What filament should I buy?
There a lot of different types of filament you can buy. This can make it hard to choose the right filament for the right project. Different properties of each material can give vastly different results and effects. And your 3D printer should be able to print the desired material.
What is Filament?
The material your load and print in your 3D printer is most commonly called filament. It comes normally on a spool in the shape of a long plastic string of 1.75mm in diameter. In general, every polymer material can be made into a filament. But properties like melting temperature have to be taken into account as well. The ABS melting temperature for example is already quite high for most 3D printers. This means that more advanced materials like PolyCarbonate are impossible to print for most 3D printers.
For more information on filaments keep on reading! You can also check out our free online Materials course.
Buying 3D printing filament
Since there are different brands, materials and types, it can be difficult to buy 3D printing filament. The number of different types of filament is steadily increasing. And many manufactures are starting to develop new types of filament as well. Most of them can be bought online. But each material which can be used as a filament, can be bought by a different manufacturer. Often the difference is the quality of the filaments. This means that if you buy the filament ‘PLA’ (PolyLactic Acid) from one brand it could give your perfect results. While the other brand can give you bad results.
Buy filament online
Most people buy filament online. This has to do with the popularity and convenience of online shopping, but also due to the lack of physical 3D printer stores. Most brands of 3D printers have their own filament and their 3D printers will be tested on those filaments. So when you are buying online, it is safe to choose the preferred filament for you 3D printer.
Getting great results from your 3D printer needs 3 basically three things. A great 3D printer, great printer settings and high quality filaments. Filaments can be bought from China for low costs of from Europe for high costs. Often, the cheaper filament is of a lower quality.
How to recognise low quality filaments
Low quality filaments can be usually recognised in two things; an inconsistent diameter or contamination. An inconsistent diameter of filament can result in under or over extrusion and can clog your nozzle. Contaminated materials are less pure in composition which can influence the melting temperature or surface finish.
However, as you print with a lot of different brands of filament, you will notice more differences. And there may be other criteria you expect or require from your filament.
Keep your filament in good condition
To keep your filament in optimal conditions, store it in a zip-lock bag and in a dark and cool environment. Heat and moisture can have a negative effect on your filament so it is advised to avoid those factors. Heat can change the chemical properties of your filament which can result in clogged nozzles. If your filament has too much moisture in it, the moisture will boil when extruding. This can create bubbles at the nozzle which can hinder the flow of extrusion.
Leapfrog MAXX filament
We at Leapfrog 3D Printers don’t only sell high quality filaments, but also test them at our own Research & Development department. We don’t take the quality at face value and are always looking to improve our filament in any way.
Each filament has unique properties and can create a different print with the same file. Choosing the right filament can be key in your design. Not every 3D printer can print each filament.
An important thing to know about your filament is the melting temperature. The melting temperature is the temperature that the material needs reach to be 3D Printed using Fused Filament Fabrication. The ABS melting temperature for example is much higher than the PLA melting temperature. This means that melting ABS needs a higher nozzle temperature. What it also changes are the amount it cools after being printed. A general rule of thumb is; a higher melting temperature means more warping. This also means that a 3D Printer with a closed chamber of even heated chamber is preferable.
Some filaments are easy to print, while others can be much harder to print for good results. The most popular filament on the market is PLA. It is easy to print and the results are very good in terms of strength and finish. Another popular filament is ABS for more durable prints although this can be more difficult to print properly. New types of filament are invented or known types of materials are improved to make them more suitable for 3D printing often. So it can be rewarding to stay up to date on filament developments.
PLA filament is made out of a material that is very versatile in its application. Possibly one of its best properties is the fact that it is biodegradable. Additionally, the temperature of PLA is lower than the ABS melting temperature, giving it better printing capabilities. It doesn’t produce fumes and the odor when printing has been often described as sweet and pleasant. And it is available in a large array of colors. Finally, PLA filament has a lower tendency to split than ABS.
Recommended settings on your 3D printer: PLA melting temperature 210 °C, bed temperature 45 °C
ABS is a very common material you cross every day. LEGO is made from it, for example. Do you require a strong and durable component? ABS probably best suits your requirements. You can buy this strong and stiff filament in thirteen clear and durable colors. Typical for printing with ABS filament is a distinct smell off burned plastic along with light fumes. We recommend that you print in a room with plenty of air circulation.
Recommended settings on your 3D printer: ABS melting temperature 250 °C, bed temperature 80 °C.
Flex filament is a rubber like material. This flexible plastic stays flexible when printed. It is fairly strong and the layer bonding is very good. The amount of flexibility can be controlled with the amount of infill of your print. Combining this material with a rigid filament like PLA can provide new solutions which would be not possible with conventional production methods.
Recommended settings on your 3D printer: Flex melting temperature 210-255 °C, bed temperature 20-50 °C.
PVA filament should be used by someone who has some experience in 3D printing. We strongly recommend that you don’t use PVA filament until you have mastered the basics of 3D printing. PVA filament is soluble in water and attaches well to different sorts of plastics. Because of these properties PVA filament is an excellent supporting material for dual extruder 3D printing. It creates a wide array of new possibilities.
Recommended settings on your 3D printer: PVA melting temperature 200 °C, bed temperature 60 °C.
Nylon filament provides you with number of very interesting properties. Nylon filament is flexible, strong and resistant to ultraviolet light and various kinds of chemicals. A high temperature of both printing and bed are required to print with nylon filament. Amongst its more conventional uses is the printing of models.
Recommended settings on your 3D printer: Nylon melting temperature 245 °C, bed temperature 80 °C.
PET G Filament
PET G filament is a similar to a very common plastic; PET. Almost every plastic bottle on the world is made from PET. It has properties comparable to ABS, although ABS is stronger. The printing capacities of PET G however are excellent and popularity is increasing for this reason.
Recommended settings on your 3D printer: PET G melting temperature 240°C, bed temperature 90°C
Hybrid filament is roughly translated a hybrid between ABS and PLA. It a little stronger than PLA but still prints as easy as PLA and has a better temperature resistance. Hybrid is also FDA approved which makes it suitable for food containers for example. Please take into account that the FDA approval is on the filament. Your 3D printer however, can have small amounts of other filament left in it’s nozzle for example.
Recommended settings on your 3D printer: Hybrid melting temperature 245°C, bed temperature 65°C.
Carbon filament is a compound of a polymer plastic (PLA) and carbon fibers. This means that the properties of the printed material are a combination between PLA and carbon. So it is a little lighter, stronger and very stiff. The carbon fibers can easy damage the inside of your nozzle while printing, making it abrasive for regular nozzles.
Recommended settings on your 3D printer: Carbon melting temperature
Brick filament is a compound with brick fibers. The result is a brick like material with real brick. The finish is coarse which is what you would expect from brick. This also means that this filament can require a bigger nozzle diameter for a better flow of extrusion. Compared to PLA, brick will also be more abrasive for a regular nozzle.
Recommended settings on your 3D printer: Brick melting temperature 195°C, bed temperature 60°C.
Similar to Brick filament, Wood filament is a compound of both a polymer and wood fibers. When printing, a wood scent will be produced, making is smell like a real wood shop! It is also lighter than most filaments and the printing properties are similar to Brick as well.
Recommended settings on your 3D printer: Wood melting temperature 210 °C, bed temperature 50°C.
For an overview on all filaments and their properties, please view the following file: