Just as your regular printer needs either ink or toner, your 3D printer also needs its key “fuel” with which to do the printing. In the case of 3D printers, that’s 3D Printer Filament. There are options when it comes to 3D filament, and for some it can be daunting when it comes to choosing the right ones.
Below are some key considerations that should help you when looking at all the different 3D printer filament options and you want to choose the right one.
1. Your Current Level and Experience
Your previous experience with 3D printing will say a lot about which filaments are best for you to choose. For instance, if you’re a beginner, then PLA and PET-G are the best choices. The former is the most common 3D printing material and is great for beginners because it’s easy to use in any standard printer configuration, and it’s not expensive to purchase. To be clear, PLA isn’t exclusively for beginners, but it’s less of a specialist item, and that makes it suitable for learners.
PET-G also works, especially for those beginners who’ve completed several projects in PLA and are now looking for an alternative. Some turn to ABS when they’re ready to move on but ABS can be trickier. PET-G delivers a similar effect to ABS, but is much easier to work with. As you climb your skill ladder, you can look into other materials such as ABS, PP, PA, and TPU.
2. The Use of Your 3D Printed Object
Are you making a 3D model to serve as a prototype, or as a commercial product? There are many possibilities in between, but taking these two as a broad but representative sample, you’d need one material for the former and something different for the latter. PLA and PET-G are very commonly used as prototype materials, with ABS and TPU being used when a prototype needs to have qualities like stronger chemical resistance.
If you’re creating a commercial product, then more professional materials like PAHT CF15 or PA are required. They not only have finer finishes, but are more hardy against the elements..
3. Required Durability
Following on from the previous point, durability is another key factor. Not all 3D printer filaments boast the same ability to withstand high-stress situations. For instance, ABS, PET-G, and PAHT CF15 are particularly effective when it comes to heat resistance. If it’s water resistance you need, on the other hand, then you’re better off with PP, or PA.
Another key resistance is that against corrosive substances, the best choices for this being PP and PP GF30, but also PAHT CF15 performs well in this regard.
As we touched upon further above, the beginner-friendly materials such as PLA are generally also the most budget-friendly. If you want to get printing done without breaking the bank, these remain your best options. While prices will always vary depending on supplier, and how much stock is available, the general rule of thumb is that the more specialised the filament, the more likely it is to cost more because it’s equally harder and more expensive to produce.
For instance, a material that is water resistant will cost more than one that isn’t. One that boasts multiple properties such as heat, chemical and water resistance will cost even more.
5. Storage Capabilities
Finally, before choosing your 3D Printer Filament, you should look into what storage options and capacity you have. If you have the budget for multiple special storage units for printer filament, then you can buy many different types and store them safely. If your storage is limited or you have no specific solution to keep moisture away and the ambient temperature steady, then consider sticking to budget-friendly materials only.