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The Main 3D Printer Filament Types: Properties, Uses, and Selection Guide


With the rapid advancement of FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printing technology, selecting the right filament for specific applications has become crucial. The choice of filament impacts not only the mechanical properties of the printed parts but also their suitability for various environments and uses. This article explores the properties and applications of several common 3D printing filaments, providing guidance on selecting the best material for your needs.

The selection of an appropriate filament is critical in ensuring that the manufactured item meets the required specifications for its intended environment and mechanical performance.

PLA Filament

What is PLA?

PLA, or Polylactic Acid, is made from starch of corn or cassava. So it is eco-friendly and bio-degradable. This type of material is denser than most other plastics, with a density of 1.24 g/cm³. It is the most commonly used material in FDM 3D printing for it affordable and easy to print. It is important to note that some manufacturers' PLA is actually PLA+. Their toughness are surpass than PLA much.


  • The usual melting temperature for PLA is between 150 and 200°C. Its glass transition temperature is between 50 and 60°C. At this temperature range, it is still soft enough to move around but is not a liquid. It also has a low heat deflection temperature of 50-60°C.
  • PLA has a high tensile strength for pulling forces, depending on the grain of the print. The tensile strength is between 50 and 70 MPa.
  • The material also has stiff resistance to deformation, roughly between 3.5 and 4 GPa.
  • However, it can sometimes be brittle and has low ductility. If it bends between 2-10%, it is possible for it to deform and break.

General Applications for PLA

  • Some general applications for PLA plastic include structural components and 3D items that do not reach the melting temperature range of 200°C.
  • PLA is biodegradable under certain conditions and is relatively low-cost. It is commonly used for prototyping and product development, allowing engineers to visualize and test their products before mass production.
  • PLA is also used for creating educational tools, such as models and geometric shapes, for teaching purposes in colleges.
  • Additionally, PLA is used in art and design for custom tools, pictures, and household items. It is commonly used in toys and games, as well as in architectural models for buildings and landscapes. PLA is also used to print medical models for doctors to plan surgical procedures.
  • PLA is used to create prototypes to test functionality. Certain versions of the plastic are also used for wearable prototypes and environmentally friendly biodegradable products.

ABS Filament

What is ABS?

ABS plastic is a versatile thermoplastic polymer made from Acrylonitrile (15-35%), Butadiene (5-30%), and Styrene (40-60%). Its properties can be adjusted by varying the ratios of these components, with a common ratio being A:B:S = 22:17:61 in the emulsion method, providing a balance of chemical resistance, toughness, and rigidity. ABS filament is extruded from ABS resin particles into filament with various color. It is currently one of the most widely adopted 3D printing materials due to its exceptional performance and low cost. 


  • ABS has a higher melting temperature, between 210 and 240°C, and a glass transition temperature between 90 and 105°C.
  • ABS has a tensile strength between 40-60 MPa, which gives it significant strength for pulling forces in printed parts.
  • ABS also has a tensile modulus of 1.5-3 GPa, providing moderate stiffness. This property is one reason it is frequently used for car parts, which need to be fairly stiff.
  • ABS has a higher elongation at break, making it more ductile than PLA, with a range of 3-30%. This allows ABS to stretch a bit before it snaps when pulled.
  • The flexural strength of ABS is between 50 and 100 MPa, making it more resistant to bending, which is ideal for machine parts.
  • Its impact strength is 10-40 kJ/m², offering much higher impact resistance compared to PLA.

General Applications for ABS

Some of the general applications for ABS include use in the automotive industry, consumer products, household appliances such as vacuum cleaner parts, toys like LEGO bricks, 3D printing, plumbing, construction, sporting goods, medical devices, musical instruments, and stationery.

PETG Filament

What is PETG?

PETG is composed of the base material PET with a glycol modification process, resulting in PETG. This modification improves its impact resistance and reduces brittleness. PETG is known for its durability and can withstand repeated mechanical stresses, making it an ideal material for long-lasting parts. It also has some fatigue resistance, which is important for applications involving loading or repeated flexing.


  • PETG has a higher heat distortion temperature than PLA at 69°C and a melting temperature of 225°C. This makes PETG suitable for use in high-temperature environments.
  • The tensile strength of PETG is 50-70 MPa, giving it good tensile strength for pulling without breaking, making it suitable for parts that endure stress and strain with a little deformation.
  • Elongation at break has a value of 20-50%. This property allows the material to stretch before breaking. PETG's higher elongation at break compared to other materials makes it more ductile and less likely to snap compared to PLA. It is more suitable for applications requiring some flexibility, such as parts that snap together.
  • Flexural modulus, with a value of 2-2.5 GPa, represents the stiffness of the material when bent. This means that PETG has a moderate ability to bend, being neither too rigid nor too flexible. It is an intermediate material compared to some other types of plastic.

General Applications for PETG

PETG is used in a variety of applications. Its main application is in 3D printing to create functional prototypes with strength and flexibility, as well as durable weather-resistant parts, brackets, mounts, and enclosures. Some consumer items, such as phone cases, camera mounts, and household gadgets, are made with PETG. It is also used for files and containers, various types of packaging material including beverage bottles, food containers, blister packs, packaging for electronics, toys, and medical supplies. Some medical devices are made out of PETG, as well as food contact applications and pharmaceutical packaging, due to its chemical resistance. In industrial applications, PETG is used for machine guards and science displays. It is also used in consumer goods like household items and sporting goods, as well as in protective barriers and electronic casings and enclosures. Additionally, PETG is frequently used for transparent parts in retail displays and point-of-sale displays, where durability and sturdiness are required.

TPU Filament

What is TPU?

TPU(Thermoplastic polyurethane) is a thermoplastic elastomer that combines properties of both plastic and rubber. It is a block copolymer made from alternating hard and soft segments formed by reacting diisocyanate with both short-chain and long-chain diols. TPU is known for its high durability, flexibility, wear resistance, heat resistance, and excellent chemical properties, allowing it to maintain performance and dimensional stability across a wide temperature range. Its melting temperature ranges from 170 to 220°C, providing flexibility in various manufacturing processes.


  • The tensile strength of TPU is 30-45 MPa, making it strong enough for many applications while retaining flexibility. Its elongation at break is 300-700%, giving TPU the ability to be highly elastic and stretch significantly without breaking. This property makes it ideal for flexible and wearable applications.
  • Shore hardness varies among TPU compositions, ranging from 60 to 98, which can result in a soft to semi-rigid material depending on the formulation. It can range from very soft, almost rubber-like, to a more rigid material, depending on the requirements of the application.
  • TPU's desirable properties for manufacturing include excellent abrasion resistance and chemical resistance, as it is resistant to many oils, greases, and solvents. Its high flexibility allows for a wide range of impact-resistant applications. Additionally, TPU has biocompatibility, making it suitable for medical applications. Depending on its formulation, some compositions are appropriate for medical devices and wearables.

General Applications for TPU

TPU finds a wide array of applications across various industries. It is commonly used in 3D printing due to its versatility. In the footwear industry, TPU is employed in shoe soles and inserts, providing both durability and flexibility. Automotive parts such as hoses, seals, and protective covers for cables and wires often utilize TPU for its resilience. In the realm of consumer electronics, TPU components like grips and enclosures are prevalent. Medical devices benefit from TPU's flexibility and durability, with applications including catheters, tubing, and other flexible medical components. Sports equipment manufacturers often incorporate TPU for its impact-resistant properties in grips and components. In industrial settings, TPU is utilized in conveyor belts, caster wheels, joints, and couplings for its robustness and flexibility.

Nylon Filament

What is Nylon?

Nylon filament, originally developed by DuPont in the 1930s, is a popular choice in 3D printing due to its exceptional strength, flexibility, and durability. Known for its high tensile strength and resistance to wear and abrasion, Nylon is ideal for creating functional parts that require high performance. It also has excellent chemical resistance and can withstand higher temperatures compared to many other filaments. Perfect for engineering applications, Nylon filament ensures reliable, high-quality prints with a professional finish.


  • Nylon has a melting point between 190 and 275°C. Its high melting temperature makes it suitable for applications involving high temperatures. Its glass transition temperature ranges between 40 and 80°C, varying depending on the specific type of nylon used.
  • With a tensile strength of 50-90 MPa, nylon exhibits a very high tensile strength, making it suitable for applications requiring durable or robust parts. Its tensile modulus ranges from 1.5 to 3 GPa, providing nylon with a moderate stiffness and a balance between flexibility and rigidity, which is beneficial for machined parts.
  • Nylon has an elongation at break of 20-60%, meaning it is relatively flexible and can undergo significant deformation before breaking, thanks to its toughness and durability. Its Shore hardness varies from 60 to 98, indicating a range from soft to semi-rigid consistency, depending on the application requirements.
  • Additionally, nylon is fairly lightweight compared to most other plastics, with a density of 1.14g/cm³. It boasts excellent abrasion resistance and good chemical resistance, although it may be affected by strong acids and bases. However, nylon has one drawback—it readily absorbs moisture, which can affect its mechanical properties. Nonetheless, its moisture resistance can be stabilized, especially when used in 3D printing, where the filament must be contained in a dry box while heated.

General Applications for Nylon

Nylon finds extensive applications across various industries. In the automotive sector, it is used for gear bearings and under-the-hood applications due to its strength and heat resistance. Nylon is also prevalent in consumer goods, including household items such as toothbrushes, combs, and kitchen utensils. In industrial settings, it finds use in conveyor belts, hoses, and mechanical components. Additionally, nylon is utilized in textiles such as carpets, fabrics, and clothing. In the electrical and electronics industry, it serves in components like connectors, housings, and insulation. Nylon is also prominent in sporting goods like fishing lines, tennis strings, and sportswear. In the 3D printing industry, it is employed for functional prototypes, mechanical parts, and end-use products requiring durability and flexibility. Moreover, nylon is utilized in medical devices, sutures, implants, and various disposable medical products.

Carbon Fiber Filament

What is Carbon Fiber Filament?

Carbon fiber reinforced filaments have a higher cost compared to base polymers due to the inclusion of carbon fibers, ensuring structural integrity even after melting, resulting in improved accuracy. Many different types of carbon fiber reinforced filaments have been created by combining them with different polymer plastics. We choose the PLA-CF to analysis its features and applications.


  • PLA-CF boast an exceptionally high tensile strength, exceeding 38 ± 4MPa. The incorporation of carbon fibers significantly enhances their load-bearing capacity, making them suitable for demanding applications.
  • With a high tensile modulus 2790 ± 120MPa, PLA-CF exhibit increased stiffness, minimizing deformation under stress.
  • In terms of elongation at break, its typically range from 5.2 to 11.6%,compared to the base polymer, resulting in reduced flexibility and increased brittleness.
  • Flexural strength raise up to 3950 ± 190 MPa, owing to the enhanced strength from the carbon fiber reinforcement.
  • The impact strength of it is 23.2 ± 3.7 kJ/m², lower than normal PLA, potentially increasing brittleness under sudden stress, leading to potential fracture.
  • PLA-CF have a slightly lower density than the base polymer, typically around 1.22/cm³.
  • Its surface finish is matte with a speckled textured appearance due to the chopped carbon fibers within the PLA. Additionally, it exhibit abrasion resistance due to the hardness of the fibers and offer some degree of chemical resistance depending on the base polymer.

General Applications for Carbon Fiber Filament

Carbon fiber filament finds diverse applications across several industries. In the aerospace and automotive sectors, it is utilized for manufacturing high-strength, lightweight parts such as brackets, housings, and structural components. Industrial applications benefit from carbon fiber filament in the production of parts for tools, jigs, and fixtures requiring high stiffness and strength. Sporting goods, including bicycle parts, protective gear, and frames, incorporate carbon fiber filament for its strength-to-weight ratio. In robotics, where sturdy yet lightweight components are essential, carbon fiber filament is employed. Moreover, it is utilized in prototyping and functional parts that necessitate specific mechanical properties without traditional manufacturing methods.


What is PC?

Polycarbonate (PC) is a high-performance material known for its exceptional strength, toughness, and clarity. Originally developed for industrial applications, PC is now widely used in 3D printing for creating parts that require high impact resistance and thermal stability. This filament can withstand high temperatures and is flame-retardant, making it ideal for engineering and mechanical components. With its excellent optical properties, PC filament also produces prints with a smooth, transparent finish, perfect for applications that demand both durability and aesthetics.

  • PC has a high melt point at 228°C, glass Transition Temperature is 145°C, its heat Deflection Temperature is 117°C. This feature give it excellent heat resistance.
  • With a Young's Modulus of 2110 ± 40 MPa and the Bending Modulus of 2310 ± 70 MPa, PC is enough strength to apply in engineering.
  • The impact strength of it is 34.8 ± 2.1 kJ/m², more than majority polymers, make it suit for impact resistance component.

General Applications for PC

Its durability makes it ideal for automotive applications such as headlamp lenses, exterior trim parts, and protective visors. The construction industry utilizes PC for lightweight yet robust roofing systems, skylight glazing, and safety glazing due to its weathering resistance.
PC's optical properties make it suitable for lenses, prisms, and light guides, while its dimensional stability and sterilizability are valued in medical devices and equipment housings. The electronics sector employs PC for computer housings, mobile device cases, and protective enclosures, benefiting from its high dielectric strength and flame retardancy. Furthermore, PC's impact resistance makes it a preferred material for protective eyewear, face shields, and safety glasses. With its unique combination of properties, polycarbonate finds applications across various industries, contributing to the development of innovative and high-performance products.


Choosing the right filament for your specific application is crucial in ensuring the success of your 3D printing projects. Understanding the properties and general applications of different filaments, such as PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, Nylon, and Carbon Fiber-infused filaments, can help you make an informed decision. Each filament has unique characteristics that make it suitable for certain applications, and selecting the appropriate material can significantly impact the performance, durability, and functionality of your printed parts.

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