Starters guide to 3D Printing most filament types

Author: Matt Tyson/Friday, 15 June 2018/Categories: How To

Starters guide to 3D Printing most filament types

Contents

Materials Introduction
  PLA
  PETG
  ABS
  Other Plastics

Materials Comparison
  Visual Comparison

Printer Setup
  Loading & Unloading Filament
  Bed Surface
  Bed Leveling & Nozzle Height
  Pre-heating
  Enclosure / Doors
  Filament Storage

Printer Settings
  Nozzle Temperature
  Bed Temperature
  Cooling

Other Tips
  Removing a print after completion
  Annealing

Trouble Shooting
 
Advanced guides
 


materials Introduction / Requirements


With so many different materials on the market covered in this single guide, lets take a brief look at each of the materials we will cover.

Click here  if you want to skip the material introduction

PLA

Derived from renewable resources such as corn starch and sugarcane, PLA is one of the most popular 3D Printing materials for prototypers, educators and hobbyists due to its low printing requirements and excellent dimensional stability at a low cost.

Types:
Regular PLA is the most popular material, available in a wide colour range and prints easily without warping. These materials are stiff but their brittle and low temperature resistance make regular PLA a poor choice for mechanical applications requiring toughness and durability. Regular PLA filaments are best suited for printing demonstration models and prototypes.

For users requiring toughness and durability you can print even tougher parts in PLA by using PolyMax™ PLA a nano-reinforced PLA; which exhibits an impact resistance 9 x stronger than standard PLA. This material prints exactly like regular PLA materials.

Requirements:
Printing PLA doesn't require a heated bed or an enclosure but we do recommend both for an improved printing experience.

Giant LEGO dozer created by Matt Denton and printed in PolyLite™ PLA

PETG

PETG is a recyclable plastic and one of the most popular 3D Printing materials on the market, combining the ease of use and printability of PLA with some of the functional and mechanical properties associated with ABS.

Types:
Regular PETG is often chosen by users who are having difficulty printing ABS but require parts with more toughness and heat resistance than standard PLA. PETG is quite a balanced material making it a fantastic choice for general purpose applications.

For users requiring toughness and durability you can print even tougher parts in PETG by using PolyMax™ PETG a nano-reinforced PETG. This material prints exactly like regular PETG materials.

Requirements:
Printing PETG requires a heated bed and an enclosure is recommended when printing large parts. Printing PETG with good dimensional stability is similar to PLA; as instead of warping like ABS can, PETG will tend to curl at the corners.

Transparent lampshade printed in PolyLite™ PETG

ABS

ABS is a recyclable plastic and one of the most common 3D Printing materials to print due to its low price and balanced mechanical properties.

Types:
Regular ABS is a general purpose material with balanced mechanical performance and good heat resistance.  ABS can sometimes be a trickier material to print when compared to other general purpose materials like PLA and PETG. When printing with the right environment, ABS can be printed easily and without warping.

Requirements:
Printing ABS will require a heated bed and an enclosure is recommended. Printing large parts in ABS on some machines can be difficult as the material is susceptible to warping and cracking in uncontrolled environments. An enclosure will minimize warping and and if equipped, an actively heated chamber will help ensure near-zero warping.

Bicycle banana holder printed in PolyLite™ ABS

Other Materials

ASA:

ASA is a UV and weather resistant material sharing some similar characteristics to ABS. Best suited for outdoor-use, ASA has become a popular choice in construction, automotive and consumer household applications.

Requirements:
Printing ASA will require a heated bed and an enclosure is recommended. Printing large parts in ASA on some machines can be difficult as the material is susceptible to warping and cracking in uncontrolled environments. An enclosure will minimize warping and and if equipped, an actively heated chamber will help ensure near-zero warping.

PolyCarbonate (PC):

PC is one of the most popular materials for engineering and industrial applications, offering vastly superior mechanical properties to ABS. PC exhibits excellent mechanical and thermal properties.

Types:
There are in fact many types of PC​, ranging from pure PC, optimized PC, tough PC, flame retardant PC and more!

Many pure PC filaments have very high extrusion temperatures and difficult to control temperature requirements where as 'optimized' PC filaments (like PolyLite™ PC) are specifically designed to provide the best print quality, layer adhesion and improved usability.

PC materials are popular for their excellent tensile strength, stiffness and heat resistance. For users requiring a PC with improved toughness durability we recommend PolyMax™ PC which is a nano-reinforced PC. In our experience this material prints even better than optimized PC filament.

Requirements:
Printing PC will require a heated bed and an enclosure is recommended. Printing large parts in PC on some machines can be difficult as the material is susceptible to warping and cracking in uncontrolled environments. An enclosure will minimize warping and and if equipped, an actively heated chamber will help ensure near-zero warping.

Nylon (PA):

Nylon is an increasingly popular material to print with, ideal for parts requiring, strength, heat and wear resistance.

Types:
There are many different variants of Nylon (Nylon), some you may have heard of; PA6, PA12, PA6,6, CoPA, PA11.

Each Nylon material offers slightly different properties but in general Nylon materials offer excellent toughness, high heat resistance and excellent wear resistance. 

Nylon materials are semi-crystalline materials in simple terms this means that they crystallize during the printing process. The rate of crystallization can cause parts to warp so two different brands of PA6 will print differently depending on how they crystallize. We highly recommend printing with the PolyMide™ series of nylon materials as this series of materials crystallize as a slower rate to prevent warping without compromising strength of performance..

Requirements:
The requirements for each Nylon material will vary slightly. The PolyMide™ series of materials have been formulated to print easily with no heated bed or enclosure needed. 

Due to the crystallization, other nylon materials may require a heated bed, enclosure or heated chamber.

Before printing it is important to prepare your print bed for nylon printing. With some nylon materials you can simply coat your bed with office glue stick (PVA glue), some other nylon materials may require special surfaces like garolite. Please see filament storage for details on spooling and storing Nylon filaments.

Flexible:

Flexible materials expand the applications of 3D printing. These materials offer excellent durability, inter-layer adhesion and resistance to oils.

Types:
There are many material types that would be considered flexible filaments such as TPU and TPEE.

There is no defined flexibility for these materials so the Shore hardness scale can be used to help determine the flexibility and printability of the material. The lower the number, the more flexible the filament. Flexible materials with a shore hardness of 95A (like PolyFlex TPU95) will be less flexible and easier to print than a filament with a shore hardness of 70A.

Requirements:
Printing flexible materials typically don't require a heated bed or an enclosure. 

The extruder design on some machines is simply not suited for printing flexible materials so in some cases printing these materials can be difficult with certain printers.

The most important requirement when printing flexible and elastic filaments is to mount the filament to minimize drag. With these materials you will want to bypass any filament detection switches which will constrict the filament and consider the feeding path carefully.

PolySmooth / PolyCast:

PolySmooth™ is a popular material among our customers as it prints with the ease of PLA but parts exhibit mechanical properties similar to ABS. PolySmooth™ can also be polished in Polymakers Polysher™ to achieve a smooth surface and remove layer lines.

Requirements:
Printing these materials won't require a heated bed or an enclosure but we do recommend both for an improved printing experience.

In this guide our recommended settings to print PLA will also apply to printing PolySmooth™ and PolyCast™.


Materials Comparison


Every material has their own benefits, printing and performing differently. It is also important to note that material performance will vary between brands.

This chart is a helpful way to visualize how different materials feel and perform.

Visual Comparison

Impact Strength: Measurement of the impact energy required to fracture a part.
Bending Strength: Measurement of force stress in a material just before it yields in a flexure test. You could think of bending strength to gauge on how stiff the material is.
Tensile Strength: The tensile elasticity, or the tendency of an object to deform along an axis when opposing forces are applied.

The PolyLite™ series of PLA, PETGABS and PC are high quality 'pure' filaments while materials like PolyMax™ PLA, PETG and PC are nano-reinforced for improved toughness. PolyMide™ CoPA is based on a copolymer of Nylon 6 and Nylon 6,6.


Printer Set-Up


Loading and Unloading Filament

It is important when loading and unloading filaments that you set the right temperature for the material you are extruding.

When loading a low temperature material (e.g PLA) after printing a higher temperature material (e.g ABS) It is important to load the lower temperature material at the higher temperature so the previous material can be purged out.

Material Unloading Temperature Minimum Loading Temperature
PLA 200-210°C 200°C
PETG 230°C 230°C
ABS 240-260°C 240-260°C
ASA 240-260°C 240-260°C

Nylon CoPA
(PolyMide™ CoPA)

240-260°C 240-260°C
PolyCarbonate* [1] 240-260°C 240-260°C

Notes:
[1] - Recommended temperatures are for Polylite™ PC and PolyMax™ PC. A cheap generic PolyCarbonate which hasn't been optimized for 3D printing will require higher temperatures.

Bed Surface

Different printer manufacturers will recommend different print surfaces. A closer or further gap between the bed and nozzle may be required for some surfaces.

Material Recommended Print Surfaces Additions
PLA BuildTak, FlashForge Sheets, Perforated Board, Heated Glass. None
PETG BuildTak, FlashForge Sheets, Perforated Board, Heated Glass. Glue when printing with glass.
ABS BuildTak, FlashForge Sheets, Perforated Board, Heated Glass. See 'Removing a print after completion' if printing on heated glass.
ASA BuildTak, FlashForge Sheets, Perforated Board, Heated Glass. See 'Removing a print after completion' if printing on heated glass.
Nylon CoPA (PolyMide™ CoPA) BuildTak, FlashForge Sheets, Heated Glass. PVA Glue stick applied to all bed surfaces.
PolyCarbonate* [1] BuildTak, FlashForge Sheets, Perforated Board, PVA glue on heated glass. See 'Removing a print after completion' if printing on heated glass.

Notes:
[1] - 
Recommended bed surfaces are for Polylite™ PC and PolyMax™ PC. A cheap generic PolyCarbonate which hasn't been optimized for 3D printing will require higher temperatures.

Bed Leveling & Nozzle Height

It is important when printing all 3D Printing materials that your first layer adheres to the printing bed. To achieve this it is important to ensure your bed is perfectly leveled and your nozzle height is set correctly.

For printing materials which require a heated bed above 80°C, we recommend adjusting nozzle height while the bed is heated  the bed and setting the nozzle height with a pre-heated bed to account for any expansion or shrinkage that may occur.

The ideal nozzle height when printing most materials is a distance of 0.1mm, this is the thickness of two pieces of paper. When changing between bed surfaces, it is important to adjust the nozzle height again to compensate for the added thickness of the bed surface.

Pre-Heating

Pre-heating is recommended when printing some materials, to increase the environmental printing temperature while ensuring even heating across the heated bed. A longer pre-heating time may be required before printing larger models.

Material Preheated Bed
PLA Not Required.
PETG Preheated Bed (80°C) for 5 minutes
ABS Preheated Bed (100°C) for 10-30 minutes
ASA Preheated Bed (100°C) for 10-30 minutes
Nylon CoPA (PolyMide™ CoPA) Not required.
PolyCarbonate* [1] Preheated Bed (100°C) for 10-30 minutes.

Notes:
[1] - Recommended temperatures are for Polylite™ PC and PolyMax™ PC. A cheap generic PolyCarbonate which hasn't been optimized for 3D printing will require higher temperatures.

Enclosure / Chamber Temperature

Material Enclosure Doors / Lids Small Prints Large Prints Heated Chamber Temperature* [1]
PLA Optional Enclosure not required, optional. Enclosure recommended to prevent drafts. Off
PETG Optional Enclosure not required, optional Enclosure recommended to prevent drafts. Off
ABS Closed Enclosure recommended. Enclosure with heated chamber required. 40-50°C if equipped
ASA Closed Enclosure recommended. Enclosure with heated chamber required. 40-50°C if equipped
Nylon CoPA (PolyMide™ CoPA) Optional Enclosure not required, optional. Enclosure recommended to prevent drafts. Off
PolyCarbonate Closed Enclosure recommended. Enclosure with heated chamber required. 55-65°C if equipped

Notes:
[1] - Some industrial printers like the INTAMSYS range have an Advanced Thermal System or heated chamber; while not a requirement, the advanced thermal system can be turned on to ensure near-zero warping and improved strength. Adding active heating to any standard Desktop 3D Printer will likely result in permanent damage to the printer, all electronics and product materials must be tested and rated for performance in the chambers high temperatures.

Filament Storage

Most 3D Printing materials are hygroscopic, absorbing moisture from the surrounding environment. When the filament passes through the hot end the moisture rapidly expands creating bubbles in between layers, poor layer adhesion, inconsistent extrusion due to material expansion and thus poor surface quality. Materials like Nylon, PVA and PolySmooth will absorb moisture at a faster rate than ABS and PLA however it is important to prevent moisture absorption to maintain excellent print quality from the start of the spool to the end.

We recommend storing filaments in a resealable bag with desiccant when not in use and we recommend using a filament dry box like the PolyBox™ when printing. The PolyBox™ is a spool holder / dry box in an environment below 20% relative humidity, preventing moisture absorption.


Printer Settings


Nozzle Temperature

The optimal nozzle temperature will vary between brands and printers. To find the optimal nozzle temperature we recommend starting with a temperature in the middle of the recommended settings. Based on the quality of the print we suggest adjusting ± 5°C at a time.

Material Nozzle Temperature (°C)
PLA 190 - 220°C
PETG 230 - 240°C
ABS 240 - 270°C
ASA 240 - 270°C
Nylon CoPA (PolyMide™ CoPA) 250 - 270°C
PolyCarbonate* [1] 240 - 270°C

If your printing temperature is too hot, you may see hairs of plastic on the surface of the print, fused support material and poor surface quality on undersides. If the temperature is too cold mechanical properties will be poor, surfaces will be under extruder and if the filament is not melting fast enough; nozzle blockages.

Notes:
[1] - Recommended temperatures are for Polylite™ PC and PolyMax™ PC. A cheap generic PolyCarbonate which hasn't been optimized for 3D printing will require higher temperatures.

Bed Temperature

For the best print quality, it is recommended to avoid increasing beyond these temperatures.

Material Bed Temperature
PLA Not Required, can be set up to 60°C
PETG 80 - 90°C
ABS 80 - 100°C
ASA 80 - 100°C
Nylon CoPA (PolyMide™ CoPA) Not required, lower bed temperatures are better.
PolyCarbonate 80 - 110°C

Cooling

Desktop 3D Printers
Material Part Cooling Fan
PLA ON
PETG ON or OFF [1]
ABS OFF
ASA OFF
Nylon CoPA (PolyMide™ CoPA) OFF
PolyCarbonate OFF

Notes:
[1] - If you are interested in maximizing layer adhesion and strength, we recommend printing PETG with the cooling fan OFF. Printing with the cooling fan ON will improve surface quality and reduce stringing.

Industrial 3D Printers (With  Heated Chamber)

When printing without active heating the cooling fan can cause parts cool rapidly and warp. We have found when printing the following materials with a heated chamber, printing with the cooling fan can improve the surface of overhangs without causing parts too warp.

Material Part Cooling Fan
ABS Cooling fan between 10% to 50%
ASA Cooling fan between 10% to 50%
PolyCarbonate Cooling fan between 10% to 50%


Other Tips


Removing a print after completion

The best method to remove your 3D Prints will depend on your build platform, if it is difficult to remove parts from the platform, a larger gap between the nozzle and bed may be required or adjusting the bed temperature. PVA glue can also be used on the printing platform as a release agent.

Glass Build Platform

When printing on glass with a heated bed, it is recommended to remove the print when the temperature is high. Removing a print in ABS or PolyCarbonate after the bed has cooled may cause the glass to break because those materials will shrink at a faster rate than the glass plate.

Rigid Build Platform
On rigid build platforms like glass or aluminium, a sharp paint scraper can be used to easily remove the model. Some printers are designed so the platform can be removed from the bed while other printers the build platform may be fixed in the printer. If the platform is fixed, we recommend supporting the platform with your second hand to prevent uneven pressure on the bed which could affect your bed leveling.

Flexible Build Platform
Some printers on the market print on flexible build plates. With these platforms users can flex the plate to remove prints.

Annealing

What is Annealing?

Annealing is a process commonly used in metallurgy to heat the material and remove internal stress and toughen parts. A similar annealing process can be applied with some 3D printing materials to remove internal stress and maximize mechanical performance and heat resistance.

Annealing is not beneficial for all materials and will depend on the materials category.

Benefits of Annealing PolyCarbonate (PC)
A part which isn’t annealed will slowly release any internal stress in the form of micro-cracking, which can compromise up to 50% of the parts strength. Annealing PolyCarbonate releases the internal stress properly, maintaining the materials true strength and toughness.

PolyCarbonate will 3D print with less stress and thus better strength when printing with an enclosure and or a heated chamber.

Benefits of Annealing Nylon / PolyMide CoPA
Annealing Nylon increases the degree of crystallinity in the part, this crystallinity is responsible for the materials mechanical properties and heat resistance.

Annealing Temperatures and Times

Material Temperature Time
PolyLite™ PC & PolyMax™ PC 100˚C 2 hours
PolyMide™ CoPA 70˚C 2 hours
PolyMide™ PA6-GF 90˚C 2 hours
PolyMide™ PA6-CF 90˚C 2 hours

Trouble Shooting


Having difficulty printing one of these materials? Check out our advanced and comprehensive user guides on each material for trouble shooting tips and explanations.

Advanced Guides

How to print: PLA, PETG, ABS, Nylon (PA), PolyCarbonate (PC)

Number of views (2052)/Comments (0)

Name:
Email:
Subject:
Message:
x

Need Help?

Dont know where to start? Or which filament will suit your application?

We have a broad range of support options including Telephone Support

  Contact Us