Below you will find a quick guide to most common 3D printing materials.
A filament is usually a plastic wire used in FDM/FFF 3D printers. It comes in the form of spools, and the standard diameter of the wire itself is 1,75mm, 2,85mm or 3mm.
ABS – Popular general purpose plastic, suitable for 3D printing durable parts. In standard manufacturing, ABS is usually used for injection molding (to manufacture parts like for example Lego). This material can be acetone treated to achieve a smooth, glossy finish. Full name: Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.
ASA – Similar plastic to ABS but with better performance in outdoor applications. It is UV stable material. Full name: Acrylonitrile styrene acrylate.
PET – Mostly known as a material used for bottle manufacturing. PET in pure form is translucent, and 3D printed parts have a glossy finish. It is quite elastic material and also resistant to most acids and solvents.
PLA – Is very popular material for desktop 3D printing. The main reason for this is low shrinkage and warping of the material during 3D printing in an open frame 3D printers. It is stiffer but more brittle than ABS (parts will snap rather than bend). Also, the heat resistance is lower than in ABS (heat deflection temp around 50-60 °C). Full name: Polylactic acid.
Note: PLA in its pure form is a bio-based material, usually derived from corn starch, tapioca roots or sugarcane. PLA is a biodegradable and compostable material. However, it is advised to be composted only at industrial facilities. It breaks down slowly if just placed in soil. Also, additives are mixed into many PLA filaments which can be harmful to the environment.
PC – Durable plastic with good heat resistance. Its high tensile and flexural strength surpasses for example ABS. Widely used for tooling and 3D printing durable prototypes. Full name: Polycarbonate.
PC-ABS – This mixture has strength and heat resistance of PC and the flexibility of ABS.
HIPS – Another popular material for desktop 3D printing. It has higher impact and tensile strength than ABS but lower hardness. HIPS itself is usually used for packaging (CD cases etc). Full name: High impact polystyrene.
PPSF – Heat and chemical resistant plastic suitable for durable parts. PPSF can be sterilized in an autoclave and by plasma sterilization. Full name: Polyphenylsulfone.
CPE – Tough and chemical resistant material with similar properties like ABS. Full name: Co-polyester.
PEI – (also know as Ultem) is a material with exceptional heat resistance, chemical resistance, and tensile strength. Used for advanced applications in automotive or aerospace industry. Full name: Polyetherimide.
PMMA – (also known as Acrylic) is a stiff material with low friction, translucent in its pure form. Frequently used for 3D printing of burnable models for investment casting. In standard manufacturing, PMMA is used for a production of Plexiglass (shatter-resistant alternative to standard glass). Full name: Polymethyl methacrylate.
POM – (also known as Acetal) is a durable material offering high stiffness and low friction. Suitable for 3D printing moving parts, gears, etc. Full name: Polyoxymethylene.
Nylon – (also known as Polyamide) is a durable and break resistant material. Suitable for 3D printing snap fits or parts that demand high fatigue resistance. Nylon is also resistant to many chemicals.
PP – Flexible yet tough material. Also resistant to many chemicals. Full name: Polypropylene.
TPU – Flexible material with properties similar to rubber. Full name: Thermoplastic polyurethane.
TPE – Flexible material with properties similar to rubber. Usually more elastic than TPU (depends on a given Shore hardness). Full name: Thermoplastic elastomer.
TPC – Flexible material with properties similar to rubber. Full name: Thermoplastic copolyester.
PVA – Mainly used for 3D printing water soluble support structures. It is biodegradable, non-toxic material. Full name: Polyvinyl alcohol.
HIPS – In some desktop 3D printers is used for 3D printing Limonene soluble support structures. Full name: High impact polystyrene.
There is a growing number of a particle filled filaments available. The base material is plastic which contains small particles of another material:
Copper, bronze, brass, aluminum filled– Objects 3D printed from these filaments are usually meant to be polished afterward. Achieving metal-like look and feel as a result. Another option how to post process the printed parts is a heat treatment in an oven where the plastic material melts away. This results in parts with similar properties as of casted metal.
Carbon filled – Contains small chopped fibers of carbon. 3D printed parts are stiff and lightweight. It is largely used for 3D printing drone parts on desktop 3D printers.
Wood filled – Objects 3D printed from this material have similar properties as wood itself. However, the color of the 3D printed parts is uniform. There is a technique where the temperature of the print head changes randomly during 3D printing resulting in simple imitation of a real wood structure (the layers printed on higher temperatures gets darker than the rest).
Sandstone – These filaments are usually filled with chalk particles or other minerals.
Conductive – Usually filled with graphite particles, making the 3D printed parts electrically conductive.
Glow in the dark – Filled with phosphor particles.
Resins – photopolymers
Photopolymer is a liquid polymer that solidifies when exposed to UV light. It is mostly used in SLA or Polyjet/MultiJet 3D printers. There is a wide range of resins with different properties available. The biggest downside of basic photopolymers is their low heat deflection temperature (at 0.45 MPa around 50-60 °C). However, there are also special resins available – see category High temperature. Below is just a quick overview of resins from Stratasys, 3D Systems and EnvisionTEC to give you an idea of what materials are available on the market.
Stratasys (Polyjet) – Digital ABS, Rigur, Vero family…
3D Systems (MultiJet) – VisiJet M2R-BK, VisiJet M3-X, VisiJet CR-WT…
3D Systems (SLA) – Accura Xtreme, VisiJet FTX Silver, VisiJet SL Tough…
EnvisionTEC (DLP) – ABS TRU 3SP, LS600, Photosilver…
Stratasys (Polyjet) – RGD720, VeroClear …
3D Systems (MultiJet) – VisiJet M2R-CL, VisiJet M3 Crystal, VisiJet CR-CL…
3D Systems (SLA) – Accura Phoenix, VisiJet SL Clear, Accura 60 …
EnvisionTEC (DLP) – E-Glass 3SP, E-Shell 450, E-Clear 3SP …
Stratasys (Polyjet) – TangoPlus FLX 930, Agilus30 FLX935…
3D Systems (MultiJet) – VisiJet M2 ENT, VisiJet M2 EBK, VisiJet CE-NT…
EnvisionTEC (DLP) – E-Gum
Stratasys (Polyjet)- RGD525 (heat deflection 67 °C, by postprocessing can be increased to 80 °C)
3D Systems (MultiJet) – VisiJet M5-X (heat deflection 65 °C)
EnvisionTEC (DLP) – HTM140 (heat deflection 140 °C)
Stratasys (Polyjet) – MED610
3D Systems (MultiJet) – VisiJet M3 Crystal
3D Systems (SLA) – VisiJet SL Clear
EnvisionTEC (DLP) – E-Shell 200
Stratasys (Polyjet) – VeroGlaze
3D Systems (MultiJet) – VisiJet M3 Stoneplast
3D Systems (SLA) – Accura e-Stone
EnvisionTEC (DLP) – E-Dent 100, E-Guard
3D Systems (MultiJet) – VisiJet M3 Procast
3D Systems (SLA) – VisiJet FTX Cast, VisiJet SL Jewel
EnvisionTEC (DLP) – EC500, EPIC, PIC100
Plastic powders suitable for Laser sintering:
PA 2200 – Most commonly used material for laser sintering. Polyamide has a balanced toughness vs flexibility ratio (thick parts with wall thickness above 1cm are tough, whereas thin parts with wall thickness around 1mm are flexible). It is suitable for prototypes and end-use parts. Natural color is white however 3D printed parts can be easily color dyed afterward.
PA 2201 – Similar to PA 2200 with variety of certificates available (food contact, biocompatibility)
PA 3200 GF – Composed of polyamide + glass beads particles. Resulting in increased strength and thermal resistance of printed parts.
PA 2105 – High surface quality and dimensional accuracy. Mainly used for a dental application.
PA 2210 FR/PA 2241 FR – Flame retardant material, halogen-free. Mainly used in aerospace industry.
PA 1101 – Better ductility and impact resistance than PA 2200, otherwise very similar properties.
PA 1102 black – Pigmented variant of PA 1101, resulting in anthracite color parts straight from the 3D printer.
Alumide – Mixture of polyamide and aluminum particles. The result is a high stiffness and good thermal performance of printed parts.
CarbonMide – Mixture of polyamide and carbon fiber particles. Best strength to weight ratio with a high stiffness of printed parts.
PP – Polypropylene, characterised by high chemical resistance with balanced mechanical proerties.
Polyetheramide-Block-Copolymer (TPE-A) – Rubber-like properties with Shore hardness around D 35.
TPU 92A-1 – Flexible and tear resistant material.
Polystyrene (PS) – Good dimensional accuracy of printed parts. Mainly used for “burnable” models used in investment casting.
Polyaryletherketone (PEEK) – High-performance material with excellent temperature performance (also flame retardant). Good wear and chemical resistance.
Metal powders suitable for Laser sintering/melting:
Precious metal alloys:
Silver, Yellow Gold, Rose Gold, Red Gold, Platinum
For detailed information, see Cooksongold data sheets.
Metal powders suitable for Electron Beam Melting:
For detailed information, see Arcam data sheets.
Powders suitable for Powder binding:
Stainless Steel – Bronze-infused (60% Stainless Steel and 40% Bronze infiltrant)
Iron – Bronze-infused (60% Stainless Steel and 40% Bronze infiltrant)
For detailed information, see ExOne data sheets.
Zircon, Silica sand, and Ceramics beads – Used for wide range of applications including 3D printed molds used for metal casting.
PMMA – Mainly used for “burnable” models used in investment casting.
Plaster (VisiJet PXL) – Plaster like material suitable for full-color 3D printing.