What Filament to Use?
PLA vs PETG vs ABSWith so many materials on the 3D Printing consumer market, it can be tough to distinguish between what materials are best suited for various projects. Over this guide, we'll walk through our decision-making process on what material to use. For the sake of keeping this article short and effective, we'll be sticking to the three most common materials: PLA, ABS, & PETG. While other materials like Nylon and PC can be a good fit for the described projects, they often require special equipment and enclosures to print. So we'll be leaving these out from this article.
- Before We Start
Before We Start
Before we jump into the individual materials, it's going to be essential to know the difference between the following mechanical properties:
- Ductility: Ability of material which allows them to deform plastically under tension
- Tensile Strength: Ability of a material to resist a force that tends to pull it apart.
- Impact Resistance: Ability of a material to withstand intense force or shock applied to it over a short period of time.
PLA (Polylactic Acid)
PLA is the most commonly used material for its ease of use, price, and wide availability. However, its mechanical properties are often written off, and we think it is extremely underrated. While it does have downsides, like a low melting temperature, and violent shearing, it can hold its own when it comes to stiffness and tensile strength. PLA is the stiffest of the 3 materials, making it the best material of choice for frames, mounts, and other components that require minimal deflection. Out of the three materials, it also features the highest tensile strength, making it the best material for prints with tension forces like handles, hooks, and gears
The market is filled with modified PLA's that alter materials' looks and material properties. Usually, modified materials like Silk PLA lead to significantly weakened material properties. Some exceptions include PLA+, which features added ABS or even our own Matte PLA that looks great while increasing tensile strength by 35% and impact resistance by 40%!
PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol)
PETG is the most recent of these contenders, just coming into popularity these last few years. It's become famous for its easier-than-ABS print settings and ductility. While featuring the worst stiffness and tensile strength of the three materials, its ductility allows you to create parts that can take abuse without failing. Its ductility enables it to have higher impact resistance than PLA, albeit lower than ABS. Notably, PETG also features a higher temperature resistance than PLA and is the superior material out of the 3 for outdoor applications.
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
ABS is the OG of printing filaments, even before PLA. Its love in the injection molding industry made it a no-brainer for 3D printing despite all the printing headaches. ABS is the toughest of the three materials to print as it enjoys high nozzle, bed, and ambient temperatures. Without the 3, ABS likes to warp itself off any print bed and delaminate layers. However, when printing right, it dominates in impact resistance and features good stiffness and tensile strength, only beat by PLA. It also features the highest temperature resistance of the three. This material is best used for applications where many impacts are expected (Battle Bots, anyone?)
My Favourite Material
All three materials have their pros and cons. However, PLA is my favorite, giving you the absolute best aesthetics with respectable mechanical properties. Printing with our Matte PLA has given us functional parts while maintaining attractive looks. This magnetic iPad mount has been in use for two years now and still looks the same as when we popped it off the build plate. What material is your favorite? What material do you find yourself printing with most often?