The Best Type of 3D Printer Filament in 2023

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I tested the most used 3D printing filaments to find out which filament is the best. I tested the tensile strength and the impact strength of each filament. And here are the results.

The best type of filament is nylon for strength alone, but nylon is difficult to print and very expensive. ASA and ABS are quite strong but require an enclosure to print reliably. PETG has high tensile strength but low impact strength, and PLA has decent tensile and impact strength.

I tested the tensile strength by printing a hook with the filament and pulling on it until it broke. A load cell was recording the force in kilograms when the 3D-printed part broke.

In the infographic below, you can see the results of the tensile strength.

The impact strength was done by releasing a hammer from a fixed height. The hammer then swings toward a 3D-printed piece designed to break on impact.

The stronger a filament is, the more it will slow down the hammer. The outcome is displayed in how much force the hammer lost after impact in percent.

I made a video detailing my approach to testing the different filament types. You can watch it right here.

Strength isn’t everything, however, which is also why I will cover the pros and cons of each filament in the following.

You will be better able to choose the right filament for your project when you know the advantages and disadvantages of each filament.

PLA

PLA is the most commonly used filament in 3D printing because of its ease of use and decent strength. PLA is also the cheapest filament for 3D printing and the filament with the most color choices.

PLA can be used for decorative models, parts not exposed to heat above 40 °C, and functional parts that don’t require much strength.

I personally use PLA for 90% of my projects because its strength is suitable for most projects. You can easily print usable hooks. organisers, and so on.

Advantages of PLA

  • It can be printed with any commercial 3D printer
  • PLA has a decent tensile and impact strength
  • Low printing temperature
  • Available in many different colors
  • Readily available
  • Very easy to print
  • Inexpensive

Disadvantages of PLA

  • Low mechanical strength compared to other filaments
  • Low heat resistance

ABS

ABS is one of the most widely used types of plastic. It is used for making PC components, keyboards, computer screens, Lego, toys, and more.

ABS is best used for 3D-printed parts that need to be sturdy and need to be heat-resistant. Examples would be 3D printer parts for the Voron or Rat Rig and similar.

Advantages of ABS

  • Good heat resistance
  • Good chemical stability
  • Can be smoothed with acetone
  • Inexpensive

If you are wondering how to smooth ABS with acetone then consider reading my article about smoothing 3D prints.

Disadvantages of ABS

  • Warps easily
  • Needs an enclosure to print reliably
  • Gives off toxic fumes when it is melted
  • Fewer color variations than PLA filament

Why is ABS so cheap?

ABS filament is cheap because ABS plastic is widely used to manufacture many different items in various industries, and the high demand for ABS and the high supply keep the raw plastic prices of ABS low. ABS is used to make PC parts, car parts, Lego, keyboards, and much more.

Is ABS or PLA better?

ABS is generally better than PLA but there are some instances where PLA is still a better choice. ABS has a higher impact strength but lower tensile strength than PLA. The true advantage of ABS is its high-temperature resistance.

In the end, it depends on the project and the 3D printer that you have. The printer needs to be enclosed to print ABS reliably and PLA is only slightly inferior to ABS in terms of strength.

ASA

ASA is very similar to ABS with one major difference, ASA is UV-resistant. This makes ASA especially good for 3D-printed parts that are exposed to sunlight.

ASA has very similar strengths to ABS but ASA is a little easier to print. You still need an enclosure but ASA is not as prone to warping as ABS.

ASA is most often used for 3D prints that need to be resistant to UV light. So 3D-printed items that are going to sit outside, for example.

Advantages of ASA

  • High-temperature resistance
  • Very little stringing
  • High UV-resistance

Disadvantages of ASA

  • It warps easily (not as much as ABS though)
  • More expensive than ABS filament
  • Limited color range

PETG

PETG is basically PET with added glycol to make it easier to print with a 3D printer. PETG can be printed on most commercial 3D printers and does not require an enclosure.

It is slightly harder to print than PLA but it is also a lot more temperature resistant and it is much stronger than PLA.

PETG is perfect for 3D-printed parts that need to be strong and temperature resistant. The fact that PETG doesn’t require an enclosure to be printed makes it a perfect alternative to ABS.

Advantages of PETG

  • High chemical resistant
  • Good temperature resistant
  • No enclosure needed

Disadvantages of PETG

  • Can be expensive
  • Tends to string

Is PLA or PETG stronger?

I did some tests to find out which filament is stronger, PLA or PETG, and the results are quite interesting.

PETG is much stronger when it comes to tensile strength but PLA is stronger when you compare the impact strength of the two filaments. PETG has a much higher temperature resistance than PLA, which makes it a better choice for functional 3D prints.

TPU

TPU is a flexible filament that can be printed without an enclosure but is best printed with a direct drive extruder.

Harder TPU can easily be printed with a bowden style 3D printer (a printer where the stepper motor for the extruder is not mounted on the tool head).

Soft TPU should be printed with a direct drive extruder, however.

The Shore Scale

Shore is a scale used to measure the elasticity of a material.

Shore comes in many different scales like A, D, and more. Each scale goes from 0 to 100 and describes different levels of elasticity. Higher numbers mean less elasticity and lower numbers mean higher elasticity.

For example, shore A 75 is the elasticity of a car tire and shore D 15 is also the elasticity of a car tire just on the D scale.

3D printing filament is usually not that soft and most TPU filament is between A 70 and A 95.

TPU is simply used for 3D prints that need to be flexible such as tires or gaskets.

Advantages of TPU

  • Flexible
  • Good layer adhesion
  • Can be printed with most commercial 3D printers

Disadvantages of TPU

  • A direct drive extruder is recommended
  • Tends to string a lot
  • Poor overhang and bridge performance

PU (NYLON)

Nylon is by far the strongest filament on this list. It outperforms PLA, ABS, ASA, and PETG in tensile and impact strength. But nylon is also difficult to print because it requires an all-metal hot end, a hardened steel nozzle or similar, and an enclosure is highly recommended.

Nylon is also difficult to print because of its bad bed adhesion. A 3D printer glue is required to print Nylon successfully.

In terms of tensile strength Nylon is almost twice as strong as PETGas you can see in the graphic below.

And Nylon has a much higher impact strength than ABS or ASA.

All of that and its high chemical and temperature resistance make Nylon one of the best filaments for 3D printing mechanical parts.

Nylon is best used for 3D-printed parts that need to be very strong like drone parts or RC-car parts, and similar.

Advantages of Nylon

  • Very strong
  • Heat resistant
  • Has some flex to it
  • High chemical resistance

Disadvantages of Nylon

  • Sensitive to moisture
  • Bed adhesion issues
  • High printing temperatures required
  • Enclosure highly recommended
  • Quite expensive
  • Slightly abrasive

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber filaments are filaments that are reinforced with carbon fiber making the filament stronger. But filaments with carbon fiber are also slightly abrasive, meaning brass nozzles will be chewed through by the filament after a short while. Hardened steel nozzles are highly recommended

Carbon fiber filaments are often named in the same way. First the type of plastic, then “CF” for carbon fiber, and finally a number that will tell you how much, in percent, of carbon fiber was added to the filament.

So “PLA CF 15” means it is PLA reinforced with 15% carbon fiber.

Other filaments can also be reinforced with carbon fiber but reinforced PLA is most popular because of its ease of printing.

Caron fiber-reinforced materials might require a slightly higher printing temperature than PLA.

Glas Fiber

Glas fiber reinforced filaments are generally stronger than regular filaments of the same type. Especially the impact strength of glass fiber reinforced filament is much better. Filament that is reinforced with glass fiber is also very abrasive and requires a hardened steel nozzle or similar to print reliably.

Glas fiber also follows the same naming conventions as Carbon Fiber reinforced filaments. First comes the type of filament, then “GF” for glass fiber, and at the end a number that details how much glass fiber is present in the filament.

For example, PLA GF 15 is PLA with 15% glass fiber.

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