Most people used to think 3D printed models and parts were brittle and weak. However, a lot has changed since then in terms of durability. Nowadays, you can use strong 3D printer filaments that can withstand even the harshest conditions.
That said, the 3D filament you use will help determine how strong your 3D printed model or part will be. In critical load-bearing scenarios, you’ll want to use 3D printer filaments that can resist deformation.
Knowing how strong your filament is will allow you to make better decisions when it comes to choosing the best materials for your model parts and the overall design you should go with.
This article will briefly review some of the strongest 3D printer filaments available on the market and highlight why they’re considered the strongest. You also going to learn a few tips on how to use the filaments to make strong and long-lasting 3D printed models.
However, before we get started, let’s understand the strength in this context a bit more.
What Does Strength Mean?
Many things help determine the strength of a 3D printer filament, but this article will mainly focus on Tensile strength. This measurement is typically associated with elongation at break.
Elongation at break measures how far you can pull and stretch the material before it breaks, and you can also use it to measure the component’s impact resistance.
However, it’s essential to keep in mind that the material you use won’t always determine the strength of your printed parts. The print settings, post-processing methods, and design type can all affect the strength of your 3D model as well.
That being said, polycarbonate-based filaments are usually the strongest of them all. This is because polycarbonate filaments have unique mechanical structures that have been specifically tested for both resilience and strength. As a result, polycarbonate is a component that’s widely used in the engineering space.
Types of Strength
- Tensile Strength
This indicates how much deformation the material can withstand when stretched or pulled. This rating gives users an idea about how much they can load or stress the object before it breaks or fails. Carbon fiber, Polycarbonate, and PEEK filaments have some of the best tensile strength ratings.
- Impact Resistance
This measures the filament’s ability to handle impact without fracturing or breaking. The higher the filament’s impact strength, the less likely it’ll fracture or break when put through sudden stress. Nylon and Polycarbonate are examples of filaments with exceptional impact resistance.
- Chemical Resistance
Chemical resistance comes into play when you’re dealing with harsh environments and chemical components. PEEK, Polycarbonate and Nylon filaments have great chemical resistance and are ideal for use in harsh chemical environments.
Strongest 3D Printer Filaments
So now that you know a few of the strengths we’ll be touching on, here’s the list of the strongest 3D filaments in the market.
1. Polycarbonate Filaments
Polycarbonate (PC) filaments are known for their temperature resistance, high-impact resistance, and outstanding toughness. It’s a strong 3D filament that has lightweight and transparent qualities. GizmoDorks are some of the best on the market.
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A recent study showed that polycarbonate filaments have a tensile strength of more than 5200 PSI, helping make them one of the toughest 3D printer filaments.
Polycarbonate filaments have great UV and chemical resistance and can handle temperatures of up to 140 Degrees Celsius. In addition, you can use polycarbonate filaments as an additive to improve the properties of an ABS filament. Put together; these characteristics will allow you to print functional prototypes.
Polycarbonate filaments have glass transition temperature rates that are way higher than what you’ll find with regular plastic filaments, which is why they also have high-temperature resistance. ABS filaments are the closest to polycarbonates when it comes to strength but still have a temperature resistance rate that’s 40 Degrees Celsius lower than that of polycarbonates.
You can bend thin polycarbonate prints at room temperature without worrying about cracks and bends. Polycarbonate filaments have a weight lifting capacity of around 865-pounds and a 9800 PSI strength rating. To print properly, you need a 110 Degrees Celsius heated bed.
2. ABS Filaments
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) filaments are some of the early 3D printing thermoplastics. However, it’s still a relatively popular material because of its low price and versatility.
Unfortunately, though, more and more people are starting to favor ASA and PETG filaments over ABS filaments because of their superior qualities.
A recent study showed that ABS components have a tensile strength of over 4500 PSI, giving ABS filaments lower tensile strength ratings compared to polycarbonate filaments. However, some still opt for ABS instead of polycarbonates because of its accessibility and relative ease of 3D printing.
You can use ABS filaments to print automotive components and functional prototypes. This is vital in scenarios where the end product will need to be able to handle high-temperature levels, like in a vehicle that is exposed to direct light from the sun.
You can also use acetone to post-process your ABS filament 3D printed model. It will give your printed model a smooth finish with a glossy overall appearance. This is why you may want to consider ABS filaments if you want to print aesthetic figures and models.
However, like most other high-temp thermoplastics, ABS filaments tend to warp and deform pretty easily. So although you can use these kinds of filaments on many budget-friendly 3D printers, it’ll help if you print inside a 3D printer enclosure.
3. Nylon Filaments
Nylon filaments are well-recognized for their low friction co-efficiency and outstanding mechanical strength. Nylon material is commonly used in SLS 3D printing. Many Nylon FDM 3D printer units can support these filaments.
Nylon filaments have an impact strength rating of roughly 75 kJ/m2, which is higher than PETG, ABS and PLA filaments making Nylon one of the best for high-impact 3D printing applications. In addition, its low friction co-efficiency and high-impact resistance help make it an ideal material for machine parts, gears, hinges and jigs.
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The problem with Nylon filaments is that they tend to warp easily and are hygroscopic in nature, which are the same issues Polycarbonate filaments have. So if you want to print Nylon 3D prints without any complications, you’ll need to create in a finely-controlled and well-managed printing environment.
Nylon filaments have incredible tensile strength of around 7000 PSI, which is way more than what you’ll get with other filaments. It’s highly resistant to heat and chemicals, which is perfect for use in huge organizations and industries.
Professionals and experts in the nylon industry are looking for ways to enhance this material by mixing particles from fiberglass and carbon fiber. These additions can help make this material stronger and more resistant.
See a roundup of the best nylon filaments.
4. PEEK Filaments
PEEK filaments are one of the most trusted and reliable materials in the 3D printing space. PEEK, which stands for Polyether Ether Ketone, is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic. It’s well-recognized for its high-end chemical resistance and its excellent strength.
A process known as phased polymerization takes place at high temperatures during its manufacture. This process makes it highly resistant to chemical, bio and organic degradation in almost all types of environments with operating temperatures of around 250 Degrees Celsius.
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Because PEEK filaments make sterilization processes easy and help decrease moisture absorption levels, industries in the medical field are increasingly using them for all their 3D printing needs. Poly Ether Ketone filaments have a tensile strength rating of around 7250 PSI, making an ideal high-performance thermoplastic material for high-end applications.
PEEK filaments also have great strength-to-weight ratios. It’s Young’s modulus is similar to that of the human bone, which helps make it ideal for medical applications. Its high-temp resistance and lightweight properties make it useful in the aerospace market.
This high-temperature thermoplastic requires a specific printing environment in order to produce good prints and is both not easily accessible and way pricier than other thermoplastics. As a result, it’s typically reserved for huge industrial applications. However, if you’ve got the right setup and a proper 3D printer, such as the Creatbot F160, you can get great results with this type of filament at home.
5. TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) Filaments
Even though TPU filaments are generally flexible filaments, they show a lot of strength when it comes to chemical and abrasion resistance, impact resistance and wear and tear resistance. They’re also very durable and have great shock absorption qualities.
A Thermoplastic Polyurethane filament’s flexibility depends on what materials are blended together. This usually varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, who can either offer high elasticity or high rigidity.
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Most TPU filaments can manage incredibly high loads and stress before they break. Its great wear and tear resistance, high-end abrasion properties, and strong chemical resistance make it perfect for printing prosthetics, phone cases, protective gear, and even footwear.
The good thing about TPU filaments is that they don’t require high-end 3D printers, and you can use them at low temperatures. However, their flexible nature makes it hard to print 3D models with Bowden extruders.
You’ll need to 3D print at very slow speeds if you want to avoid jamming the hot end. Another thing you need to remember is that setting higher infill values with TPU components will result in stiffer 3D parts, and vice versa.
6. Carbon Fiber Filaments
Carbon Fiber filaments are thin filaments with a carbon atom structure. This material’s increased strength is due to the carbon atoms being structured in a crystalline format. As a result, these are durable and strong filaments perfect for the automotive industry and the like.
The strength-to-weight ratio of the carbon fiber filament might just be the highest compared to all the others on this list. In flexural strength tests at 3 points, carbon fiber shows a 20-percent more yield strength than aluminum and eight times stronger than ABS filaments. Carbon Fiber apparently has a flexural strength of 540MPA, 16 times stiffer, and five times stronger than nylon filaments like Onyx.
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Amazon sells 2KG of PETG Carbon Fiber for around $170 or so. Okay, yes, it’s an incredibly high-end 3D printing material, but you’ll have to fork up the big bucks to get this high-quality filament. It’s resistant to chemical and corrosion degradation and is incredibly light.
In addition, its incredible strength allows it to have superior dimensional stability, reducing the chances of shrinkage and collisions. All the qualities mentioned above are what help make it an ideal filament for the automotive and aerospace industries.
You can also use carbon fiber for other 3D filaments, such as Nylon, PETG, and Polycarbonate. The material that comes from this combination is a 3D filament with carbon-ingrained short fibers. This helps increase abrasion resistance and hardness. In addition, compared to models printed using regular 3D filaments, carbon fiber-based filament parts can be much stiffer and more lightweight.
Because carbon fiber filaments are so hard, you’ll need a ruby-tipped or stainless steel nozzle when printing. Standard bronze nozzles won’t cut it and will wear out faster than you can blink. And again, make sure you’re printing at slow speeds with carbon fiber if you want a good end result. Printing at such speeds provides more consistent print qualities and decreases the risk of clogging complications.
The studies, strength ratings, and test results highlighted in this article show that Polycarbonate filaments are the strongest 3D filaments of them all. Not only are they ideal for high-performance applications, but they also have a great weight-to-strength ratio.
The best alternatives to Polycarbonate are ABS, Nylon, and Carbon Fiber filaments because, like PC, they also have very high strength levels.
With that said, all the filaments on this list are high-quality 3D filaments that will allow you to produce some of the strongest 3D printed parts. 3D printing has come a long way and so have the parts and accessories necessary for a pleasant and successful overall experience. So hopefully, now you know where the strength lies.