Best 3D Printer Filament: PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylon, and More

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A row of the best 3D printer filaments in bright, vibrant, rainbow colors

3D printing has become an increasingly popular and versatile technology, allowing you to create unique, custom-made objects right from the comfort of your own home or office. Selecting the best 3D printer filament is important regardless of project or use.

Navigating the world of 3D printer filaments can be overwhelming, especially with various materials available, such as PLA, ABS, PETG, and more.

Each material has its distinct properties and applications. As you explore different filament options, you must consider your project’s requirements and your printer’s compatibility.

Understanding each filament type’s key differences and benefits allows you to make informed decisions and produce impressive 3D prints.

Best 3D Printer Filament Materials

This section explores the best 3D printer filament materials and their properties to help you choose your project. We’ll cover PLA, ABS, TPU, PETG, Nylon, Polycarbonate, and PVA.

PLA (Polylactic Acid)

Three 3D printed boats printed in pink, yellow, and purple PLA filament

PLA is a popular choice for beginners because of its ease of use, low melting temperature, and excellent print quality.

Some benefits of PLA include:

  • Easy to print with
  • Low odor during printing
  • Minimal shrinking and warping
  • Excellent print quality

Check out the best PLA filaments for 3D printing

PLA is the most popular 3D printer filament because it’s easy to work with. The filament doesn’t warp or shrink during printing, and getting excellent results on hobby-level printers doesn’t take much effort.

Another benefit is PLA’s low odor qualities, making it an excellent choice for printing in small spaces and apartments.

Because of PLA’s popularity, you’ll find a near-endless variety of colors and styles. Aside from regular PLA, you’ll discover dual-extrusion, tri-extrusion, rainbow, silk, glow-in-the-dark, and exotic filament properties like wood and metal.

Despite all the benefits, PLA may not be suitable for heat-sensitive applications, as it can soften or warp at higher temperatures.

PLA is also more brittle than other plastic materials, so it’s not a great option for applications that strain or twist the finished object.

PLA best suits beginners, prototyping, containers, cosmetic items, and budget-friendly applications.

Hatchbox PLA Filament

Features

  • Guaranteed dimensional accuracy +/- 0.03 mm
  • Clog, bubble, and tangle-free!
  • Odorless printing.

Optimal Settings

  • Nozzle: 200˚C
  • Bed Temperature: 50˚C
  • Print Speed: 60mm/s
Sunlu PLA 8 Roll Bundle

Features

  • 8 rolls of 250g SUNLU 1.75mm PLA Meta filament.
  • Small 250g spools.
  • Guaranteed to have no tangles, no knotting, and a guaranteed ±0.02mm wire diameter difference.

Optimal Settings

  • Nozzle: 190˚C
  • Bed Temperature: 50˚C
  • Print Speed: 60mm/s

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

Small plastic parts printed with ABS filament on a 3D printer

ABS is another common filament material known for its durability and toughness. It has a higher melting temperature than PLA, making it more heat-resistant and impact-resistant.

Pros

  • Durable and impact-resistant
  • High strength
  • Resistance to higher temperatures
  • It can be sanded and smoothed easily

Cons

  • Prone to shrinkage and warping
  • Difficult to work with
  • Hazardous fumes while printing

ABS plastic is commonly used in injection molding. You can find ABS in many household items, such as LEGO bricks and bike helmets.

ABS filament is popular because of its high strength and durability. The filament has a higher melting point allowing it to withstand higher temperatures.

One downside of ABS is that it is prone to shrinking and warping. As a result, it is much more difficult to work with and not recommended for beginners. You’ll often need a heated bed and an enclosure to get a good finish when printing with ABS filament.

Keep in mind that ABS releases unpleasant odors and harmful fumes while printing. It’s essential to use proper ventilation or an enclosure when working with ABS filaments.

ABS filament is best for applications that require high strength and durability, such as phone cases, tool handles, and toys.

Polymaker ABS Filament

Features

  • PolyLite ABS filament is a durable material engineered to reduce jamming.
  • It provides high heat resistance and durability.
  • It comes in upgraded 3.0 version packaging with a fully recycled cardboard spool and box
  • Lifetime guarantee with a full refund if the product is not performing as expected.

Optimal Settings

  • Nozzle: 245˚C
  • Bed Temperature: 90˚C
  • Print Speed: 45mm/s

PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol)

A 3d printer making a small object in bright blue petg filament

PETG is a versatile filament that combines the ease of printing with PLA and ABS’s mechanical strength and durability.

Pros

  • Strong and durable
  • Easy to print
  • Flexible

Cons

  • Hygroscopic, so it absorbs moisture from the air
  • Scratches easily

PETG is an excellent all-around 3D printing filament. It’s often seen as a middle ground between PLA and ABS. The filament is stronger and more durable than PLA, but it’s easier to work with than ABS.

Like ABS, you might need an upgraded nozzle to withstand the higher printing temperatures required for using PETG.

One downside to PETG is that it is very hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. If you try to print with wet filament, you’ll run into issues like stringing and over-extrusion.

Remember to store PETG in a dry and sealed environment to prevent moisture-related issues during printing. You can also dry your filament before beginning to print.

PETG is best used for functional parts that require high strength and ease of printing. Its durability makes it a great choice for mechanical parts and protective enclosures. Once printed, PETG is considered the best choice for producing waterproof 3d prints.

SUNLU PETG Filament

Features

  • Guaranteed 100% neat rate for tangle free printing.
  • Dimensional accuracy of +/- 0.02mm.
  • Heat-resistant and durable.

Optimal Settings

  • Nozzle: 235˚C
  • Bed Temperature: 80˚C
  • Print Speed: 65mm/s

TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane)

A shoe printed in gray flexible TPU filament
(Source: u/chris3dx)

TPU filament is popular because its rubber-like qualities make it flexible and durable. This filament is ideal for creating flexible parts and wearables such as phone cases, wearables, and toys.

Pros

  • Highly flexible
  • Durable and strong
  • Resistant to abrasion and tearing

Cons

  • Difficult to print

TPU, TPE, and TBC are flexible 3D printer filaments. The flexible filaments can withstand repeated bending and twisting but are difficult to print.

Printing with flexible filaments requires more care and slower print speeds.

Use TPU when creating objects that need to bend or twist. Flexible filaments are also best for applications that subject the models to a lot of wear.

TPU is also effective at withstanding outdoor conditions like UV, heat, and water. It’s an excellent choice for outdoor applications.

SUNLU PETG Filament

Features

  • Guaranteed 100% neat rate for tangle free printing.
  • Dimensional accuracy of +/- 0.02mm.
  • Heat-resistant and durable.

Optimal Settings

  • Nozzle: 235˚C
  • Bed Temperature: 80˚C
  • Print Speed: 65mm/s

Nylon

A group of 3d printed vases in nylon filament

Nylon is a high-strength filament that offers excellent flexibility and impact resistance, making it perfect for industrial applications such as gears, fasteners, and hinges.

Pros

  • High durability and impact resistance
  • High strength
  • Chemical and UV resistant

Cons

  • Requires a high nozzle temperature and bed temperature
  • More expensive than other filaments on this list

Nylon filament can be challenging to print, requiring a high nozzle and print bed temperature.

Like PETG, nylon filament is hygroscopic, meaning it’s sensitive to moisture. It’s essential to store nylon filaments to prevent moisture absorption properly.

One unique use for nylon filament is for clearing blocked nozzles. Because nylon filament is strong yet flexible, it’s the best.

Overture Nylon Filament

Features

  • Combines excellent strength, toughness, and heat resistance of up to 180˚C.
  • Excellent printing quality with no order or warpage during printing.
  • Dimensional accuracy +/- 0.03 mm;

Optimal Settings

  • Nozzle: 250˚C
  • Bed Temperature: 50˚C with PVC glue adhesive
  • Print Speed: 50mm/s

Polycarbonate (PC)

A spool of transparent polycarbonate filament

Polycarbonate is a strong, tough material that can handle high temperatures and resistance to heat and impacts. It is often used for structural integrity or transparency applications, such as protective casings, automobile parts, or eyewear.

Pros

  • High strength and durability
  • Heat resistant
  • Naturally transparent

Cons

  • Requires a high nozzle temperature and bed temperature
  • Susceptible to moisture

PC printing material is one of the strongest filaments on this list. Additionally, PC filament is exceptionally durable, heat-resistant, and impact-resistant.

The filament boasts flexible properties and doesn’t crack or shatter under stress. However, PC filament isn’t as flexible as nylon or TPU.

Printing with polycarbonate can be challenging due to its high printing temperature and warping tendencies. Polycarbonate is also hygroscopic and susceptible to moisture absorption.

Polymaker Clear PC Filament

Features

  • Polycarbonate filament is the strongest and most heat-resistant 3D filament material that can be printed with consumer-grade printers.
  • Low shrinkage, high durability, and excellent temperature resistance.
  • Carefully winded to avoid any tangling issues, dried and vacuum sealed in a resealable ziplock bag with desiccant.

Optimal Settings

  • Nozzle: 265˚C
  • Bed Temperature: 100˚C
  • Print Speed: 40 mm/s

Specialty Filaments

In the world of 3D printing, you’ll come across various exotic filaments developed to mimic the properties of other materials, such as wood or steel. The filaments on this list are primarily used for cosmetics items.

Wood-filled Filaments

A 3d printed bowl using wood pla filament
(Source: u/BrutalBooGz via Reddit)

You’d be glad to know that you can print objects with a wood-like appearance. Wood-filled filaments typically consist of a PLA base mixed with wooden fibers, giving your prints the texture and appearance of wood.

Wood-filed filaments are perfect for aesthetic applications or for creating objects such as sculptures, vases, or home decor.

It’s important to set a lower print temperature as higher temperatures can cause the wood filament to have a burnt or glossy appearance.

Wood-filled filament is highly abrasive. The wood fibers in the filament easily wear away at softer nozzle materials like brass.

If you want to print with wood filament, upgrading your printer nozzle or replacing it regularly is a good idea.

iSANMATE Wood Filament

Features

  • Made with 30% wood flour for a realistic wood color and texture.
  • Superb layer bonding, and strength and toughness compared to conventional PLA filament.
  • 1-year warranty.

Optimal Settings

  • Nozzle: 205˚C
  • Bed Temperature: 55˚C
  • Print Speed: 60mm/s

Metal-filled Filaments

Small objects 3d printed using virtual foundry's 90% copper metal filament
(Source: u/noselace via Reddit)

If you want to give a metallic look to your prints, metal-filled filaments are the way to go. These composite filaments contain metal powder mixed with PLA or ABS, such as bronze, copper, or aluminum.

Metal filaments look and feel great when they come off the printer, but some post-processing goes a long way. You can polish and tarnish metal-filled prints to emphasize the metallic properties and create a more genuine appearance.

Even the weight of the metallic filaments is lifelike. Metal-filled filaments are much denser and heavier than standard printing filaments.

When printing with metal filament, keep an eye on your nozzle. The metal powder in the filament is highly abrasive. We recommend upgrading from a brass nozzle to a stronger, longer-lasting, hardened steel nozzle (Amazon).

ProtoPlant Protopasta Metal-Filled PLA

Features

  • Comprised of a base PLA plastic mixed with 60% stainless steel powder.
  • Twice the density of standard PLA filament, making it perfect for prints requiring a metal look and feel.
  • Made in USA

Optimal Settings

  • Nozzle: 215˚C
  • Bed Temperature: 55˚C
  • Print Speed: 60mm/s

Color-changing Filaments

A vase sitting on a 3d printed with green and blue color changing filament

Add some excitement to your prints by using color-changing filaments. They change colors based on temperature or UV light exposure. For example, when cold, the filament may appear one color and switch to a different shade when exposed to heat.

Most often, color-changing filaments consist of two or three colors wound into a single filament spool. The result is a print that “color shifts” as its orientation changes.

Another popular color-changing filament uses gradients of colors. The filament will start printing in one color and slowly transition to another. For example, rainbow filaments shift through the colors of the rainbow as they print.

Color-changing filaments are fun and produce unique color patterns every time.

The color-changing characteristics make them great for prints like phone cases, jewelry, vases, or any object where a dynamic color shift creates visual intrigue.

The biggest downside is that there’s no way to control the color of the print. But it makes for a fun surprise, not knowing how the final product will turn out.

Eco-Friendly Filament

Eco-friendly filaments are a way to combat the plastic waste caused by 3D printing. Eco-friendly filaments are recyclable or biodegradable.

While PLA filament is industrially biodegradable, most recycling or composting programs do not accept it.

3D printing filaments considered “environmentally friendly” are made using recycled materials or environmentally friendly alternatives such as algae.

Despite your first thoughts, eco-friendly filaments produce excellent results and are as easy to use as their standard filament counterparts. It’s often impossible to distinguish between regular and eco filaments.

Choosing the Right Filament for Your 3D Printer

When selecting the best filament for your 3D printer, you must consider various factors affecting your print quality and project success. This section will guide you through the process by discussing the following topics:

Compatibility with FDM 3D Printers

First and foremost, ensure that the filament you choose is compatible with your 3D printer. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers are the most common and accessible type, typically using materials such as PLA, ABS, and PETG.

Nearly every 3D printer is compatible with printing PLA filament. But advanced materials like PETG, ABS, and nylon require specific nozzle and bed temperatures to print.

Many 3D printers, like the Ender 3, can be upgraded to support more difficult filaments.

It’s important to check your printer’s specifications, as it may not support every filament.

Filament Diameter

Filaments come in two standard diameters: 1.75mm and 2.85mm. Choose the diameter that matches your 3D printer specifications and nozzle size to avoid potential issues.

Purchasing filament with a diameter that matches your nozzle size is crucial since it affects the extrusion process and overall print quality.

Heated Bed Requirements

Some materials, like ABS and PETG, require a heated bed to enhance adhesion and prevent warping.

Most new 3D printers provide heated beds. So it’s not a problem for most people.

But it is important if you’re working with a printer that doesn’t offer a heated bed.

Budget and Quality Considerations

Keep your budget in mind when choosing filament, as prices can vary significantly depending on material type. While higher-priced filaments tend to be more consistent and reliable, plenty of affordable options also offer excellent-quality prints.

Always consider weighing price against performance when making your decision.

Print Quality and Post-Processing

Different filaments yield varying print qualities and require distinct post-processing techniques. For example, PLA often produces smooth prints with minimal post-processing. ABS, on the other hand, can be smoothed using acetone vapor.

Exotic filaments like wood and metal require some post-processing for a lifelike appearance.

The amount of post-processing required is an important consideration. Do you want your prints to look and feel great right off the bed? Or are you ok doing some post-processing work to get a top-quality part?

Mario De Lio
Mario De Lio

Mario is a Mechanical Engineer with experience working at one of the largest industrial printing companies in the country. He previously owned a rapid prototyping company specializing in designing mechanical parts for 3D printing applications.

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