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3D printing filaments – Which one is the best?

Which filament is the best

Is there a ‘best’ 3D printing filament?

Which 3D printing filament is the best?‘ – This is a question I get asked a lot and, honestly, asked myself a lot as well, because I want to provide you with the best possible quality in my prints.

SPOILER/TLDR: There is no ‘best’ – it all depends on your situation.

There are many different 3D printing filaments out there, some of which you might not have heard of, but which one is the best?
To cut a long story short, there is no ‘best’ filament. It all comes down to what you need your printed parts to do, in which environment you plan to use them and what you have available/accessible in terms of material and printer setups. Every filament comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

So while PLA is one of the most common materials and has great static strength, it is not as impact resistance as PETG for example. However while PETG is less brittle and more temperature resistant than PLA it is not as stiff, harder to print and more expensive. And speaking of temperature resistance ABS/ASA will outperform both PLA and PETG in that regard by a lot, but has a lower layer adhesion (weaker structural strength orthogonal to the layer lines) then both of the others, is again harder to print and produces semi-toxic fumes when printed. And if you want real flexibility none of the ones mentioned will do the trick and you need to use materials like TPU, which again is not a good choice for mechanical parts due to its flexibility.

So you see, in the end it all comes down to your specific situation. If you are not sure about which material to use feel free to ask me or rely on my expertise on the matter. In my case my main materials are PLA, PETG and ASA (in that order). And even though it has some disadvantages in almost all of my prints PLA is my go to choice because of its reliability and ease of use.

To quote Stefan from CNC kitchen:
In the end, there is no best material. Every one of them has its pros and cons! PLA is still my go-to material due to the ease of printing, the high strength and stiffness. If you want to avoid the printing odor and still a bit more hassle during printing but need the ductility and more toughness, PETG is a nice alternative to PLA. ASA especially shines at higher temperatures and demanding applications but at least without a special setup suffers in terms of layer adhesion. Still, due to the odor I avoid the material if I can.‘ – I 100% agree with that statement.

If you want to learn more about the comparison between PLA, PETG and ASA I highly recommend checking out this video by CNC kitchen.

What is the difference between PLA, PETG, ASA and Flexible materials?

Currently, over a dozen different filaments are used in the 3D printing world. PLA, PETG, ASA/ABS and flexible materials like TPU are the more commonly used and known ones. Each of these materials comes with different attributes in regards to material strength, usage, ease of printing and price. If you want to learn mor about each of them individually I recommend you do a proper search on each of them. However, if you are only curious about the general main differences, I put this list together for you to give you brief idea. (disclaimer: this is not a comprehensive list of all attributes, just the basics)

PLA

Pros:
– most common material -> lots of choices
– easy to print, great detail quality
– 100% biodegradable (at the right temperatures) and non-toxic
– high static strength, good layer adhesion
– high stiffness
– relatively cheap

Cons:
– more brittle than other filament
– low impact resistance, prone to breakage when dropped or under high mechanical loads
– relatively low temperature resistance, max temp. approx. 50°C-65°C
– low UV/sunlight resistance ->should not be left in the sun too long (especially dark colours)

PETG

Pros:
– low shrinkage when printing, good dimensional accuracy of the print
– lots of vibrant and translucent colour options
– greater elasticity than PLA, therefore more resistant to higher mechanical loads
– more temperature resistant than PLA, up to 80°C

Cons:
– prone to stringing therefore harder to print and less detailed
– prone to warping when printing therefore harder to print
– lower stiffness compared to PLA
– more expensive than PLA
– higher printing temperature therefore higher energy consumption and more fumes during the process

ASA/ABS

First of, ASA and ABS are fairly similar but ASA is more UV resistant, more water-resistant and has a higher temperature resistance than ABS. This makes ASA the better material for outdoor usage and is also the reason why I use ASA over ABS.

Pros:
– very good mechanical strength
– high impact resistance
– high temperature resistance with up to 100°C-110°C
– UV resistant (ASA)

Cons:
– high shrinking tendency therefore needs steady climate when printing (enclosure)
– high printing temperatures ->high energy costs
– produces semi-toxic fumes when melted -> need to be printed in a well ventilated and ideally have a air exhaust filter system
– lower layer adhesion compared to PETG and PLA
– more expensive than PLA and PETG

TPU

TPU stands for (Thermoplastic PolyUrethane) and is the most commonly used of the flexible materials. Flexible filaments are a blend of hard plastic and rubber which makes them more or less flexible depending on the mix ratio.

Pros:
– flexible and soft
– good impact resistance
– excellent vibration dampening qualities
– long shelf life
-excellent layer adhesion

Cons:
– difficult to print: poor bridging, prone to blobs and stinging -> not usable for all models, low level of detail
– cannot be smoothed or polished after printing
– needs enclosure for best results
– expensive
– not suitable for most mechanical applications due to the flexibility

I hope this comparison was helpful to you. Let me know in the comments below which material is your favorite and why.

Check out all my available filaments here!

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