Filament Facts

 

We live, dream and breathe 3D printing filaments here at E3D. What will you print with? Who's the best manufacturer? What does the filament do?

It's a 3D minefield out there. Let us walk you through it.

 

Materials for 3D Printing

Not sure which filament is for you? Here's an easy breakdown of every available 3D printing material.

PLA

PLA is a bioplastic usually derived from corn starches. PLA melts at low temperatures, has extremely low warp, bonds easily to cold bed surfaces and generally prints with fantastic quality with no fumes. It might not be the best at demanding mechanical or thermal applications but it is cheap and easy to print with. The most popular polymer in 3D printing.

ABS

One of the most used plastics in our made world, ABS is a co-polymer of Acronitrile, Butadiene and Styrene. Lego Bricks, Car Dashes, Electronics enclosures all tend to be ABS. ABS provides a great balance of properties while still being low cost enough for every day use. Be aware that not all ABS is the same, and the properties from one ABS to the next can vary wildly.

CoPolyesters

PET, PETG and related Copolyesters present a great balance of printing much more easily than ABS, but having much better mechanical and thermal performance than PLA. They also come in crystal clear variants which have the best optical clarity in the plastics world.

Composites

Composite filaments are composed of a polymer binder with another material added to them to change their appearance and or physical properties. This can take the form of attractive wood-like materials where a binder holds together wood fibres, or specialist mechanical properties obtained by adding carbon fibres to a polymer binder.

Nylons

Nylons represent some of the toughest and strongest materials that can be printed. While they take a little more practice to print than other materials the rewards are huge. Inter-layer adhesion is probably the best in the 3D printing world and tensile strength is fantastic. Nylons are relatively flexible and can be used for things like living hinges with long life. Nylon is also extremely low friction and makes for great bearings, sliders and gears.

Polycarbonates

Polycarbonate is an extremely tough, strong, rigid plastic with great optical clarity. Used for demanding mechanical applications such as bullet-proof glass and safety goggles. Its great thermal resistance was why we chose it for our E3D-v6 fan ducts and why car makers use PC-ABS blends for plastics used near engines. One of the most capable plastics that can be printed, however absolutely needs an all metal hotend, a heated bed that can exceed 120C and some practice!

TPE

TPE - ThermoPlastic Elastomers ('flexible filaments') are a group of materials that can be melt processed like other plastics, but instead of being rigid they are instead elastic and rubber like. Both fun for decorative objects and toys, but we are also seeing a huge range of applications for things like seals, hinges and shock absorbers.

 

 

 

BRAND

There are SO MANY CHOICES! Which 3d printing filament manufacturers can I rely on?

 

At E3D, we've curated our product range to only provide what we view is the BEST on the market for print quality, exotic materials and filament brands you can rely on. Here's a quick run-down of the 3D printing filaments we recommend:

 

 

E3D

 

 

Protopasta

 

 

Taulman

 

 

ColorFabb

 

 

Ninjaflex/Semiflex

 

 

Filament Properties

'But what does the filament DO?'

Colour-Changing

These are ‘smart-materials’ which can change their appearance depending on some external factor. Great for adding a little visual flare, but also have some useful applications. All E3D Keyrings glow in the dark which makes them easy to find, and we print extruder parts in heat-sensitive ABS so we can see if and where the parts are getting warm!

Flexible

Probably the most fun filament types out there. These filaments are synthetic thermoplastic rubber-like materials. Great for useful products like gaskets, seals, shock absorbers, flexible hinges and tyres. Also just plain fun for printing various aesthetic models with a flexible twist.

Composites

Composite filaments are composed of a polymer binder with another material added to them to change their appearance and or physical properties. This can take the form of attractive wood-like materials where a binder holds together wood fibres, or specialist mechanical properties obtained by adding carbon fibres to a polymer binder.

Support

The holy grail of FDM 3D printing is great support material to enable dual extrusion, or multiple filaments in one print. Support filaments tend to be either 1) 'breakaway' support, or soluble support (such as our Scaffold filament) which holds the print in a similar way but can be washed away after printing, either with water or mild chemical solutions.

Polycarbonates

Polycarbonate is an extremely tough, strong, rigid plastic with great optical clarity. Used for demanding mechanical applications such as bullet-proof glass and safety goggles. Its great thermal resistance was why we chose it for our E3D-v6 fan ducts and why car makers use PC-ABS blends for plastics used near engines. One of the most capable plastics that can be printed, however absolutely needs an all metal hotend, a heated bed that can exceed 120C and some practice!

Engineering Plastics

When you need high strength, high temperature performance, and chemical resistance our range of engineering plastics push the boundaries of what is possible to make with a 3D printer. Gears, drive-shafts, clamps and tools. Don’t print trinkets, print products!

 

 

 

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