If you are 3D printing for cosplay or wearable items, there are many filaments you can choose from, but which one is the best? This article will aim to give you a proper answer for deciding which filament to go for when printing your detailed cosplay and wearable items.
The best filament for cosplay and wearable items is ABS if you want a cheap, easy to handle solution. It can take trial and error to stop warping, but once you do ABS surpasses most filament out there. A premium solution for the best filament for cosplay is Nylon PCTPE, specially designed for wearable items.
PLA is easy to print with, but ABS has that extra amount of durability that is needed after wearing a 3D printed item for several hours. You wouldn’t want your 3D printed object breaking on you in the middle of your day as your favorite character.
This is the simple answer but there are more useful details on this topic. Keep on reading to find out which filament works the best and why, according to some professional cosplay 3D printer artists.
What Type of Filament is Best for Cosplay & Wearable Items?
When deciding on what filament to use for cosplay, you need a material that has a number of important factors.
Here are some factors you’d want in a filament for cosplay:
- Easy to print with
- Ability to assemble with adhesives
- Resistance to sun & UV rays
- Detailed printing
- Easy post-processing
There are a few different things to balance out, but through a little bit of research, I’ve made it easier to choose between filaments for your cosplay and wearable item needs.
It seems as though ABS, PLA, PETG and some other filament all have their place in 3D printing cosplay and wearable items. So what are the highlights for each of these materials?
Why is ABS a Good Filament for Cosplay & Wearable Items?
Many professionals out there have clients who constantly desire 3D prints done in ABS, and for good reason. ABS holds up very well if left in a hot car in a hot summers day which can get pretty high temperature-wise.
If you are planning to wear cosplay items outdoors, you should look towards ABS as your filament.
ABS has characteristics of being slightly softer and more flexible over PLA, so it actually have better impact resistance which is important for cosplay items. Although it is softer, it is actually more durable because of its ability to withstand force.
You’ll be able to get through a lot more wear and tear using ABS compared to PLA.
One of the ideal things about ABS is how easy it is to smooth the surface with acetone and post-processing in general.
ABS filament can definitely be trouble when attempting to 3D print larger objects because of its high presence of warping. ABS also goes through shrinkage so keep this in mind.
You would really need to add in precautions and prevention in great printing conditions for large ABS prints not to warp.
Even in such great conditions, ABS has been quite well known to still warp so this is more so for well-experienced 3D printer users.
Once you get ABS printing down, you can definitely create very accurate and detailed prints which will look great for cosplay and wearable items.
It’s very widely used for this purpose, so you should definitely give it a go if you are looking to 3D print cosplay objects.
There are special products made just for ABS assembly such as adhesives and substances that smooth ABS out.
ABS isn’t always known to be so easy to print with, unless you have the correct knowledge to print it. The best way to 3D print with ABS is to control the printing temperature environment by using an enclosure.
This should stop the common problem of warping with ABS plastic.
Once you can control warping with ABS, it’s arguably the best filament for cosplay and wearable items.
Why is PLA a Good Filament for Cosplay & Wearable Items?
There are many big players in the cosplay world who stand by PLA for their wearable items so, let’s look into why PLA is such a good filament for this purpose.
PLA is less prone to warping during the actual printing process compared to ABS.
The reason why PLA is the most common filament out there is because it’s a lot easier to print with and is more than durable enough to print cosplay and other props.
You are more likely to get a successful print, first time, with PLA so you avoid wasting time, filament and some frustrations especially for longer prints.
On the other hand, PLA is more prone to cracks since it has a characteristic that makes it more brittle. Being hygroscopic, which means absorbing water from the surrounding environment means it isn’t as durable as we would want a filament for cosplay.
PLA is a little flexible when in its optimal form, with a high tensile strength of 7,250psi, but with regular use it can quickly turn against you and can quickly turn brittle when exposed to a hot, most environment.
PLA is pretty useful for cosplay and LARP props, but you wouldn’t want to leave PLA in your car since it has a low resistance to high temperature. Since PLA prints at a relatively low temperature, it also is prone to warping when exposed to high heat.
All you have to do to avoid this is not leave it in such hot places, which is fairly easy to do. You can actually use its heat-resistance to your advantage. Some people actually heat up PLA with a hairdryer and form pieces to their bodies.
If you do end up choosing PLA, it’s a good idea to finish and coat it in order to strengthen it up. If you don’t want to go through this process, then there are still other choices for you to go with. It can be finished as good as ABS with a lot of sanding, filler (clear coat/primer).
There are a few products you can use to strengthen up PLA:
- XTC3D – brush on self-levelling resin
- Fibreglass and resin
These products can give your parts extra heat-resistance and even UV protection but, you can end up losing detail with this post-processing.
You can also add more perimeters in your print settings to give it extra strength. Simply sand down the print afterwards to get it looking how to want, but avoid going into the infill of the print.
Why is PETG a Good Filament for Cosplay & Wearable Items?
We shouldn’t leave out PETG in the discussion of good filaments for cosplay and wearable items.
It’s only a little more expensive than PLA, but it has strength which out-does both PLA & ABS. The ease of printing with PETG is up there with PLA with such a low presence of warping.
PETG is a great middle candidate for cosplay filament due to being similar to print as PLA and having more durability, similar to ABS but definitely not as much.
You also have more flexibility than PLA so if you are planning to wear or use this cosplay, PETG could be the ideal candidate.
The downside with PETG is how much longer you would spend on post-processing and sanding to finish the final product. It’s actually the flexibility of PETG which makes it harder to sand.
Models with overhangs can be quite difficult with PETG because it would require strong fans, but PETG prints best with a lower fan speed. Some software have bridging fan speeds to account for this.
Why is HIPS a Good Filament for Cosplay & Wearable Items?
HIPS is another contender when it comes to using filament for cosplay and wearable items. It has characteristics which make it very useful in this application such as very low warping and great impact resistance.
Another upside is the low-smell characteristic, unlike ABS which can have quite a harsh smell.
Why is Nylon PCTPE Good Filament for Cosplay & Wearable Items?
PCTPE (Plasticized Copolyamide TPE) is a material which has almost exclusively been designed for cosplay & wearable items. It is a co-polymer of highly flexible nylon and TPE.
The features that this material has is perfect for cosplay due to the highly flexible characteristic and great durability of the nylon polymers within.
This is an amazing filament to be used for durable prosthetic as well as your premium cosplay wearable items. Not only do you have this durability, but you have a very smooth texture with a rubber-like feel.
It does come at a premium price, which is expected for such a high quality material. 1lb (0.45 kg) of Nylon PCTPE costs around $30, which can be bought direct from Taulman3D.
What Cosplay Items Have Been 3D Printed?
In the video below, you might be able to make out the massive 3D printed Death Star, which weighs over 150KG. It was 3D printed with several materials, but the supporting parts and features were printed with ABS. This goes to show how strong and durable ABS can be, managing objects as big as this.