There are many 3D printing materials out there that you can make use of. I’ve 3D printed with quite a few of them such as PLA, ABS, PETG for filaments, and resins like ABS-Like resin and flexible resin. I decided to write an article detailing what some of the most common materials are for 3D printing.
The most common material for 3D printing is PLA, a thermoplastic that is easy to 3D print with and has a relatively low heat resistance so it requires less heat to 3D print with. The next most common are ABS then PETG. For 3D printing resins, the most common is Rapid and ABS-Like resin.
This is the basic answer, but there are more details that you’ll want to know about 3D printing materials, so keep on reading to find out.
Most Common Filaments for 3D Printing (Thermoplastics)
PLA is the most popular of the two and is used by most people for 3D printing at home as a result of its low melting point. It is also eco-friendly and sourced from natural products and as such are popular on the market due to growing environmental concerns.
As a result of this, it is eco-friendly owing to its odorless use and the simple printing process required. It is versatile and can be used in printing different types of models with a highly detailed and perfect finish.
Products that are commonly made with this include 3D-printed toys and household materials such as utensils and vases. They come in various forms and textures which can be matte or shiny. It is stronger and can make an array of durable products.
You can get it on Amazon for an average price of $20-$25 per 1KG and it comes in different colors. PLA can work well with most FDM printers out there and most users find it really useful in their 3D printing journey as a result of its toughness and low shrinkage.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene which is also known as ABS is durable and has a good level of resistance. It is designed to fit most 3D printers and it is commonly used among most 3D printers. Although this filament is not as popular as PLA, it is known for its high resistance to heat.
It can be used in creating most toys, medical equipment, electronics, among other things and it is also commonly seen in many homes and consumer products. It has the capacity to withstand high temperatures and so may require a high-temperature nozzle while printing.
ABS is also a great option for 3D home-based printers. They are well known for their durability and flexibility and are popularly referred to as the “LEGO plastic”. They come in various colors and can be used in making diverse products.
It can be purchased at a low cost of $20-$25 per 1KG and can print durable and excellent print quality. This is almost the same price as PLA, so if you are looking for a good and trusted material to print at a low cost, ABS is your go-to material.
Polyethylene terephthalate is an increasingly popular filament. It is known for its toughness and high heat resistance. As a result of this, it has been tested to produce sturdy products with a glossy finish.
PET which is a variation of PETG is popularly known as the material used in printing water bottles. They are also used in printing other liquid and food storage since it is considered safe on the skin and food.
PETG comes in various outstanding colors and can produce great prints in your desired color. Most 3D printer users find PETG fairly easy to use and would prefer to use it as a result of its great print quality, low shrinkage, and adhesion.
The main issue with PETG is the stringing but you can overcome that with good retraction settings and by lowering your printing temperature. Make sure to dry the filament and store it properly for the best quality.
You can get various types of PETG on Amazon at a price as low as $20-$30 per KG. It’s a great alternative to PLA and ABS since it shares similar properties and even has a good UV resistance.
Another quite popular filament you’ll find out there is nylon also known as Polyamide. It is known for its great durability and high resistance to heat and chemicals. Nylon is a go-to in industrial applications as a result of its strength, durability, and versatility.
It also has strong adhesion and can be odorless during printing.
A unique quality of nylon is that you can dye it before or after printing without having an adverse effect on the print or filament. It can be used in creating mechanical parts and tools as a result of its sturdiness.
Nylon does have a tendency to absorb water from the environment fairly quickly so keep it stored in an airtight container or bag when not in use.
Although you may need to properly store the material to get the best results, this material is one of the best to print with when properly mastered. Users have found the material very useful and even choose it over other types of filaments.
However, it can be a little more premium as 1 KG of Nylon would cost you an average price of $25-$35.
Other types of filaments used in 3D printing include Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic (PVA), Polycarbonate (PC), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Nylon, Wood Fibre Filament, among others.
Check the video below for a great, in-depth video and guide on types of 3D printing filaments.
Most Popular Resins for 3D Printing
Resin is another common material used in 3D printing and can produce some great prints with the right printer. The most common resin types are ABS-like resin, Flexible resin, Water Washable resin.
ABS-like resin is known for its low shrinkage and high precision. It can be used to create products that are highly detailed and with a smooth finish. Its proper hardness brings about an easy and worry-free printing process.
Another great thing about this resin is how vibrant the colors can be. It comes in various colors that are stunning when printed. You will absolutely want to stick with one if you ever get to try it out.
This type of resin is suitable for most LCD printers and does not have a long printing process. If you are looking for a great ABS-like resin to print with, I’ll recommend the Elegoo ABS-like resin which comes in a leak-proof and fully wrapped bottle on Amazon.
It goes for an average price of around $35-$45 for 1KG.
Water washable resin is another great product you want to look out for in resin 3D printing. Water washable resins don’t require alcohol or chemical cleaning agents to wash in. You can absolutely print them in water without having to worry about an after-effect.
They have been designed to be able to wash off in water so you don’t have to worry about getting a cleaning agent to wash them in. Many users find this amusing and desirable as it saves them time and money. Even with this, it still has great precision and fast curing time.
It can be used with most resin 3D printers and is popularly used in jewelry and model printing. They can be quite expensive as a result of their unique nature. However, most users still use them as they still don’t have to spend extra cash buying IPA to wash the prints.
You can get a good water washable resin on Amazon at a fair price of around $35-$45.
Another popular type of resin out there is flexible resin. It is popularly known for its versatility and of course its flexibility. It is said to have the properties of rubber as a result of its flexibility. It is often used in creating flexible parts of a print.
Another great advantage of this resin that most 3D printers find useful is that you can mix the resin with another type of resin to increase the tensile strength of that resin.
It is often said that when printing with a flexible resin, you want to orient the print in the way it will be used. This is because the print will fall back to its initial shape unlike other types of resin that will keep the position in which it was printed.
These resins are usually a little more premium and 1KG of flexible resin can set you back around $55-$65.
Most Popular Powders for 3D Printing
Powders are another material that is used with 3D printing, but this is a less common technology for regular consumers, and used for more industrial purposes. 3D printing powders are used in SLS (selective laser sintering), and many other similar technologies.
Here’s a video that shows the SLS 3D printing workflow with the Formlabs Fuse 1.
Examples of metal powders used in 3D printing are stainless steel, aluminum powder, iron, and many others.
Nylon (Polyamide, PA12)
Since one of the most popular powder 3D printing technologies is SLS, a very common powder is nylon or polyamide.
It mainly uses nylon-based powders and sinters them layer by layer in the shape of a specific geometry that is gathered through a digital file to build a 3D print.
You can get standard nylon powder, PA 12 glass-filled powder, flexible TPU powder, PA 12 carbon filled powder and plenty more. Protolabs, the world’s fastest digital manufacturing source for rapid prototypes has many SLS materials that you can get parts made from.
Stainless steel powder is one of the materials common in metal powders for 3D printing. It uses the binder jetting technique which involves binding layers of stainless steel powder together with the help of a bonding agent.
There are other methods such as SLS which has been described in the early part of this article.
Stainless steel is highly durable and has high heat resistance at a temperature of 830°C. Many users find it easy to use as it is light in weight and you don’t have to break the bank to get the powder even the 3D printer can be expensive.
Here is a video on how DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) works.
They also find that it produces in a very short time as it does not take a long process to print.
It is popularly used in various areas such as jewelry, industrial applications, tools, decorative models, military and construction applications, and many more.
Many manufacturing companies are opting for 3D steel printing as it is more precise, affordable, and has a realistic technique.
Aluminum powder is another great material used in 3D printing and is common among industries. They are mostly used as an additive in 3D printing or as a base material. When they are used, they provide many advantages to the product.
Aluminum was first processed in 2006 with the SLM technique before it rose into prominence in metal 3D printing to date.
Aluminum is a scratch-resistance material and as a result, it is widely used in the construction sector. This is why most builders find it useful for external parts such as the wall, roofs, windows, and doors in most buildings.
It can be bent and twisted without a single scratch and so they are used in making smaller items as they don’t break easily.
They are impact and pressure resistance and have low weight so they can be easy to handle and work with. They are often used in producing mechanical components and they offer cost-effective manufacturing techniques for drone accessories.
This material is another popular material in the metal 3D printing sector or additive manufacturing. Many companies have opted for the use of iron in 3D printing as a result of its low cost when compared to stainless steel.
A user in the metal 3D printing sector once said stainless steel may not be found in a lot of industrial applications which is why iron is needed for its strength and cost. It also uses the selective laser melting technique to produce Iron 3D printed products.
For a closer look at how DMLS looks with detailed explanations, check the video below.