What Kind of Plastic Does a 3D Printer Use?

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After buying your 3D printer, there are other factors to bear in mind. The materials for your printing needs are next. Apart from Polyamide, Alumide, high-detail resins, paintable resin, transparent resin, stainless steel, bronze, gold, nickel, aluminum, and titanium, plastic is a go-to option for designers, architects, and other folks. 

What makes plastics a common option for 3D printing? What are the types of plastic that a 3D printer uses? Good     question, and you have come to the right place! Take a close look at the following: 

ABS – Flexible Solution 

As the most commonly used 3D printing plastic, ABS filament is incorporated in appliances, mobile phone cases, and bodywork of cars. A thermoplastic material, ABS filament, contains a base of elastomers, making it more shock-resistant and flexible. 

Over the past years, ABS has been one of the top plastic materials in 3D printing. Unlike the other options, it is tough and can withstand high temperatures. ABS is reusable and can be soldered with the use of chemical processes. 

Similar to other plastic materials, ABS also has some drawbacks. First, it is not biodegradable. Second, it shrinks in contact with extreme air. That’s why it is important to heat the printing platform to avoid warping issues. Lastly, it is necessary to utilize a closed chamber 3D printer to reduce particle emissions.

For those who use deposition modeling technologies, ABS is an ideal solution you shouldn’t miss. ABS is also available in a liquid form, making it ideal for PolyJet and stereolithography processes. 

PLA – Eco-Friendly 

Commonly known as Polylactic acid, PLA is a plastic material that features various advantages. Unlike ABS, it is biodegradable. Manufactured using renewable raw materials, PLA is one of the easiest materials to use and print. When printing in PLA, you can avoid a heated platform. This plastic material also prints at a low temperature that ranges from 190 degrees Celsius to 230 degrees Celsius. 

However, its high cooling or solidification speed makes it hard to manipulate. That’s not all! When exposed to water, models lose their quality features. But with its consistency and ease of use, it is a worth-it investment for all. It also comes in a range of colors, which can exceed your unique needs. 

When searching for one of the environmentally friendly solutions in the market, PLA is a good shot as it is sourced from sugar cane, corn starch, and other natural products. 

ASA – UV Resistance 

Yes, manufacturers believe that ASA has similar properties to ABS. The truth is that the material can incredibly resist UV rays and other elements. It requires a heated bed platform to prevent warping issues. When printing with this material, consider the print settings you use in ABS. But be careful and make sure to employ a closed chamber to avoid styrene emissions. 

PET – Ideal Material 

Considered as Polyethylene terephthalate, PET is a top-notch material in disposable plastic bottles. PET is the experts-recommended filament for materials intended for contact with food. Although it’s rigid, it has a great chemical resistance. Designers encourage everyone to print with a temperature of 75 or 90 degrees Celsius to obtain stress-free results. 

Marketed as a translucent filament, PET comes in a wide variety, including PETT, PETE, and PETG. 

When using a plastic material that releases odors, PET is far different. Plus, it is 100% recyclable, which can reduce unnecessary expenses in the long run. 

Polycarbonate (PC)

Searching for a high strength material for your engineering applications? Don’t look further than polycarbonate. Apart from a great temperature resistance, it can withstand other physical deformation. But it easily absorbs moisture from the air, affecting its printing resistance and maximum performance. So, it is crucial to store the material in an airtight container. 

When printing with PET, it requires a high temperature. If you print at a low temperature, separated layers will be visible. The good news is that there are polycarbonate filaments that you can utilize at a lower temperature. Thanks to technological advancement. 


With the potential of 3D printing technologies, experts have been conducting extensive research. For the past decades, high-performance materials have been introduced into the market. Common HPPs are PEKK, PEEK, and ULTEM. Each of them has a high thermal and mechanical resistance. They are strong and lighter than metals. Packed with strong properties, they are attractive in the medical, aerospace, and automotive industries. 

Due to their features, HPPs cannot be printed on different FDM machines. But experts recommend the use of 3D printers with a 230-degree Celsius heating plate. 

Flexible Materials 

Flexible filaments are a newer type of material to consider. Similar to PLA, they are made out of TPU or TPE. What makes them special is that they enable everyone to create deformable objects during 3D printing. With that advantage, they have been used in the fashion industry. 

Packed with the same printing characteristics, flexible filaments come in a good variety. But, before using the material, find out the type of extruder to avoid jams during printing. 


Also called Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic, PVA is a water-soluble material. It is used as a thickener, packaging film, or glue. In 3D printing, PVA is not a compulsory material. It is especially used to establish a support structure for portions of an object that may collapse. 

For those who have two or more extruders, it’s ideal for creating a support structure of Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic. After printing, dunk the cured product in water until the structure dissolves. 

Other Materials 

Apart from plastic, there are other materials for your applications. These can include wood, aluminum, cobalt-chromium, copper, bronze, Inconel, nickel, gold, silver, and platinum. 


There’s a variety of materials for your 3D printing applications. While it can be an advantage, it’s hard to make a decision. The secret here is to consider the pros and cons. Plus, don’t forget to identify your needs ahead of time.

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