3D-printer Filaments

The Best Filaments to use with a 3D Printer or Pen

We know choosing the right filament isn’t easy. Each plastic behaves differently and if you’re not careful you can clog your 3D printer. Don't despair though, help is at hand!  

Type of plastic filamentPropertiesExtruder Temp/Bed TempVentilate when printing?See Lowest Price
PLA
Odorless, low-warp, eco-friendly, less heat required205±15 °C /50±10 °CYes Price
ABS
Durable, can be used outdoors. Easy to print with and strong 230±10 °C /100±15 °CNo Price
Nylon
Extremely strong, lightweight, durable, flexible, wear-resistant255±15 °C /70±10 °CNo Price
PET(G)
Colorless, FDA approved, recyclable, strong and flexible245±10 °C /60±10 °CYes Price
Wood PLA
Versatility, real wood scent, durable, contains real wood fibers210±15 °C /50±10 °CYes Price
TPE/TPU (Flex)
Flexible, smooth , non -toxic, abrasion resistant, 250±5 °C /90±5 °CYes Price
HIPS
Biodegradable, great 3D support material, low-cost230±10 °C /50±10 °CNo Price
Conduc- tive PLA
Very low warping, Not Soluble, Conductive245±20 °C /100±10 °CYes Price
Metal Infused PLA
Highly durable, not soluble, shiny finish like real metal210±10 °C /50±10 °CYes Price
Magnetic Iron PLA
Highly durable, rusty look, magnetic properties200±10 °C /50±10 °CYes Price

Are you the proud new owner of a 3D printing device and you're baffled by the crazy amount of plastics on the market? Wood, metal, PLA, ABS, the options are endless.

Gone are the days where creating detailed plastic objects could only be done by huge plastic printers in factories. 3D Printers and 3D Pens have been on the market for a while now, and you can pick a 3D pen up for as little as $30, and a 3D printer for around $200.

We assume that the reason why you've landed on this page is because you have already bought a printer or pen (if not check out our in depth 3D Pen review), and now you are lost in the sea of possible 3D printer filaments available.

Fortunately, we at Pen&Plastic are here to help you pick the correct 3D printing materials for the job.

What we have done in this buyers guide is review the top 10 most popular types of filaments, giving you a list of each plastic's unique features, available colors, printing temperatures as well as suggested uses.

What materials are used in 3D printing?

In short, 3D printer material is a strand of plastic, usually 1.75 mm or 3 mm in diameter, which can be used in either a 3D pen or printer. When it comes to 3D printing, whether it be with a 3D pen or printer,the two most common filament types are ABS and PLA.

Both are thermoplastics, which means that they become malleable when heated. In this way, you can use the heated plastic to create any shapes you want, and then let them cool down to preserve your shape permanently.

We have a dedicated post where we performed a in-depth PLA vs ABS plastic comparison, so follow the link if you are only interested in those plastics.

There are so many other filament options available it will make your head spin, and most of them are compatible with 3D pens as well.

Here's an example:

Since you are able to infuse PLA with a variety of elements, there are tons of different options available which we will discuss in this roundup... including wood 3D printer filament!

The picture below shows how the guys from Yolo3D used a model of Groot, (from Guardians of the Galaxy) and wood 3D printing material to create this awesome sculpture.

Groot Sculpture CAD model
Groot Sculpture printed

Groot, in all of his wooden glory

Important checklist before you start 3D printing

  • check
    The temperatures in the table below are typical values, always use the manufacturers recommendation
  • check
    No matter what the plastic, always keep it in a closed bag, especially if you live in a humid area​​​​
  • check
    Once the plastic absorbs moisture and their characteristics will change
  • check
    Always do a small printing test to see how the plastic is behaving  to your speed and temperature settings
  • check
    3D Pens​​​​ cannot work with flexible plastics like TPE
  • check
    Most 3D pens are also limited to an extrusion temperature of 235°C

Enough preamble, lets jump right into the detailed reviews for each type of 3D printer filament in this roundup.

1. PLA (Polylactic Acid)

Colors: Big palette available
Extruder temperature: 205±15 °C
Bed temperature: 50±10 °C
Ventilation: Closed or open printer
Bed Adhesion: BCP Kapton Tape

PLA

Overview

Along with ABS, PLA (Polylactic Acid) are the two most plastics used in 3D printing and drawing. Check out our post on PLA vs ABS for an in-depth look at the pros and cons of using these materials.

If you are new to the 3D printing world, we would recommend this whether you use 3D pens or printers. PLA is low-warp and can be used in a wide variety of applications.

As an added bonus PLA is made up from renewable biodegradables such as sugarcane, grain crops, corn starch, and soybean making it eco-friendly. It is by far the safest 3D filament to use with 3D pens for kids.

When it melts the smell is completely absent, or there is a slight sweetish smell similar to the smell of corn or honey.  

PLA is dissolved in dichloromethane.

The downside of PLA's eco-friendliness is that it's biodegradable. So don't expect your PLA creations to last for very long if you leave them exposed to the elements! 

List of features

PLA plastic can be found pretty much everywhere, grocery bags, wrappers for candy, food containers and other everyday applications.

⦁ PLA is used for almost anything, although cases, toys and models are most common.
⦁ PLA filament is one of the more  brittle and stiff 3D printing materials.
⦁ PLA is based on natural materials
⦁ It gives high quality and strength when used correctly
⦁ It is biodegradable in an aggressive environment

Advantages when using PLA

⦁ PLA plastic is convenient and easy to print with
⦁ High tackiness allows you to paint on surfaces like glass, ceramics and metal
⦁ Many options for colors, including translucent and glow-in-the-dark
⦁ Increased fluidity provides better cohesion between layers, thus improving durability
⦁ No odor when melting the plastic

Disadvantages when using PLA

⦁ More difficult to use it for connecting different elements
⦁ PLA is a bit harder to grind and handle compared to ABS
⦁ It reacts to moisture, which can cause nozzle clogging, discoloration and deterioration
⦁ PLA disintegrates and after 1 year of exposure, you see separation between layers
⦁ Drying it in a oven at 50-60 °C may change the degree of crystallization (more brittle)

2. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

Colors: Most primary colors
Extruder temperature:230±10 °C
Bed temperature: 100±15 °C 
Ventilation: Only closed printer
Bed Adhesion: Blue Painters Tape 

ABS

Overview

ABS is the most commonly used 3D printing material.

Parts made from ABS are durable and able to withstand higher temperatures. In comparison to PLA filament, ABS can be described as more supple and less brittle.

It is also non-biodegradable

If you treat ABS with acetone it will get a glossy finish. While printing with ABS filament, you must use a heated surface, as ABS plastic will contract if it touches a cold surface, and the plastic will warp.

Unlike PLA, which is odorless when heated, ABS let’s off the distinct smell of burning plastic when heated.

List of features

⦁ ABS filament is flexible, malleable, strong with wear resistance
⦁ Able to tolerate higher temperatures.
⦁ Commonly used for interlocking parts like belt buckles, gears, cups or outdoors plastic.
⦁ The fumes emitted by ABS is semi-toxic, therefore a closed printer is recommended
⦁ ABS dissolves in acetone, which allows you to create a smooth surface finish
⦁ Natural ABS has a beige (milky) hue before painting.
⦁ Low stickiness, but sufficient for drawing on paper.
⦁ If you use a hair spray, you can draw on other surfaces.

Advantages when using ABS

The most popular, and perhaps the best 3D printing material.
⦁  Hard, shock-resistant and at the same time it is resistant to slight bending.
⦁ Low stickiness
⦁ Painted with ABS plastic often has a glossy surface.
⦁ Can be recycled as normal plastic.
⦁ Plastic ABS makes it easy to create elements of various connections and fasteners.
⦁ It is easily ground and processed
⦁ ABS is easily dried with warm (preferably dry) air, for example, in an electric oven at a         temperature of 70 degrees.

Disadvantages when using ABS

⦁ Oil based, toxic when exposed to high temperatures (400°C).
⦁ When printing ABS, there is often a strong smell of hot plastic.
⦁ To reduce odor, adequate ventilation should be provided in small rooms.
⦁ It is more vulnerable to overheating during operation.
⦁ Wet ABS during painting can begin to bubble and splatter, which will affect the appearance, accuracy and strength of the resulting object.

3. Nylon (Polyamide)

Colors: Large palette available 
Extruder temperature:255±15 °C
Bed temperature: 115±5 °C
Ventilation:Only closed printer 
Bed Adhesion: PVA-Based Glue

nylon

Overview

Nylon, sometimes referred to as PA in the 3D printing world, is perhaps the strongest and most durable of the printing materials.

The thin strands of nylon adhere and give nylon great strength.This is why you will typically see it used for hinges or other high strength parts.

Nylon filament prints naturally as a clear white colour and can absorb acid-based clothing dyes or synthetic cloth specific dyes allowing for a large color palette.

Nylon loves to absorb water (most hydrophillic plastic), which is not good news for your 3D prints.Therefore make sure you store it in a dry place.

Nylon should be printed in a closed printer with no ventilation.

List of features

⦁ Nylon becomes strong (yet flexible) after printing, making it hard to shatter or break
⦁ Commonly used for high strength parts such as hinges
⦁ Must be kept dry, extremely hydrophillic
⦁ Only use it for 3D printing, cannot be used with 3D Pen
⦁ After printing it can withstand heat of up to 140°C, and used as a thermo-insulator

4. PET (Polyethylene terephthalate)

Colors: Large palette available 
Extruder temperature:245±10 °C
Bed temperature: 60±10 °C
Ventilation:Open or closed printer
Bed Adhesion: Blue Painters Tape

PET

Overview

PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) is difficult to find in its pure form, as most PET plastics tend to be co-polymers.

PETG filament is the most commonly found, the G means it has glycol modification is an industrial strength filament with several great features.

PET is available in any color as it mixes with most dyes.

PET(G) really provides the best of both worlds, this filament gives you the durabilty and resiliance of ABS, along with the the compatibility and practicality of PLA.

Thus, you get a plastic thats stronger and more durable than PLA, but with none of the health drawbacks of ABS, it is even FDA approved and can be used for lunch boxes or other food containers.

Unlike ABS filament, it barely warps, and produces no odors or fumes when printed. PET(G) plastic is 100% recyclable but not biodegradable.

All of the above features makes this one of the best bridging 3D printer materials available.

List of features

⦁ PET(G) filament is a durable and wear resistant 3D printing material
⦁ PETG has industrial strength capabilities
⦁ It is extremely impact resistant
⦁ It has a glossy finish
⦁ PET(G) serves as a good dielectric
⦁ Best used for bridging materials or as mechanical part
⦁ Adheres very well to blue painter's tape

5. Wood 3D Printer Filament

Colors: Dark/light with wood texture
Extruder temperature:210±15 °C
Bed temperature: 50±10 °C
Ventilation:Open or closed printer
Bed Adhesion: Blue Painters Tape

wood 3d printer filament

Overview

Wood 3D printing material gives your 3D printed objects that natural fiberboard look and feel.

The object which you print is imbued with the similar attributes to normal wood, meaning you can sand, cut or paint it like you would with a piece of timber.

As you read this review you will notice a pattern, all plastics imbued with wood, metal or other properties have PLA as their base.

Wood is no different. PLA makes this compound compatible with 3D printers and some 3D pens, while the other element (wood in this case) imbues properties that you would only find in nature.

Note that you should be careful when using these organic fill-ins, a high temperature can cause the wood to burn giving you a blackened print.

It’s important that you remove the plastic from the extruder before it burns and clogs it.

After you have finished printing your Wood PLA object, you can paint it with acrylic, or even varnish it, like a real piece of furniture!

List of features

⦁ Looks simlar to wood and has the same texture but prints like PLA
⦁ Best used for wooden imitations
⦁ Too hot extruder temperature will burn the wood, if you want it darker bring the heat!
⦁ Very resilient to water
⦁ Can be sanded, varnished and painted real wood

6. TPE/TPU (Thermoplastic Elastomer)

Colors: Few color options
Extruder temperature:220±10 °C
Bed temperature: 30±10 °C
Ventilation:Open or closed printer
Bed Adhesion: Blue Painters Tape

TPE

Overview

TPE and TPU is one of the more flexible 3D printing materials. TPE/TPU filament is mostly used for parts that need to flex or bend, such as springs and belts found in the automotive industry. If you have a phone cover it’s probably made from TPE.

This is an highly flexible 3D printing material will allow you to create objects which have the typical characteristics of a plastic ruler, soft and flexible.


As we mention above, this 3D printer filament has the tendency to jam and therefore you need to use slow printing speeds to prevent this from happening.

TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) is the newer version of TPE and has some advantages over its sibling. It is more resistant to abrasion, and can be used with a wider range of 3D printers as it is slightly more rigid.

TPE/TPU cannot be used with 3D pens as it is too flexible and will jam inside the pen.

List of features

⦁ Non-toxic and completely safe for kid's toys
⦁ Layer to layer adhesion is excellent
⦁ TPE/TPU filament creates elastic and flexible parts
⦁ It is impact resistant
⦁ Best used for rulers, phone cases, automotive parts

7. Metal Infused PLA

Colors: Silver, Aluminum, Copper, Brass
Extruder temperature:210±10 °C
Bed temperature: 50±10 °C
Ventilation:Open or closed printer
Bed Adhesion: Glass

metal infused filament

Overview

The gold standard of 3D printing materials…just kidding.

Metal Infused plastics are tough to print in comparison to normal PLA, but due to the metal mixed in with the PLA, prints made from these metal printing materials are heavier and will give a more authentic look and feel.

Finished 3D prints can  and polished to give a shiny metal look.

Unpolished, the filament looks like cast metal with a matte and dull appearance.

Finishing can be done with wire brushing, rock polishing or wheel polishing.The metal infusion does however, not make it stronger. ​

You can use these 3D printing materials to imitate jewelry, figurines and a whole other host of applications where you want to give the appearance of metal.

Note that the metal infusion does not make the material any stronger.

List of features

⦁ Best used for “fake metal prints”, like jewelry or sculptures
⦁ Similar printing characteristics to PLA, but slower due to hardness
⦁ Just because it’s infused with metal does not make it stronger
⦁ Non-conductive, even though it contains metal
⦁ Finishing by rock tumbling or polishing is possible
⦁ Best results can be achieved by wheel polishing the print

8. HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene)

Colors: Large palette available 
Extruder temperature:230±10 °C
Bed temperature: 110±10 °C
Ventilation:closed printer Only
Bed Adhesion: BCP Kapton Tape 

HIPS

Overview

High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) can be compared to ABS. It is often used together with ABS using a dual head printer, as the HIPS plastic can be dissolved afterwards using Limonene as solvent.

This property makes it a great option as support material when printing ABS with dual extrusion printer. Of all the 3D printing materials, HIPS is closest to ABS but it doesn’t warp nearly as easily.

Another advantage of HIPS over ABS plastic is its excellent electrical insulation properties, so if you want to use voltages above 1 kV in your project, HIPS is your material.

List of features

⦁ Semi-toxic, so do not print with an open printer
⦁ Great electric insulator
⦁ HIPS filament is a rigid, support material that dissolves away in limonene.
⦁ Used as internal supports for complex models with many overhangs
⦁ Best 3D printer support material for ABS because of similar printing temperatures

Example of HIPS being used as a support during printing. (picture credit smarttec.com.au). Note this requires a dual extrusion printer.

smart_support_part

9. Magnetic Iron PLA

Colors: Iron (rustable)
Extruder temperature:200±10 °C
Bed temperature: 50±10 °C
Ventilation:Open or closed printer 
Bed Adhesion: Blue Painters Tape 

magnetic iron pla

Overview

High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) can be compared to ABS. It is often used together with ABS using a dual head printer, as the HIPS plastic can be dissolved afterwards using Limonene as solvent.

This property makes it a great option as support material when printing ABS with dual extrusion printer. Of all the 3D printing materials, HIPS is closest to ABS but it doesn’t warp nearly as easily.

Another advantage of HIPS over ABS plastic is its excellent electrical insulation properties, so if you want to use voltages above 1 kV in your project, HIPS is your material.

List of features

Semi-toxic, so do not print with an open printer
⦁ Great electric insulator
⦁ HIPS filament is a rigid, support material that dissolves away in limonene.
⦁ Used as internal supports for complex models with many overhangs
⦁ Best 3D printer support material for ABS because of similar printing temperatures

magnetic iron pla

Some examples of rusted vs non-rusted 3D prints using magnetic Iron PLA

10. PLA Conductive Filament

Colors: Black or Copper
Extruder temperature:220±10 °C
Bed temperature: 50±10 °C
Ventilation:closed printer Only
Bed Adhesion: Blue Painters Tape 

conductive pla

Overview

Conductive PLA, designed for low voltage circuitry applications.What you get with conductive PLA is a material thats less flexible than normal PLA but with better adhesion.

This makes it ideal for a dual head printer to use both normal PLA and conductive filament, as the layer adhesion between the two plastics is excellent.

If you open up some old electronics you would be sure to find some conductive PLA inside.

List of features

⦁ PLA filament is conductive and slightly flexible.
⦁ Non-toxic like PLA, but stronger
⦁ For circuit boards a dual extruding printer is needed, one for PLA and one for conductive
⦁ Best used for circuitry, especially complex circuits where wiring proves difficult
⦁ Still bio-degradable, but less so than normal PLA

Conclusion

There are many more types plastic which you could use for 3D printing, but we decided to stop at 10 since these are the most popular plastics, with which you can bring to life almost any kind of design, right here at Pen and Plastic.

Let us know what you think in the comment section below…did we miss an important plastic which you would like to see included, do you have any feedback or additional information?

Feel free to share your thoughts the comment section or through social media!

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