Characteristics of filaments

A list of the most common filaments with their most important properties. Quickly and clearly, without verbiage.


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The specified properties vary greatly depending on the filament manufacturer and 3D printer. It is always advisable to trust the information provided by the filament manufacturer. The specifications are therefore only a rough guide to give beginners an initial overview.

Filaments

I deal with the following filaments here

ABS

Expensive, very stable, very difficult to print, hazardous to health during printing

ASA

Expensive, very stable, difficult to print

PETG

Inexpensive, stable, easy to print

PETG Carbon

Slightly more expensive, very stable, more difficult to print

PLA

Verycheap, less stable, very easy to print —> ideal filament for beginners!

PLA Carbon

Somewhat expensive, stable, harder to print

PLA Wood

Inexpensive, less stable, somewhat more difficult to print

Nylon

Expensive, very stable, very difficult to print

TPU

Inexpensive, flexible, easy to print

PLA and PETG are the most common filaments for everyday use by the average user.

Basic criteria

  • Temperature resistance: The temperature resistance determines the temperature at which the filament can be used. PLA, for example, is temperature-resistant up to 50 °C, ABS up to 100 °C and nylon up to approx. 120 °C.
  • Strength: The strength determines how strong the filament is. PLA is generally less strong than ABS or nylon.
  • Elasticity: The elasticity determines how flexible the filament is. TPU is very elastic, while PLA and ABS are less elastic.
  • Adhesion: Adhesion determines how well the filaments adhere to each other. PLA has good adhesion, while ABS and nylon have somewhat poorer adhesion.
  • Shrinkage: The shrinkage behaviour determines how much the filament shrinks during printing. PLA generally shrinks less than ABS or nylon.

Which filament is suitable for what?

  • PLA is a good filament for beginners as it is easy to process and delivers good print quality. PLA is also a good filament for (decorative) models that are not exposed to high temperatures or loads.
  • ABS/ASA is a stronger and more temperature-resistant filament than PLA. ABS is therefore a good filament for models that are exposed to high temperatures or loads. However, ABS/ASA is also much more difficult to process than PLA.
  • PETG is a filament with a good combination of strength, elasticity and temperature resistance.
  • Nylon is a very strong and temperature -resistant filament. Nylon is therefore a good filament for functional parts that are exposed to high loads and temperatures. However, nylon is also a very expensive filament.
  • TPU is an elastic filament that is well suited for flexible models. TPU is also a good filament for functional parts that are exposed to shocks or vibrations.

Prices

Filament EUR / kg
PLA 10-20
TPU 15-30
PLA Wood 15-30
PETG 15-30
PLA Carbon 20-40
PETG Carbon 20-40
ASA 30-50
Nylon 30-50
ABS 30-50

Printability

Filament Printability
TPU Simple
PLA Single
PLA Wood Medium
PETG Medium
PLA Carbon Medium
PETG Carbon Medium
ASA Difficult
Nylon Difficult
ABS Difficult

The printability of a filament depends on a number of factors, including printing temperature, layer adhesion, shrinkage behaviour and deformation on cooling.

PLA can be printed by any printer. It is simply the standard filament par excellence.

TPU is actually the easiest filament to print, as it has a low printing temperature, good adhesion and low shrinkage. However, you need a print head with a direct extruder, otherwise it will be difficult to print.

PLA Wood is somewhat more difficult to print than PLA as it contains wood fibres that can impair adhesion.

ASA, Nylon and ABS are the most difficult filaments to print. They have high printing temperatures and tend to shrink and deform, resulting in warping. The component lifts from the printing plate at the corners and the print is unusable.

Recommended extruder type

Filament Extruder type
PLA Bowden and direct extruder
PLA Wood Bowden and direct extruder
PETG Bowden and direct extruder
PLA Carbon Bowden and direct extruder
PETG Carbon Bowden and direct extruder
ASA Direct extruder
Nylon Direct extruder
ABS Direct extruder
TPU Direct extruder

 

Recommended nozzles

Nozzle material Nozzle Nozzle diameter
ABS Brass 0,4 mm
ASA Brass 0,4 mm
PLA Brass 0,4 mm
PETG Brass 0,4 mm
Nylon Brass 0,4 mm
Carbon filament Steel, ceramic 0.6 mm
Wood filament coated brass 0.4 – 0.6 mm
TPU Brass 0.4 mm

Minimum recommendations for the nozzles used for different materials. Personally, I would not use pure brass nozzles, but only coated brass (nickel-plated or PTFE-coated). This prevents blockages and ensures a slightly cleaner pressure.

Printing temperature

Filament Printing temperature
ABS 230-270 °C
ASA 230-270 °C
PETG Carbon 230-260 °C
Nylon 230-260 °C
TPU 210-250 °C
PLA Carbon 200-240 °C
PLA Wood 180-220 °C
PETG 220-250 °C
PLA 180-220 °C

This table is sorted by printing temperature, with ABS at the top, followed by ASA and PETG Carbon. These filaments are therefore best suited for 3D printers with a hotend that can reach these high temperatures.

PLA, PETG and PLA Wood have a lower printing temperature and can therefore also be used with 3D printers with a lower temperature hotend.

Health hazards during printing

Filament Health hazard
PLA Low
TPU Medium
PLA Wood Medium
PETG Medium
PLA Carbon Medium
PETG Carbon Medium
ASA High
Nylon High
ABS Very high


PLA is the most harmless filament in terms of health. It consists of polylactic acid, which does not release any harmful gases or vapours during processing.

TPU is a filament that is moderately harmful to health. It consists of thermoplastic polyurethane, which can release small quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOC) during processing.

PLA Wood and PETG are also filaments that are moderately hazardous to health. PLA Wood contains wood fibres that can release small amounts of dust during processing. PETG can release small amounts of acetone during processing.

PLA Carbon and PETG Carbon are also filaments that are moderately hazardous to health. PLA Carbon contains carbon fibres that can release small amounts of dust during processing. PETG Carbon can release small amounts of acetone during processing.

ASA is a highly hazardous filament. It consists of acrylonitrile-styrene-acrylate, which can release considerable quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOC) during processing.

Nylon is a highly hazardous filament. It consists of polyamide, which can release considerable quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during processing.

ABS is a very harmful filament. It consists of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, which can release considerable quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during processing.

As filaments may contain admixtures of other substances, it is essential to observe the manufacturer’s instructions!

Printing speed

Filament Recommended printing speed
PLA 40-60 mm/s
PLA Wood 30-50 mm/s
PETG 50-70 mm/s
PLA Carbon 40-60 mm/s
PETG Carbon 50-70 mm/s
ASA 40-60 mm/s
Nylon 30-50 mm/s
ABS 30-50 mm/s
TPU 20-40 mm/s

The recommended printing speeds vary depending on the filament manufacturer and 3D printer. It is always advisable to observe the recommended printing speeds of the filament manufacturer.

I myself print normal PLA and PETG at speeds of up to 200 mm/s with my Qidi X-Smart 3, especially the excellent PLA from Kingroon. This also manages the 16-minute benchmark without complaint and can therefore be printed even faster than my 200 mm/s.

I just want to protect the material of my printer, so I don’t print any faster. Ultimately, I have more time than money.

Impact resistance

Filament Impact strength
PLA Low
PLA Wood Low to medium
PETG Medium
ASA Medium to high
Nylon High
PLA Carbon High to very high
PETG Carbon High to very high
ABS High to very high

As you can see, ABS, Nylon, PLA Carbon and PETG Carbon have the highest impact strength. These filaments are therefore best suited for applications where high impact strength is required, such as toys, household appliances or tools.

Tensile strength

Filament Tensile strength
PLA 30-60 MPa
PETG 40-80 MPa
ASA 50-90 MPa
Nylon 50-120 MPa
PLA Wood 30-50 MPa
PLA Carbon 60-150 MPa
PETG Carbon 70-160 MPa
ABS 60-120 MPa

The tensile strength of a filament is its ability to withstand tensile forces without tearing. It is measured in megapascals (MPa).

Nylon, PLA Carbon and PETG Carbon have the highest tensile strength. These filaments are therefore best for stressed components, tools or machine parts.

Abrasion resistance

The material Abrasion resistance
PLA Medium
PLA Wood Medium
PETG Good
PLA Carbon Good
PETG Carbon Good
ASA Good
Nylon Very good
ABS Very good
TPU Very good

 

Shore hardness

Shore material Shore hardness
Nylon 92A
ABS 90A
TPU 85A to 95A
PETG 80A to 85A
ASA 78A to 80A
PLA 60A to 65A
PLA Wood 60A to 65A

Available Shore hardness results. The Shore hardness is a measure of the hardness of a material. It is measured using a Shore hardness tester. The higher the Shore hardness, the harder the material. Filaments with a high Shore hardness are more abrasion-resistant than filaments with a low Shore hardness.

TPU has a relatively high Shore hardness, although it is flexible. The high hardness of TPU is due to the chemical bond between the polyurethane and elastomer molecules. This bond is very strong and gives the material its strength and hardness.

Flexibility

The material Flexibility
TPU Very soft
PLA Soft
PLA Wood Soft
PETG Medium
PLA Carbon Medium
PETG Carbon Medium
ASA Medium
Nylon Hard
ABS Hard

 

Temperature resistance

Material max. temperature (°C)
PLA 50
PLA Wood 60
PETG 70-80
PLA Carbon 60
PETG Carbon 80-90
ASA 110-120
Nylon 70-140
ABS 110-120
TPU 90-100
Approximate values! Please note that these are the maximum temperatures. The printed object often softens much earlier, mainly under load. Always observe the manufacturer’s specifications! Only these are authoritative!

 

Weather resistance

The material Weather resistance
TPU Very good
ASA Good
Nylon Good
ABS Good
PETG Medium
PLA Poor
PLA Wood Poor

Filaments with a surface treatment such as a coating or varnish are generally more weather-resistant than untreated filaments.

5UV resistance

The material UV resistance
TPU Very good
ASA Very good
Nylon Good
ABS Good
PETG Medium
PLA Poor
PLA Wood Poor

Filaments with a surface treatment such as a coating or varnish are generally more UV-resistant than untreated filaments.

Salt water resistance

The material Salt water resistance
TPU Very good
ASA Good
Nylon Good
ABS Medium
PETG Medium
PLA Poor
PLA Wood Poor
PETG Carbon Poor
PLA Carbon Poor

Filaments with a surface treatment such as a coating or varnish are generally more resistant to salt water than untreated filaments.

Hygroscopicity

Material Sensitivity
PVA Water soluble
Nylon Very high
TPU Very high
PLA Wood High
PETG Carbon High
PLA Carbon High
PETG High
ASA Medium
ABS Low
PLA Very low

I have written an article about the drying and storage of filaments and their susceptibility to humidity. I have described how I store the filaments here and here. I show how to dry the silica gel here.

Flammability

Filament type Flammability
PLA Non flammable
PETG Not flammable
ASA Flammable
Nylon Flammable
PLA Wood Flammable
PLA Carbon Flammable
PETG Carbon Flammable
ABS Flammable

PLA and PETG are the only filaments in this list that are categorised as non-flammable. Both are plastics that melt at high temperatures but do not burn.

ASA, nylon, PLA-Wood, PLA-Carbon, PETG-Carbon and ABS are flammable. They all consist of plastics that can melt and burn at high temperatures.

As filaments may contain admixtures of other substances, it is essential to observe the manufacturer’s instructions!

Paintability

Filament Coatability
PLA Good
PLA Wood Good
PETG Good
PLA Carbon Good
PETG Carbon Good
ASA Good
Nylon Medium
ABS Medium
TPU Poor

Painting only with acrylic lacquers and acrylic paints! Paint does not adhere particularly well to TPU as it is flexible.

Solvent resistance

Filament Solvent resistance
ABS Poor
Nylon Medium
ASA Good
PETG Good
PLA Wood Medium
PLA Carbon Good
PETG Carbon Good
TPU Good

The solvent resistance of a filament depends on a number of factors, including the chemical composition of the filament and the type of solvent. TPU is the most solvent resistant filament. It is resistant to most organic solvents, including acetone, ethanol and isopropanol.

Alkali resistance

Material Resistance to alkalis
PLA Poor
PLA Wood Poor
PETG Medium
PLA Carbon Medium
PETG Carbon Medium
ASA Good
Nylon Good
ABS Good
TPU Good

The alkali resistance of a filament can vary depending on the manufacturer and grade.

Resistance to saliva

Material Saliva resistance
PLA Poor
PLA Wood Poor
PETG Medium
PLA Carbon Medium
PETG Carbon Medium
ASA Good
Nylon Good
ABS Good
TPU Good

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions! Not all filaments are pure! What is considered safe today could be harmful to health tomorrow.

Food safety

Material Food safe
PLA Yes
PETG Yes
Nylon Yes
ABS No
ASA No
Carbon filament No
Wood filament No
TPU No

As filaments may contain admixtures of other substances, it is essential to observe the manufacturer’s instructions!

Dishwasher suitability

No filament is suitable for the dishwasher unless the manufacturer explicitly states this.

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