3D Printer Filament Types and Uses

3D printers use materials called filaments. These filaments are made of different materials, which means they are of different types. For example, we have filaments such as Carbon Fiber, Metal, Wood, Magnetic, Conductive, PLA, ABS, PETG, NYLON, among others.

If you are going to buy material (filament), it is good to know and learn the properties of the different types of 3D printing filaments available.

In this guide, we’ll go through an overview of the different types of filaments available as well as what they are best suitable for. We’ll also look at the properties of each filament. Let’s get started.

What is Filament?

Filament is the raw material that 3D Printers use to create a 3D model. We’ve covered this more in our guide: “What is filament?”

Which Filament Should you Buy?

If you are just getting started with FDM 3D printing, the best filament to buy would be PLA. This material is non-toxic and has a low melting temperature. Therefore, it can be used with most budget 3D printers. Check our guide on the Best PLA Filament for 3D Printers for recommendations of the top filament brands you can get started with.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses

Let’s now look at common 3D printer filament types and uses. We’ll provide details and properties of various filaments, including PLA, ABS, PETG and NYLON. We also have covered exotic filaments such as CARBON FIBER, LIGHTING, METAL, CERAMIC, or WOOD.

We also go through the common areas of use of the filaments, and their advantages and disadvantages.

We have divided the materials into four sections:

  • Standard Filament
  • Flexible Filament
  • Support Filament
  • Special Filament

Let’s get started.

1. Standard Filament

a) PLA

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is one of the most common filament materials for 3D printers. The next most common filament after PLA is ABS. There are good reasons why PLA is common. This material has a wide range of uses, is odorless, has low warping ability and does not require a heated building board.

PLA filament is also 100% degradable, recyclable and made from renewable resources such as corn starch. You can read more in our guide: What is PLA filament Made Of.

PLA filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm. The material also comes in different colors.

PLA Filament Scope

PLA filament is rigid and fragile at the same time. This material is used mainly in “low-to-medium stress” environments, decorations, prototypes, etc.

Outside of 3D printing, PLA is widely used in candy-paper and biodegradable medical implants.

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PLA Filament Properties

  • Stiff, strong and slightly brittle
  • Easy to print
  • Does not require heated building board
  • Environmental friendly
  • Not suitable for outdoor climate or high stress

b) ABS

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is another common filament for 3D printers. Unlike PLA, ABS is more suitable for functional products, or products that must withstand outdoor climates and higher temperatures.

ABS also has good finishing properties. For example, you can get a glossy surface on the 3D print with acetone.

ABS filaments require a 3D printer that has a heated building board since it needs to cool down slowly to avoid problems. It is also necessary to be careful with the toxic gases that are created when printing, and thus need good ventilation.

ABS Filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

ABS Filament Scope

This material is quite strong, stress resistant and withstands high temperatures better than PLA.
Outside of 3D printing, ABS filaments are widely used in everyday things such as mobile phone cases, toys, keyboards etc.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 1
Polymaker ABS Filament

AVAILABLE ON POLYMAKER

ABS Filament Properties

  • Pretty strong
  • Can be used outdoors and in high temperatures
  • Good finishing properties
  • Requires heated building board
  • Requires good ventilation
  • Slightly more difficult than PLA to print

c) PLA +/ PLA PRO

PLA+ (also known as PLA Plus or PLA Pro) is a PLA filament for 3D printers that has the same good properties as PLA. However, it is less fragile and has a more intense color shade. This color shade is difficult to see in pictures. However, when you print your 3D model, you can see a fairly obvious difference compared to regular PLA. This material is actually plain PLA, but with additives.

PLA+ filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

PLA+ Filament Scope

PLA+ filament is a popular material used in “low-to-medium stress” environments, decorations, prototypes, etc.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 2
eSUN PLA+ Filament

AVAILABLE ON ESUN

PLA+ Filament Properties

  • Stiff, strong, not as fragile as PLA
  • Easy to print
  • Does not require heated building board
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Not suitable for outdoor climate or high stress

d) ABS+ /ABS PRO

ABS+ (also known as ABS Plus or ABS Pro) is an ABS filament for 3D printers that is stronger than ordinary ABS. This material is mainly used when 3D printing items that require extra stress resistance and strength. The material is made of ordinary ABS, but with additives.

ABS+ filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

ABS+ Filament Scope

ABS+ filaments are used in high-stress environments (outdoors or indoors). This material is used to make items that need to withstand fairly high temperatures.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 3
eSUN ABS+ Filament

AVAILABLE ON ESUN

ABS+ Filament Properties

  • Pretty strong
  • Can be used outdoors and in high temperatures environments
  • Requires heated building board
  • Requires good ventilation
  • Slightly more difficult than PLA to print

e) Nylon

NYLON (Polyamide or PA) is a strong filament for 3D printers that can handle many applications. This is one of the strongest 3D printer filaments on the market. Nylon is suitable for making high-stress functional products and products that will withstand a lot.

However, it is quite difficult to print with Nylon if you are not experienced. Also, the material is hygroscopic, i.e., it absorbs moisture from the air easily. Therefore, you need to keep it free from moisture (in a dry and preferably slightly colder space).

Nylon filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors. See our recommendations of the best Nylon filaments.

Nylon Filament Scope

Nylon filaments are used for high-stress 3D prints, such as functional prototypes, where strength and flexibility are requirements of the product.

Outside of 3D printing, the material used in the textile industry. If you print models with Nylon, they will be flexible since the material is thin and yet strong.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 4
Polymaker Nylon Filament

AVAILABLE ON POLYMAKER

Nylon Filament Properties

  • Very strong
  • Handle stress
  • Requires heated plate
  • Risk of warp
  • Hygroscopic
  • Requires a little more effort for good results

f) PETG / PET / PETT Filament

PET-G (Polyethylene Terephthalate + Glycol) is a popular filament for 3D printing. The material is made from the plastic PET, but with some modification with glycol. PET plastic is the most common plastic material globally. This is the plastic used to make bottles and food containers. The material is liquid-repellent and FDA approved, which means it can be used for food-consumption products.

In addition to PETG filaments, there are also PET and PETT filaments, although they are not as common. PET or PETT filaments are mainly used if you need high transparency in the product.

PET plastic is not degradable. However, it is recyclable.

PETG filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

PETG / PET / PETT Filament Scope

This material is quite strong, stress resistant and withstands high temperatures better than PLA.
Outside of 3D printing, PETG filaments are widely used in everyday things, such as mobile phone cases, toys, keyboards etc.

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PETG Filament Properties

  • Pretty strong
  • Handle stress
  • Water repellent + FDA approved
  • Requires heated building board
  • Requires high print temperatures
  • Requires a little more effort for good results

g) ASA

ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate) is similar to ABS plastic, but can withstand UV light. This means that the plastic does not crack or discolor when it is out in the sun. Since it’s similar to ABS, it can be used in the same work areas. However, when printing ASA, you need to turn the 3D printer fan down so that the cooling takes place very slowly. Otherwise, the filament can crack during rapid cooling.

ASA filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm. It is also available in different colors.

ASA filament Scope

ASA material is quite strong, stress resistant and can withstand high temperatures as well as UV light.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 5
Polymaker ASA Filament

AVAILABLE ON POLYMAKER

ASA Filament Properties

  • Pretty strong
  • Can be used outdoors and in high temperatures
  • UV resistant
  • Good finishing properties
  • Requires heated building board
  • Requires good ventilation
  • Slow cooling is required
  • Slightly more difficult than PLA to print

h) PP

PP (PolyPropylene) is a filament with flexible properties that is widely used in food boxes and packaging. This filament is moisture sensitive and needs to be dehumidified in a separate process before 3D printing.

It is also difficult to print with this filament as it easily warps and has poor adhesion. PP Filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

PP Filament Scope

PP plastic is used today in lunch boxes and also some flexible, functional products , such as plastic lids that you snap up.

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PP Filament Properties

  • Can be used for food containers
  • Pretty strong
  • Semi-flexible
  • Requires heated building board
  • Very hygroscopic
  • Difficult to print with
  • Poor adhesion

PC

PC (Polycarbonate) is the strongest filament for 3D printers in this list. This material is used in areas where the products have high demands on temperatures or physical strength.

PC filament is transparent and is used in items that require transparency, e.g., bulletproof glasses or plastic visors for helmets. This material should not be confused with plexiglass or acrylic glass, which breaks and cracks under stress.

PC filament is hygroscopic and easily absorbs water from the air.

PC filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

PC Filament Scope

PC filaments are used where you have high demands on physical strength and/or temperatures, e.g., for parts for drones or radio-controlled cars.

Outside of 3D printing, this material is used for bulletproof glass, plastic visors for helmets, etc.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 6
Polymaker PC Filament

AVAILABLE ON POLYMAKER

PC Filament Properties

  • Very strong and somewhat flexible.
  • Withstands temperatures up to about 110 degrees
  • Semi-flexible
  • Requires heated building board
  • Hygroscopic
  • Requires slow cooling

2. Flexible Filament

a) Flex PLA

Flexible PLA for 3D printers is used when more flexibility is needed than what regular PLA offers. Also called soft-PLA, this material is suitable for parts for radio-controlled car such as bumpers, wheels, or if you just want to print a mobile cover.

Flex-PLA Filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

Flex-PLA Filament Scope

Flexible PLA filament is used at times where ordinary PLA is too stiff and you need more flexibility. The less infill you use, the more flexible 3D printing becomes.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 7
Flashforge Flex PLA

AVAILABLE ON FLASHFORGE

Flex-PLA Filament Properties

  • Strong and somewhat flexible
  • Easy to print
  • Does not require heated building board
  • Not suitable for outdoor climate / high temperatures

b) TPU

TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) filament is an elastic oil and grease-repellent plastic that is widely used in industries due to its good properties. This material is durable and also not very difficult to print. This plastic material should not be confused with TPE or TPC, which is also flexible filament.

TPE was the predecessor of TPU.

TPU filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

TPU Filament Scope

TPU filaments are used for 3D prints where elasticity and durability are important. Examples of applications can be mobile phone covers, wheels for RC cars, and the like.

Outside of 3D printing, this material is widely used for everything that needs to be elastic and durable, such as instrument panels in cars, drive belts, shoes sole, inflatable boats., among others.

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TPU Filament Properties

  • Elastic and durable / strong
  • Easy to print
  • Most often preferred over TPE / TPC
  • Heated building board preferred
  • Slow printing required
  • Slow cooling

c) TPE

TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) is a plastic material that is the precursor to TPU. Or you can say that TPU is a kind of TPE.

TPE filaments are softer than TPU. Therefore, not all 3D printers can print with these filaments as it often gets stuck in the extruder. In addition, TPE has a higher degree of shrinkage and wears faster than TPU. These characteristics mean that TPU is actually preferred over TPE.

TPE Filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

TPE Filament Scope

TPE filaments can be used to create flexible products such as bracelets, mobile phone cases, plastic bushings or anything else that can withstand stress and high elasticity.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 8
NinjaTek TPE Filament

AVAILABLE ON MATTERHACKERS

TPE Filament Properties

  • Elastic and durable/strong
  • Heated building board preferred
  • Slow printing required
  • Slow cooling
  • Soft (Not all 3D printers can handle it)

d) TPC

TPC (Thermoplastic copolyester) is also a flexible filament based on TPE. This material is slightly stiffer than TPE, and is not so commonly used.

TPU is usually chosen before both TPE and TPC as it has the properties of TPE and TPC, and even more.

TPC Filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

TPC Filament Scope

TPC filaments are used in products that require higher impact resistance than ordinary TPE can handle, but at the same time also require the plastic’s elastic properties to remain.

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TPC Filament Properties

  • Elastic and durable/strong
  • A little more impact resistant than TPE
  • Heated building board preferred
  • Slow printing required
  • Slow cooling
  • Soft (Not all 3D printers can handle it)

3. Support Filament

a) HIPS

HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) is a plastic material that is often used as support for other filaments since it can be dissolved in “limonene”. For example, you cannot print in thin air. Some structures require to be held up by supports while they are being printed. This is where HIPS comes into play.

This filament has good properties that are quite similar to ABS, e.g., similar printing temperatures. As a result, ABS and HIPS are often used together. Another reason why ABS and HIPS are used together is that the “limonene” destroys/dissolves HIPS.

HIPS filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

HIPS Filament Scope

HIPS filaments are mainly used with 3D printers that have dual-extruder, as a support material for ABS filaments. You can easily dissolve HIPS with “limonene” to remain only with ABS plastic.

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HIPS Filament Properties

  • Same print settings as ABS
  • Dissolves in substances such as limonene
  • Requires heated building board
  • Dual extruder required

b) PVA

PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) is another plastic that is mainly used as a support material. PVA is water soluble. Therefore, it must be kept dry before printing. When printing with PLA filaments, you can use PVA as a support filament because the two have similar printing settings. PVA and PLA work well together, just like HIPS and ABS work well.

PVA filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

PVA Filament Scope

PVA filaments are mainly used with 3D printers with dual-extruder, as a support material for PLA prints. After printing, the PVA is easily dissolved by exposing the print to water.

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PVA Filament Properties

  • Same print settings as PLA
  • Dissolves in water
  • Does not require heated plate
  • Must be kept completely dry
  • Dual extruder requirements

4. Special Filament

a) Wood

Wood is a special filament used to give the product a wood-like appearance. This plastic material is actually PLA plastic, with additives of various types of wood.

There are different wood filaments on the market today. The filaments differ based on the types and amounts of added wood. Examples of wood filaments include maple, cedar, bamboo, cork, and olive wood.

Wood filaments should not be printed at too high temperatures as they can burn and the print will usually be slightly dark. Also, the filament should be removed from the 3D printer after use. Otherwise, it can start to burn if it remains in the same place next to the heated nozzle.

WOOD filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different types of wood.

Wood Filament Scope

Wood filaments are mainly used for items appearance is of high importance, such as decorations, bowls, figures or the like. Another well-used area is in models for architectures.

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Wood Filament Properties

  • Does not require heated plate
  • Stiff, strong, and slightly brittle
  • Easy to print
  • Burn marks from extruder temp
  • Not suitable for outdoor climate or high stress

b) Metal

Metal filament is a special plastic used to give the product a metal-like appearance. This material is actually PLA or ABS plastic, with additives of different metals, in different amounts. The amounts vary, but are usually 50% metal, 50% PLA or ABS. However, they can also be as high as 85% metal.

The metal powder that is added is usually from bronze, copper, aluminum, stainless steel, or brass. You will notice that the nozzle on 3D printers will need to be replaced fairly soon with frequent use of metal filaments as these fibers corrode the nozzles.

Metal filaments can, just like metal, be polished after printing to give them a more shiny or metallic appearance.

Metal filaments are available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different metals.

Metal Filament Scope

Metal filaments are mainly used where appearance is of high importance, e.g., for statues, models, toys, figures and the like.

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Metal Filament Properties

Since metal filament can either be ABS or PLA, the properties will vary depending on which it is. Refer to either ABS or PLA for properties.

c) Ceramics / Clay

Clay – These filaments are a mix of polymer and soil materials such as clay/ceramics. This material is an exciting and different addition to other plastic materials. Just like is the case with ceramics, an oven is required to finish the 3D print.

Ceramic filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

Clay/Ceramic Filament Scope

Clay or ceramic filament is suitable if you want to create ceramics with a 3D printer. This material can be treated in the same way as ordinary ceramics, i.e., treatment in an oven etc.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 9
LayCeramic Ceramic Filament

AVAILABLE ON MATTERHACKERS

Clay/Ceramic Filament Properties

  • Pretty easy to print
  • Does not require heated building board
  • Bake in the oven at about 270 degrees after printing

d) Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber filament is used for items that need to be rigid and not bend. The filament is not 100% carbon fiber. Rather, it usually has a different base such as PLA, ABS, PETG or Nylon Since carbon fiber is a very light and strong material, it also eats away at the nozzles quickly. For example, 300 grams of the filament can make a noticeable difference on a regular nozzle for 3D printers. Therefore, you should possibly buy stronger nozzles when using these materials.

Carbon fiber filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm.

Carbon Fiber Filament Application

Carbon fiber filaments are widely used in products that should be strong, rigid, lightweight and not bend. Examples are propellers, drone components, model aircraft.

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Carbon Fiber Filament Properties

Since the filaments have different base plastics, e.g., PLA, ABS, PETG or Nylon, their properties will vary depending on the base plastic.

  • Strong
  • Light
  • Eats the nozzle

Self Lighting Filament

Luminous filaments are basically PLA or ABS plastic, but are luminous. This material is a fun filament that can be used to make toys or similar items for the children’s room. Keep in mind that luminous filaments can corrode the nozzle.

Luminous filaments are available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as different colors.

Luminous Filament Scope

Luminous filaments are often used in toys or other things for children’s rooms, such as stars that can be attached to the wall or ceiling. This filament is especially popular for Halloween items.

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Luminous Filament Properties

Since luminous filaments have different base plastics ,such as PLA or ABS, refer to these for more properties.

  • Lights in the dark, luminous effect
  • Pretty easy to print
  • Eats the nozzle a little

Color Change Filament

Color-changing filaments are basically PLA or ABS. These filaments change color depending on temperature. The material usually changes between two different colors, for example blue to green, or yellow to green.

Color-changing filaments are available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as different colors.

Color Changing Filament Application

Color-changing filaments can be used when looking to spice up the product with an odd finish. Since this filament is relatively easy to print, it can be fun for various experiments, or for children’s toys.

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Color Changing Filament Properties

Color change filaments have different base plastics, such as PLA or ABS. Therefore, refer to these for more properties.

  • Changes color depending on temperature
  • Pretty easy to print

Magnetic Filaments

Magnetic filament is a special filament made of iron, mixed with a base of PLA or ABS. The filament is not a magnet, but the mixture of the iron enables properties that make the product attach to magnets.

Magnetic filaments are available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as different colors.

Magnetic Filament Scope

Magnetic filaments are an exciting variant of the other filaments. The material can be used to create items with magnetic properties. You can also easily get rust-like effects on 3D printing with a few simple steps.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 10
Protopasta Magnetic PLA Filament

AVAILABLE ON MATTERHACKERS

Magnetic Filament Properties

Magnetic filaments have different base plastics, such as PLA or ABS. Refer to these for more properties.

  • Magnets attach to this material
  • Iron based
  • Pretty easy to print
  • Eats the nozzle a little

Conductive Filament

Conductive filament is a special filament for applications that need to be live, such as low-voltage and low-current circuits. This material is best used by a 3D printer that has dual-extruder technology, together with PLA, because conductive filaments adhere very well to PLA.

Conductive filaments are available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm.

Conductive Filament Scope

Conductive filaments are mainly used in conjunction with PLA to create low-current and low-voltage circuits. Examples could be creating LED circuits, connecting sensors, or keyboards.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 11
Protopasta Conductive PLA Filament

AVAILABLE ON MATTERHACKERS

Conductive Filament Properties

  • Good support material for power supply
  • Same print settings as PLA
  • May require heated building board
  • Dual extruder for support

POM

POM (Polyoxymethylene), also referred to as Acetal or Delrin, is a well-known plastic material used to make functional parts such as gears, moving parts, and other models that require high precision. POM filaments is preferred to other materials, such as Nylon and PETG, because it has a low coefficient of friction. Moreover, it is durable, rigid, and strong. This makes it ideal for making gears and other high-precision items.

POM filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm.

POM Filament Scope

POM filament is a quality filament for precision prototypes, mainly for functional moving parts such as gears, where a very low coefficient of friction is required.

3D Printer Filament Types and Uses 12
MSNJ POM Filament

AVAILABLE ON 3DPRINTERONLINESTORE

POM Filament Properties

  • Very low friction
  • Strong and wear-resistant
  • Requires heated building board
  • Difficult adhesion

PMMA

PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) is more common than you think. This is the same material used in plexiglass (also called acrylic glass). This material can be transparent, is fragile and cannot bend much.

PMMA filament is available in sizes 1.75mm, 2.85mm and 3.0mm, as well as in different colors.

PMMA Filament Scope

PMMA filament is an alternative if you want transparent things like glass, but still not as fragile as glass is.

QDTD PMMA Filament

AVAILABLE ON TOP3DSHOP

PMMA Filament Properties

  • High transparency
  • Requires heated building board
  • Requires high temperatures when printing
  • Requires slow cooling

The above are the main types of 3D printer filaments, their application as well as properties. Now you know what filament will be suitable for the items you want to print.

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