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3D Printer Filament: Types and Functions

 |  Imelda Wangira

3D Printer Filament: What you need to Know

3D printer filament


3D printers are one of the most remarkable inventions of our time, and the cherry on top is that as an owner you have unlocked a door to actualizing all your designs. But just like any other functional machine, 3D printers need materials to help them run smoothly, and those materials are what we call 3D filaments.

What is a 3D filament? It is a type of printing material utilized by FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) 3D printers. It is currently one of the most widely used 3D printing material types worldwide.

Hundreds of meters of continuous thin plastic thread are spooled into a reel for storage and printer feeding in 3D filaments. But before we get into more technical advanced functions of 3D filament, here is a list of 3D filaments that will allow you to create striking, stunning 3D creations from the comfort of your home.

1. PLA (Polylactic Acid)

3D printer filament

Baskets made from PLA filament Image Source: 3dwithus

One of the two most widely used desktop 3D printing materials is PLA (Polylactic Acid).  PLA is the "default" suggested material for many desktop 3D printers. The reason is that it's suitable for a wide range of printing applications, is odorless fibers and low-warp, and doesn't require a heated bed.

Features: PLA filament is one of the most environmentally friendly 3D printer materials on the market. It is manufactured from yearly renewable resources and takes less energy to process than traditional plastics.

In addition, PLA is a versatile printing material preferred by beginners in 3D printing because it is odorless, low-warp, and doesn't require a heated bed.  Another enticing feature of PLA is that it comes in an almost infinite variety of colors, fibers, and styles.

Properties: PLA filament is a 3D printing material that is rigid but fragile. They are ideally used for cosmetic prints, prototypes, desk toys, and other low-stress applications.

2. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

Blue MH ABS filament Image source: Matterhacks

Another popular 3D printing material is ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). It's best for producing challenging pieces that can resist high temperatures. Because of its low weight and durability, ABS filament is a popular choice for 3D printing. In addition, it can be injection molded; it’s ideal for 3D printing extruders. 

Features: ABS filament tends to curl upwards from the surface; it must be produced on a heated bed. This is because deformation is reduced by using a heated construction platform and a smooth flat surface. It also has a high glass transition temperature to prevent distortion, yet it's low enough that 3D printers can safely print it.

ABS is best used to print interlocking pieces such as gears, parts exposed to UV and heat such as a vehicle cup holder, and for prototyping.

3. NylonX 3D Printer Filament

3D printer filament

Skateboard Image source: 3dsourced 

NylonX is a greatly reinforced nylon filament for 3D printing. NylonX is strengthened with micro-carbon fibers to provide a robust filament capable of printing stiff, impact-resistant, and high-tensile-strength components.

Features: NylonX filament is an engineering-grade filament that combines the durability of Nylon with the rigidity of carbon fiber, making it ideal for home 3D printing

The cool thing about NylonX is that the carbon fiber significantly increases stability and stiffness, reducing the likelihood of components warping as compared to standard nylon.

NylonX avoids post-print processing thanks to its distinctive matte black finish. Finished prints may be transported straight to production with no sanding, polishing, scraping, or unpleasant acetone vapor baths.

4. PET (PETG, PETT) Polyethylene Terephthalate

3D printer filament

Garden hose connection nobs Image source: Zmorph SA

PETG 3D filament characteristics, in a nutshell, are PET (polyethylene terephthalate) material with additional glycol (the G in PETG), which results in a smooth, transparent, easy-to-use, and less brittle material that is excellent for additive printing.

Features: It combines the simplicity of usage of PLA filament with the strength and durability of ABS filament, to use a metaphor. 

It has a significantly higher strength than PLA and is FDA authorized for containers and equipment use. Most importantly, it rarely warps and has no smells or fumes when printed, unlike ABS filament. 

PET filament is not biodegradable. However, it's recognized for its clarity and ability to bridge gaps. Mechanical components and snap-fit enclosures are the best candidates for this filament.

5. TPE  

3D printer filament

Elastic bands Image source: simplify3d

TPE (thermoplastic elastomers) filament is a flexible 3D printing material that resembles flexible rubber in both feel and behavior. Stoppers, belts, springs, phone covers, and other items that may bend or must flex to match their surroundings can all be made with TPE filament.

Features: When printing with TPE, the greatest results are obtained by printing at a steady and consistent speed. Because TPE has high elasticity, any rapid changes in the print speed might result in a loss of control.


3D printer filament

Church with steeple Image source: Airwolf 3D

LAYBRICK is a 3D printing material that simulates gray stone while maintaining the resilience of plastic, making it suitable for landscape and architectural projects. LAYBRICK is designed to be utilized with large-format 3D printers for large-scale applications like architectural modeling and landscaping.

Features: LAYBRICK filament has a stone or sandstone texture and is firm but fragile when printed. Depending on the temperature of your extruder, you might obtain different textures on your prints.


3D printer filament

Wood Vae Image source: 3D printer improvement

Wood filament starts with PLA as a base and then incorporates additional materials such as wood dust, cork, and other powdered wood derivativesPLA provides compatibility and simplicity for 3D printers while also contributing to the filament's appearance, feel, and characteristics.

Features: Wood filaments are known to be the simplest to deal with among composite filaments. They're less abrasive, a little lighter, and don't bend or shrink nearly as much as other materials. 

Similarly, they have a delightful scent, and the 3D designs tend to have a smooth, easy finish.

8. Magnetic Iron PLA

3D printer filament

Magnetic iron ornaments Image source: Project 3D Printers

The magnetic iron PLA filament is an extraordinary material and phenomenon in the 3D printing world. This Iron filament is magnetic due to the iron particles mixed with the PLA filament. Magnets will attach to the filament, even if it isn't a magnet. The magnetic iron PLA 3D printer filament has a gritty and gunmetal appearance. It's made of PLA or ABS with powdered iron as the foundation.

Features: Magnetic Iron filament prints are like PLA but takes longer and produces hefty solid prints. Magnetic filaments are mostly used for providing different printing scenarios when it comes to the 3D printing experience. 

The prints have excellent stiffness and can easily tolerate small overhang characteristics and changes.  One of the coolest things about magnetic iron filament is that

depending on the printing temperature, magnetic filament prints can have a matte or glossy appearance. 

9. Layceramic

3D printer filament

Clay-base filaments ceramics Image source: 3ders

Just like the name suggests, Layceramic is clay designed and engineered for 3D printers and capable of producing ceramic ornaments and designs. LayCeramic possesses the same properties as regular clay, including the ability to be burned for a lovely glossy finish and increased strength.

Features: Layceramic filament is quite expensive and brittle. In addition, one must own a kilt to apply a glaze and produce a ceramic texture.

Layceramic filament is best used for mugs, model roofing tiles, ashtrays, sculptures, or pottery.

10. HIPS (High Impact Polystrene)


3D printer filament

Intertwining cubes Image source: All3colorsDP

HIPS is an acronym for High Impact Polystyrene. Polystyrene and polybutadiene are combined in this graft copolymer. The outcome is a low-cost plastic that combines the key advantages of both compounds: polystyrene's stiffness and durability with polybutadiene's flexibility and impact absorption.

To paint a clear picture, HIPS is similar to ABS. The primary distinction is that HIPS plastic can be dissolved using Limonene as a solvent, making it an excellent support material for dual extrusion printers producing ABS.

Feature: HIPS filament is a rigid support material that is incredibly useful when printing detailed models with multiple overhangs.


The world of 3D printing is fantastic, and what 3D filament fibers have provided are endless possibilities to let our imagination run wild.

You can now make a design using a filament of your choice. So what are you waiting for? Follow our easy step-by-step interactive tutorial and start creating.

Enjoy powerful modeling, rendering, and 3D printing tools without the steep learning curve.

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Need to learn 3D modeling? Get started with interactive tutorials.

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