Beginner’s Guide: What is 3D Printer Filament?

Wondering what is 3D printer filament? Read our guide to understand what this material is in the 3D printing industry.

This article has been woven from one of the frequently asked questions about 3D printing. If you are new to 3D printing, you may be wondering what is a filament.

This article will answer your question.

What is 3D Printer Filament?

In 3D printing, filament refers to the raw material used to print items using 3D printers . The method of printing with filaments is called FFF (also called FDM – fused deposition modeling).

image of 3d printer filament

FFF stands for Fused Filament Fabrication, and FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling. FFF and FDM are basically the same method.

About 70% of all printers on the market are FFF/FDM 3D printers. All these printers use filaments as their raw materials.

The most materials are plastic filaments, such as PLA, ABS, PETG and NYLON.

Sometimes, the filaments may be infused with other materials to create entirely new lines of filaments. Examples of materials that can be mixed with the filaments include Carbon Fiber, Wood, Metal, Aluminum, Glass, Luminous, Transparent and more.

Best Filament for 3D Printers

Which is the best filament your 3D printer? Well, the answer to this varies, depending on things such as your 3D printer, kind of model you want to print, and so on.

Here are some quick guides you can go through on the best filaments for 3D printing:

Filament Sizes and their Differences

There are two most common 3D printer filament sizes. These are are 1.75mm filament and 2.85mm filament. These sizes fit most 3D printers on the market. However, the 1.75mm size is more common.

Sometimes, 2.85mm filament is also called 3mm filament. This is a legacy from the fact that many manufacturers called their filaments 3mm in the beginning, even though they were in fact about 2.8 – 2.9mm.

It is important to check the tolerance and roundness of filaments to be procured. This is because there are important quality aspects directly related to the size.

Why Different Sizes of Filaments for 3D Printers?

Broadly speaking, there are not large differences between the different sizes. However, there are some aspects that have to be considered before you decide whether to go for a 1.75mm or 2.8mm 3D printer filament.

If you are buying a 3D printer for the first time, we advise you to go for one that accepts 1.75mm filaments. This is because the filament size is becoming more standardized and common.

However, there is no reason to replace a working 2.85mm 3D printer with a 1.75mm one at present.

Differences Between 1.75mm and 2.85mm Filaments

Now, let’s look at the differences between 1.75mm and 2.85mm filaments.

1.75mm Filament

  • Smaller diameter means that you can also get more detailed prints in some cases.
  • Begins to become more standardized and thus easier to get hold of.

2.85mm Filament

  • More rigid.
  • In some cases, it’s better suited for flexible filaments because the cross section is larger and thus less risk of the flexible filament “flexing” when you push it forward to the nozzle.

As you can see above, there are not many differences in performance in terms of the size of the filament you choose. Unless you have specific requirements that must be met, we recommend 1.75mm filament for 3D printers, especially for beginners.

What Size of Filament Should You Choose?

Which size you should choose will depends on the area of use. If you only want to do simpler things, we recommend that you use 1.75mm.

1.75mm is becoming more common, and is starting to be standardized. The other sizes are more suitable for special purposes that you have read about above.

Types of 3D Printing Filaments

image of 3d printed object
There are many different types of 3D printing filaments on the market. Below, we look at the most common filaments and their properties.

The best filament to buy will depend mainly on the end product you want to have as well as your 3D printer.

If you are looking to make a simple and decorative product that will only stand on the desk or shelf, then PLA is a good choice. If, the product is to be rigid and durable for outdoor use (rain, sun, temperature changes), then PETG or NYLON filaments are recommended.

Common Filament Materials

The most common filament materials are:

  • PLA (Polylactic Acid)
  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
  • NYLON (Polyamide)
  • PETG (polyethylene terephthalate) + (Glycol modification)

We will go through the pros and cons of each of the above materials. We will also show the most common settings on 3D printers that each material requires.

1. PLA Filament – Good quality at low cost

PLA stands for Polylactic Acid, This is a degradable plastic material (Polymer) that is usually made from renewable assets. PLA is also the most common filament on the market for 3D printers.

PLA is well suited for prototypes and products that are not exposed to much stress. We always recommend PLA to beginners.

Advantages of PLA Filament

  • Odorless when printing
  • Does not require a heated plate
  • Is stiff
  • Can be cooled down relatively quickly
  • Low warp (retains shape, does not bend and does not detach so easily from the building board)
  • Long service life
  • Cheap to manufacture

Disadvantages of PLA Filaments

  • Not heat resistant
  • Not suitable for outdoor use

Hardware Tequirements for PLA Filament

For the best quality of 3D printing, the 3D Printer should meet the following criteria

Hot plate

Not necessary

Construction platform

Blue tape / Glue


180-230 ° C



2. ABS Filament – A little more durable at the expense of details

ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. This is a plastic material for 3D printers that is quite common in e.g. hoods for vacuum cleaners, telephones, computers, LEGO etc.

ABS is suitable for prototypes and prints that need to be subjected to a little more stress. The material is also suitable for projects where a finishing operation is to take place after printing from the 3D printer.

ABS filament is not degradable in most cases.

Advantages of ABS Filament

  • Pretty strong
  • Heat resistant
  • Withstands outdoor climate
  • Cheap to manufacture

Disadvantages of ABS Filament

  • Smells when printed
  • Slow cooling is required
  • Tendency to shrink

Hardware Requirements for ABS Filament

For the best quality of 3D printing, the 3D Printer should meet the following criteria:

Hot plate

  • 95-110°C
  • Hot plate necessary
  • Cover is recommended

Construction platform

Kapton tape




Not necessary

3. NYLON Filament – Strong but demanding

NYLON filament is a kind of polyamide material that is widely used in textiles. The material is durable and elastic.

NYLON is extremely sensitive to moisture, and should be printed in a moisture-free environment. Also, to achieve good results, it should be stored in a moisture-free place when not in use.

Advantages of NYLON Filament

  • Odorless when printing
  • Durable
  • Slightly elastic

Disadvantages of NYLON Filament

  • Extra sensitive to moisture
  • Requires moisture-free storage
  • Requires high temperatures when printing
  • Slow printing is recommended, which takes time

Hardware Requirements for NYLON Filament

For the best quality of 3D printing, the 3D Printer should meet the following criteria:

Hot plate

  • 70-90 ° C
  • Hot plate necessary
  • Cover is recommended

Construction platform





Not necessary

4. 3PETG Filament – Good for functional products

PETG filaments are basically the same material used to make PET bottles, but with a modification.

PETG is not degradable. However, it is recyclable, just like PET bottles.

Advantages of PETG Filament

  • Shiny and smooth surfaces
  • Durable
  • Water repellent
  • Temperature resistant
  • Something flexible

Disadvantages of PETG Filaments

  • Sticks very easily
  • Requires high temperatures when printing
  • Slightly more expensive to manufacture

Hardware Requirements for PETG Filament

For the best quality of 3D printing, the 3D Printer should meet the following criteria:

Hot plate

  • 75-90 ° C
  • Hot plate necessary
  • Cover is recommended

Construction platform

Blue tape / Masking tape




Cooling is recommended

How to Make 3D Printer Filaments?

There are different ways in which 3D printer filaments are made. However, the type of plastic used determines the manufacturing process.

PLA filaments are the most common material for 3D printers. The plastic that manufacturers use to create filaments comes in the form of pellets. These plastic raw materials must be clean and free from contaminants to get the best results.

image of 3d printer filament pellets

Amount and Humidity of Pellets

When the plastic (raw material) arrives at the manufacturer, the plastic pellets are weighed into a machine carefully. The humidity must also be checked. Most manufacturers use machines that dry and dehumidify the plastic before the manufacturing process.

How Does Filament Get its Color?

Most plastic pellets are transparent or come in a certain color. To get the color of the filaments , you first add a certain amount of dye(s) to have a predetermined ratio between plastic and color. After that, mix the dye with the pellets.

Extrusion, Measurement and Packaging

Then the heating begins. After the plastic has reached a certain temperature, it is extruded through a calibrated hole. A wire gets the plastic through the hole, into the extruder and further through a measuring instrument that measures roundness, oval and other parameters.

At the end of the production process, the filament thread is then rolled up.

The coils are then packaged and are ready for use.

Find the Best Filament for 3D Printers

Sometimes, you may need to test different filaments to find the best one for your printer. It is often possible to print prototypes and simply try out which filament is best for the end product and needs.

Read our guide on the Best Filament for 3D Printing.

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