3D Printer Filaments and Materials Types:
PLA, ABS, Nylon and Special FIlaments

3D printing quality depends on the hardware used (i.e the 3D printer) but also on the materials used.
It is common to see failed 3D prints due to the use of the wrong filament. Whether it is PLA, ABS, Nylon or a special and rare filament, they must be good and well stored.


Quality is fundamental because a poor one will not extrude fine, even using a good 3D printer. FABTOTUM offers a wide range of spools: they are high quality filaments, 100% Made in Italy. Tested one by one on the FABtotum, they are the best combo for the hardware used.
It is as well important to choose the right material for each 3D printing job: size, object, final finishing are just some of what makes the difference. The type of color and filling also influences the surface quality as well as the structural resistance.
So, how to choose the right material for a 3D print? How to store the spools? What are the differences between PLA and ABS? What about special ones? And Nylon?

Different filaments material, different uses

PLA
It is the most common filament used for 3D printing. It is studied to be bio-degradable as it comes from corn starch’s sugar mainly. It is completely made of renewable sources and has no footprint on polluting.
PLA stands for PolyLactic Acid and it is a thermoplastic that today is still considered the easiest material to be 3D printed. It can be extruded at lower temperatures: the standard range of FABtotum’s one is between 185° and 195°.
Its major technical specs are:

  • it is hard and resists at high pressures but it is easy to chip and break if hit;
  • it is easy to extrude at lower temperatures and it deforms at 60°;
  • it cristalyze fast.

Tips:

  • PLA filament must be well stored and kept safe from humidity. Once the package is open, add some silica dehumidifier inside;
  • add a smooth layer of hairspray on your heated bed. Keep the fan of the Printing Head on;
  • always unspool it from the 3D printer to avoid it to cristalyze inside the head;
  • always use high quality filaments like FABtotum’s ones.

3D printing PLA materials and filaments

ABS
This material is easy to be extruded and is one of the most used in 3D printing to get very well finished objects. It is not suistainable and its smoke can be dangerous if inhalated. The reason to prefer this filament to PLA is mainly because of its precision and mechanical specs. ABS (for plastic) stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and it is a thermoplastic which is widely used in everyday objects. It can be printed with any FFF 3D printer which can get to high temperatures as it must be extruded in a range between 220° and 245°, such as FABtotum.
Its major technical specs are:

  • it is very hard and resists more to warps and damages;
  • it doesn’t deform easily;
  • it is longlasting in performance and less subject to deteriorate if exposed (to light, humidity and so on).

Tips:

  • ABS filament, when extruded, tends to curl up: use an heated platform like FABtotum’s Hybrid Bed at least at 60°/70°C to avoid this. Apply a small amount of hairspray to stick the object on the surface;
  • fan should be off to avoid the cold end of the Printing Head to warm;
  • ABS can be smoky and smelly: use it in a well ventilated area/room;
  • always choose high quality filaments like FABtotum’s ones.

Nylon
When 3D printing started this material was not listed among the extrudable filaments. It is flexible as well as resistant to tractions. It is well known for its uses in textile but also in industries which requires a strong and flexible material. There are different kinds of Nylon: 3D printing mostly uses Nylon 6 and Nylon 6.6, which are the most common. It requires higher temperatures to be printed, so a 3D printer must be able to reach them (around 240°C): the FABtotum, of course, can.
Its major technical specs are:

  • it is strong and flexible, more than other printable materials;
  • its final finishing is not perfect (on average it is still enough though);
  • it is reusable.

Tips:

  • heated bed is not needed: it is possible to leave it cold;
  • if it is not extruding correctly or with bubbles, temperature might be too high;
  • Nylon, which normally comes in transparent spools, can be coloured;
  • always choose high quality filaments like FABtotum’s ones.
3D printer filaments and materials: PLA, ABS and Nylon
3D printer special exotic wood filaments PLA

Exotic, Special filaments
FFF 3D printing can use a wider range of materials, like HIPS (similar to ABS) and PET, but are harder to be found. The world market is moving fast and it constantly add new opportunities. 3D printers, on their side, update themselves in order to be able to print all the available filaments.
PLA and Nylon, anyway, can also differ in their composition, as they can be additioned with other materials.
Here are a few examples:

WOOD PLA: this filament has wood fibers inside and get a very nice brownish finishing. Very smooth, when just printed a nice smell of real wood can be felt.

GLASS PLA: the name says it all. Translucent and very strong, the finishing is not completely transparent due to the part of PLA still present.

CARBON FIBER: both PLA and Nylon can be additioned with this component. This adds strenght and a better finishing to Nylon, while it is lighter than standard PLA.

FLEXY: this mixture of more thermoplastic materials ends in being flexible and elastic. It has a big shape memory and does not require high temperatures to be printed.

Always choose high quality special filaments like FABtotum’s ones.

How to choose the right material for a 3D print?

The choice should depend on the final purpose of the object. Final use and user are to be considered: toys can be printed in PLA, mechanical parts might require ABS or Nylon. Prototypes and models will come out nicely in both PLA and ABS.

What about SLA 3D printing?

When using this technology, only RESINS (as far as today) can be used. They are photosensible and solidify when hit by lightrays. Quite expensive, they can differ a lot in quality. Here it is even more fundamental to use the appropriated ones: failing to do so will just not work.
FABTOTUM, with the PRISM Stereolithography platform, will offer a hi-quality material catalogue.