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Materials Guide

Understand the different properties of various materials.

Community → Support → Materials Guide

There’s a variety of materials you can 3D print with. Each type of 3D printing filament material has its own chemical properties. Although some filaments may be rated as food-safe, we don’t recommend you 3D print utensils or other type of items that will be used together with food or liquid.

Before we dive into the different materials, lets first talk about how 3D printing filament should be handled and how to distinguish between bad quality filament and good quality filament.

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Keep it dry!

Always store your filament in a dry environment and inside a bag with a desiccant to absorb any moisture. If your filament absorbs moisture, you’ll notice (and maybe hear) that when you extrude the plastic out the nozzle, the filament will sometimes pop. This happens because the water content inside the filament heats up and expands when it’s inside the nozzle.

When filament is left in a humid environment (such as outside under the sun), condensation will form inside the sealed filament bag and that moisture will seep into the plastic, permanently damaging your filament. Take a look at the pictures to the left to see what this effect looks like.

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Is it straight?

This spool of filament is a perfect example of poor quality control. Even if the plastic itself were to hypothetically be “the best there is”, there’s one fundamental flaw here. The filament is not straight. Therefore, the filament will not be able to get pulled into the aluminum extruder smoothly because the filament is bent along the way. It can cause the extruder motor to skip and therefore your print may have under-extrusion problems.

It’s perfectly fine if filament is overlapping, but it must be straight and without bents. Rarely does filament actually get tangled as it becomes undone from the spool.

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Keep it clean!

This is probably the most common reason as to why prints fail. If your filament is not clean (and we’re talking about even the smallest speck of debris), it will jam your nozzle. Make sure you keep your filament inside a sealed bag, in a box and not on the floor when you’re not using it.

A common practice is to add a small piece of sponge using either a 3D printed plastic piece to hold it in place or clothespin. This will ensure that as the filament passes through the sponge, any debris on the filament will get caught by the sponge. You should also clean your hotend every once in a while using the “Atomic Pull” method as described under the “Under – Extrusion” section on the Troubleshooting page.

At the end, it pays to have good quality filament. You may save a few bucks by buying some cheap filament, but you will never know the quality of the filament unless you try it first. Poor quality filament can also shorten the life span of your hotend or even cause serious jams that require a full replacement.

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PLA
(Polyactic Acid)

Temperature
180-220 oC

Adhesion Type
Blue Painters Tape

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is one of the most commonly used materials for Desktop 3D printing. It is the “default” recommended material for printing with due to its good chemical properties. The material is odorless and has low warping as well as not requiring a heated bed. It’s made from renewable resources such as corn starch and requires less energy to process compared to traditional petroleum based plastics.  Outside of 3D printing, PLA plastic is often used in food containers, such as candy wrappers and biodegradable medical I’m plants, such as sutures. PLA filament is available in a variety of colors.

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PETG
(Polyethylene Terephthalate)

Temperature
230-255 oC

Adhesion Type
Blue Painters Tape

PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) is an industrial strength filament with several great features. It's strength is much higher than PLA, it is FDA approved for food containers and tools used for food consumption, it barely warps, and produces no odors or fumes when printed. PET filament is not biodegradable, but it is 100% reclaimable. PET 3D printer filament is known for its clarity and is also very good at bridging.

More materials to be added soon!