3D printing filament is the thermoplastic feedstock for FDM 3D printers. There are many types of filament available with different properties such as colour, texture, weight, strength, heat resistance, chemical resistance etc., requiring different temperatures to print. The most common sizes (diameter) of filament is 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm.
To read more about how filament is turned into a 3D print, see Material extrusion.
Types of filament
(Note: The characteristics and temperatures given in the list below are only representative of industry defaults. Individual products can vary greatly, and their respective data sheets will always hold the most accurate information about them. Many filaments also contain additives to achieve different desired properties.)
General use materials
PLA (180 - 230°C)
PLA (Polylactic Acid) is the most popular filament used in desktop material extrusion. Due to its low cost and easy of use, it is the choice of filament of most people starting out in 3D printing, and many users stick with it, since it yields great looking parts with a wide variety of colours available. Derived from natural resources such as corn, PLA is renewable and biodegradable.
|Easy to print||Plastic feel|
|Strong and stiff||Low heat resistance|
|Good dimensional accuracy||Low chemical resistance|
|Little warping||May require cooling fan|
|No bad odour||Degrades outdoor|
|Long product shelf life|
ABS (210 - 250°C)
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a popular material due to its low cost and good mechanical properties. ABS is known for its toughness and impact resistance. ABS has a higher heat resistance than PLA, but because of this it also needs to be printed at higher temperatures. It is prone to warping, and because of this a heated bed (and ideally a heated chamber) is recommended to print it. It gives off a strong odour while printing which can also be potentially noxious, so the print area should be well-ventilated. Can be treated in post-processing to an acetone vapor bath to smooth out visible layer lines.
|Tough and impact resistant||Shrinkage|
|Heat resistant||Bad odour|
|Chemical resistant||Potentially noxious fumes|
|Scratch resistant||High temperature|
|Easy to post-process|
PET and PETG (220 - 235°C)
PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is one of the most widely produced thermoplastics in the world, used in manufacturing and in the textile industry (where it's referred to as polyester). Due to its lack of flexibility, pure PET is less commonly used in 3D printing, but popular derivatives have been created through the use of additives.
PETG is PET with glycol added to it for better flexibility and impact resistance. Having great layer adhesion, the material tends to bend rather than break, making it a popular choice for 3D printed parts. PETG is also commonly used to manufacture water bottles.
|Very strong||More difficult to print|
|Little warping||Poor bridging|
|No bad smell||Post-processing limited|
|Chemical resistance||Prone to scratching|
|Good clear options|
Nylon (220 - 260°C)
Nylon (also Polyamide or PA) is one of the most popular materials in the plastics industry, used for making durable parts. Different variations are commonly named by the number of carbons in their chemical structure such as PA6, PA12 etc. For 3D printing, nylon filaments require high extruder temperatures between 220-260 ºC. The material is very hygroscopic (it absorbs moisture easily) which can lead to printing issues. It is recommended that spools are kept in an airtight container or that they are dried before printing.
|Very strong and tough||High temperature|
|Highly impact and abrasion resistance||Prone to warping|
|Heat resistance||Special attention to dryness|
|No bad smell|
TPE and TPU (225 - 235°C)
TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) is an umbrella term for a range of rubbery plastic blends, their main characteristic being elasticity and flexibility. The one most commonly used in 3D printing is TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane), a relatively hard and rigid variation. TPEs are challenging to print due to their elasticity, and getting a good surface finish without stringing is even more difficult. Post-processing is usually required for aesthetic parts.
|Flexibility and elasticity||Difficult to print (especially on Bowden extruders)|
|Impact resistance||Poor bridging|
|Long shelf life|
ASA (240 - 260°C)
ASA (Acrylic Styrene Acrylonitrile) is a plastic that has a similar composition and characteristics to ABS, but is more weather resistant, and is somewhat less prone to warping and cracking. Can be treated in post-processing to an acetone vapor bath to smooth out visible layer lines.
|Strong UV resistance||Expensive|
|Heat and cold resistance||Warping and cracking|
|Tough and durable||Shrinkage|
|Water resistance||Bad odour|
|Chemical resistance||Potentially noxious fumes|
PC (270 - 310°C)
PC (Polycarbonate) is a high-strength, tough and impact resistant engineering material with extremely high heat deflection, traditionally used to make bulletproof glass, DVDs and sunglasses lenses. In its pure form it requires very high extrusion temperatures (260-300°C), so many Polycarbonate filaments contain additives that allow them to be printed at lower temperatures. PC is best printed inside an enclosed chamber on a heated bed. Layer separation and warping can occur due to lack of heat.
|Strength and impact resistance||Very hygroscopic|
|Heat resistance up to 150°C||Very high printing temperature|
PP (210 - 230°C)
PP (Polypropylene) is a semi-rigid and lightweight material that is commonly used in storage and packaging applications. Polypropylene is tough and has a good fatigue resistance making it ideal for low strength applications like living hinges, straps, leashes, etc. The semi-crystalline structure of the material causes the 3D printed parts to heavily warp upon cooling, making it challenging to 3D print.
|Impact and fatigue resistance||Heavy warping|
Acrylic (235 - 250°C)
Acrylic is the common name for PMMA (Polymethylmethacrylate), a semi-transparent 3D printable thermoplastic.
PMMA filament is mainly transparent, which makes it great for printing semi-clear parts where light has to pass through. You can use this filament to print items like lampshades, window panes, and other objects that are fully or semi-transparent.
|Translucent / Transparent|
HIPS (210 - 250°C)
HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) is a thermoplastic most often used as a support material for ABS on dual extrusion printers. This is because HIPS can be dissolved in d-Limonene, making the support-removal process easy and precise. HIPS has many of the same printing properties as ABS, including printing temperature. HIPS can also be used for regular 3D printing, being a lightweight and durable polymer.
|Soluble support material||High temperature|
|Inexpensive||Heated bed required|
|Lightweight||Heated chamber recommended|
|Strength and toughness|
PVA (180 - 230°C)
PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) is a soft biodegradable thermoplastic that dissolves when exposed to water. In 3D printing, it is most commonly used as a soluble support material. Soluble supports are especially helpful where these would be difficult to remove normally by hand, such as inside complex shapes or hollow cavities.
|No special chemicals||Expensive|
|Extra dry storage|
|Can clog the extruder|
Breakaway (215 - 230°C)
Breakaway filament is used to create supports that are quick and easy to remove, and also leave less marks after removal. A dual extruder machine is necessary for breakaway supports to be printed in conjunction with the filament of choice for the desired part.
|Great support material||Dual extruder needed|
|Less visible support marks||Prints take longer due to dual extruding|
|Long shelf-life||Only useful as support|
|Can be used with many filaments|
|No sanding needed|
|Quicker than soluble materials|
Special use materials
Composite: wood, metal etc. (190 - 220°C)
Composite filaments are created by adding powdered materials to a thermoplastic base to give printed parts the aesthetic of the powdered material (such as wood, copper, bronze etc.), and sometimes also to add weight. Due to the abrasive added particles, these filaments generate a lot of wear on nozzles.
|Unique aesthetic||High nozzle wear|
|Less plastic feel||Clogging|
|Heavier parts||Can require wider or stronger nozzles|
Fiber-filled: carbon, glass etc. (190 - 220°C)
Fiber-filled filaments are created by adding 'chopped' short pieces of a fiber material to a thermoplastic base. These strands highly increase the strength and stiffness of the resulting filament. At the same time they prevent shrinking of printed parts as they cool down. Due to the abrasive nature of the infill material, these filaments generate a lot of wear on nozzles.
Fiber-filled filaments can be printed on most FDM 3D printers, and should not be confused with continuous fiber filaments, which are much stronger (especially along the direction of the fibers), but more expensive and require specialist 3D printers to be extruded.
|High strength||High nozzle wear|
|Requires steel nozzle|
High-temperature: PAEK, PEI etc. (340 - 450°C)
High-temperature filaments are engineering-grade materials (sometimes referred to as advanced materials) used for their extremely high strength-to-weight ratio, toughness and durability. The two families of plastics commonly used are PAEK (Polyaryle Ether Ketones, consisting of PEEK, PEKK etc.) and PEI (Polyetherimide, often referred to by its brand name, ULTEM). The most common of these materials is PEEK, which is often used in specialist applications of traditional manufacturing.
These thermoplastics require very high extrusion temperatures (over 300°C), and can only be printed in dedicated high-temperature machines. The polymers can take on three forms: amorphous semi-crystalline and crystalline. Generally after extrusion, the materials will be in an amorphous state, and while they already have great mechanical properties in this state, their strength and stiffness can be increased further through annealing, a process which crystallises the polymer's structures.
Some of these thermoplastics are used as medical implants due to their biocompatibility.
|Durability and toughness||Very high printing temperature|
|Heat resistance||Requires annealing to achieve full strength|