is potentially harmless.
Moreover, it comes from natural, organic sources such as sugarcane and maize. Users have reported a distinct, ‘sugary’ odor when printing PLA which is safely different from what ABS or Nylon emits.
Right alongside Nylon, ABS melts at the exceeding temperatures of 210-250°C, also emitting fumes that are irritating for the body’s respiratory system.
ABS also poses a health risk towards users and isn’t entirely safe to work with.
It’s highly recommended to print ABS in an area where there is adequate circulation of air. An enclosure over the printer also goes a long way in reducing toxic inhalation.
PETG is safer than ABS or Nylon but still, it can make you open your window a little bit. It isn’t entirely odorless nor does it emit zero micro-particles but it is indeed, a tad less risky to print than Nylon-based filaments.
However, PETG is food safe as well as it is found being the main component of water and juice bottles, alongside cooking oil containers.
Since Nylon needs a higher temperature for its optimum performance, it’s more prone to give off toxic fumes that are harmful for human health.
It has the tendency to emit a volatile organic compound (VOC) called Caprolactam which is toxic when inhaled. Thus, Nylon requires an enclosed print chamber and a proper ventilation system for there to be minimum health risks.
Although, breathing in the fumes of any plastic could be potentially harmful, PLA does a great job at minimizing the risk involved due to it being one of the safest printer filaments available for use.
If one is looking for the most secure and low risk filament, then PLA is for them.
Although prices of the filaments can vary depending on the brand that’s producing it, the following states a mid-range option of the thermoplastics for purchasing.
Being alongside ABS and one of the most common printing filaments, PLA filament of above-average quality also costs around $15-20.
One can purchase ABS filament for as low as $15-20 per kg.
A good quality PETG costs around $19 per kg.
A good quality Nylon filament lies somewhere between the range of $50-73 per kg.
All things considered, PLA takes the crown as the most popular 3D printing filament on the market available for a very cheap price. Therefore, giving buyers more than what they paid for, at a low, approximated price of $20.
Which Filament is the Best? (PLA vs ABS vs PETG vs Nylon)
When it comes to these four materials, it’s hard to crown one a clear winner because there are many uses for these filaments. If you are after a purely strong, durable and functional 3D print, Nylon is your go-to choice.
If you’re a beginner, coming into 3D printing and want a material that has a wide range of uses and is cheap, PLA is your main choice and PETG can be used too.
ABS is used when you have a little more experience in 3D printing and are after a little more strength, durability and chemical resistance.
Since PETG came on the scene, it’s the filament known for its UV resistance so for any outdoor prints, this is a great option.
Nylon is a filament that is not only expensive, but requires a good amount of knowledge and safety precautions to properly print with.
Depending on your desired goal and project with your 3D prints, you can quickly decide which of these four filaments will fare best for you.