Updated: Jul 28, 2021
3D Printing is a new way of manufacturing where none of the materials you use are wasted. If you would like to learn more about 3D Printing (also known as Additive Manufacturing) I have three other articles you can check out. Today we are going to talk about the filaments used in 3D Printing. Filaments are the plastics and metals that are melted to create the actual 3D Structure. The three main filaments we are going to talk about are PLA and ABS filaments, TPE, TPU and TPC filaments, and wood and metal filaments.
The first two filaments we will talk about are PLA and ABS filaments. These stand for polylactic acid (PLA) and Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). The acronyms are just to inform you about what the filaments are made of and it isn’t very important to really know what they are as long as you know what type you want for your print. PLA is the most commonly used filament. It will work with pretty much any type of 3D Printer since it is pretty easy to print with. However, PLA isn’t very flexible therefore being pretty brittle. A heating bed means the surface that something is being printed on is heated. PLA does not require a heating bed whereas ABS will function a lot better with it. ABS is the second most used filament and is more flexible and durable. Though it is harder to print with, so it may not be compatible with every 3D Printer. ABS contains styrene fumes that can be harmful. Since ABS is very durable, it is used in things such as Legos and bike helmets.
TPE, TPU and TPC are types of filaments that are very flexible and can be used to create things such as shoes. Some of the extremely flexible filaments are NinjaFlax and FilaFlex while regular TPU is less flexible. Some negatives of TPE, TPU, and TPC is that it is very hard to print so not many printers will be compatible with it. Also it is relatively slow to print. Although some 3D Printers such as the Orca3 Cygnus are able to print with flexible filaments a lot faster then some other printers. If you want to print with flexible filament to print things like phone cases then you need to make sure that your 3D Printer is able to print with TPE, TPU and TPC.
The last types of filament I am going to be talking about are wood and metal filaments. While you cannot print with wood since it can’t melt or become liquid there are types of filaments with wood fibers in it making it look and feel like wood. There aren’t really any benefits of using a wood filament. It is great for printing things that you want to look and feel like wood and would not be able to get otherwise. There are two types of metal filaments. One is a regular plastic filament that looks like metal which can come in PLA and ABS. This can be silver, gold, copper, etc. The next one is actual metal filament. These require very special 3D Printers and are compatible with very few 3D Printers.
Today we talked about PLA and ABS filaments, TPE, TPU and TPC filaments, and wood and metal filaments. In most cases you will be using PLA and ABS but if you need something a lot more flexible you’ll definitely want to go with TPE, TPU and TPC. Wood and metal filaments can be used in cases where you want it to be more decorative and actual metal filaments are used when you want your print to be made out of metal. The main thing is to make sure the 3D Printing you want to buy is compatible with the filaments you want to use or else they might get clogged, not able to melt or stuck in your nozzle which would not be good.