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Which material should I choose for my print?

Updated: Jan 19

Choosing a material to print with depends on many factors, such as material costs, availability and material characteristics. It also depends on what the end component is going to be used for.

For example for rapid prototyping PLA allows for quick iterative designing, while reducing material costs but with little part strength. PLA is also offered in a variety of colours, typically used for first iteration prototypes.

Multiple reels of 3D printer filament material, each in a different colour

PLA is by far the easiest material to print with, and is available in a variety of colours and textures such as wood and glow in the dark. However PLA should not be used for objects used outdoors that are exposed to direct sunlight.

Some 3D printing materials need to be food grade or medical grade, PETG is an example filament material that can come in medical or food grade variants. The cost of PETG is slightly more expensive than PLA, however the strength and durability of PETG is much higher than PLA. PETG is less brittle compared to PLA and therefore a bit more forgiving when flexed. PETG is available in a variety of colours.

For aerospace and automotive applications part strength is key, filaments such as Carbon Filled Nylon offer high strength and durability. The Nylon is reinforced with chopped Carbon Fibres, providing light but incredibly stiff components. The cost of high grade materials such as CF Nylon is higher than PETG or PLA.

Some parts or products require flexibility or a rubber like feel, TPU is a fantastic filament that produces parts with some flex such as soft phone cases. TPU is more durable than PLA and PETG while not being brittle. The cost of TPU is similar to that of PETG. TPU is available in a variety of colours.

Material Characteristics Comparison

Table of statistics describing the properties of PLA, PETG, TPU and CF-NYLON

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