What are the different types of commodity 3D Printing Filaments ?

What are the different types of 3D Printing Filaments ?

3D Printing Filaments  Overview 

There are various types of 3D printing plastics to consider for a project. These filaments are seemingly similar at first glance however each material provides different attributes that can be more or less viable for different applications. Plastics, aluminide, ceramics, resins, wax, metals, and paper have all become integral materials within additive manufacturing and 3D printing technologies. The considerable adoption rate has  begun to disrupt, re-define, and revolutionize industries across business sectors.  Industries such as automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, medical, robotics,  electronics as well as others have become some of the standard industries to implement 3D printing technologies over the past decade. 

 In this article, we will specifically be focusing on the different types of materials used in Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Printing Technology. Overall, they are made from either biodegradable, synthetic, or semi-synthetic compounds. Overall, 3D printing provides low cost manufacturing while also exponentially accelerating the process of prototyping. 

3D Printer Filament Types


                                                                  (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)



                                                                   (Polylactic Acid) 



                                                                   (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate)                             



                                                                 (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol)



                                                                 (High Impact Polystyrene)



                                                                  (Thermoplastic Polyurethane)


Let's begin….

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

ABS is one of the most common filaments on the market. It is a terpolymer made by polymerizing styrene, acrylonitrile, and butadiene. ABS can be used to create car parts, appliances, mobile phone cases, aesthetic prototypes and more. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printing technology is a popular choice to use with ABS. 

ABS Production and Background 

ABS is a  ‘terpolymer’, a polymer synthesized from three different monomers. It is produced through the polymerization of acrylonitrile, styrene and butadiene. Proportionality may differ especially with custom or specialty material, however, standard proportions are 20% acrylonitrile, 25% butadiene and 55% styrene. Increased levels of styrene provide increased durability  and impact resistance while an increase in butadiene provides an increase in gloss adding to the aesthetic of the model. 


  • Impact, Acid, and Heat Resistant
  • Electrically Insulative
  • Recyclable 

    In sum, ABS is a great material for beginners! It provides durability while maintaining high aesthetic quality. Intricate models may require dissolvable support. HIPS is a perfect match for ABS and is dissolvable in Limonene! Click HERE for video!

    ABS is hygroscopic, meaning that it is water absorbent! Note that this material is stable to decompose under normal use and polymer processing conditions. There has been unsubstantiated claims that this material gives off fumes exposing users to carcinogens however exposure is well below workplace limits. Ultrafine particles (UFPs) may be produced at low temperatures during the 3D printing process UFPs in general have been linked with adverse health effects.


    Polylactic Acid (PLA)          

    PLA Production and Background (H3)                  

     This material is typically produced from organic material such as fermented plant starch such as from corn, cassava,

    sugarcane or beet pulp making it biodegradable. Since 2010, it has been the 2nd most consumed bioplastic ever. It is commonly used for decorative parts, cosplay props, calibration items, rapid prototyping and jewelry.  Similar to  ABS, PLA is mostly paired with the FDM printing technology. 


    PLA 3D Printer Filament

    PLA  KEY Attributes 

  • Biodegradable
  • Easy to Print 
  • Consistent and cheap 

    Interestingly, PLA has caught the attention of individuals becoming custom jewlers. The democratization of additive manufacturing technology and technique has led to an increasing number of individuals becoming  custom jewelers through online platforms, competing with traditional jewelry shops. The process they use is known as "lost PLA casting", a type of investment casting. PLA-printed solids can be encased in plaster-like moulding materials then burned out in a furnace. The void can then be filled with molten metal such as gold or silver to create jewelry. 


    Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate (ASA) 

    ASA Filament Background & Production (H3)

    ASA resin is produced using  grafted acrylic ester elastomers during the copolymerization reaction between styrene and acrylonitrile. Acrylonitrile styrene acrylate (ASA) was first introduced by BASF in about 1970 as Luran S. The idea was to create a material similar to ABS but with better weather resistance.                               

    ASA  Key Attributes (H3)


    ASA filament has great toughness and rigidity, good chemical resistance and thermal stability, outstanding resistance to weather, aging and yellowing, and high gloss. Be mindful that ASA is mildly hygroscopic and thus necessary drying measures may be required. 

    Key Attributes:

  • Shock Resistant
  • Heat & Chemical Resistant
  • Great Weather ability

    • ASA Impact on Car Industry:  Click HERE

    Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-Modified (PETG)

    PETG Filament Background & Production        

    PETG is mostly known for its high flexibility and reusability. You likely see PETG everyday considering it high use in water bottles. This 3D printer material is popular across several industries including packaging, food, and pharma. Enthusiasts will find that PETG filament is great for glossy  aesthetic artistic prints, jewelry such as rings and collars, wearable printed pieces and more. The flexibility of this material allows it to be applied to enclosures and snap fit containers with no toxicity. PETG  consists of polymerized units of the monomer ethylene terephthalate with glycol modification


  • 100% recyclable
  • Flexible
  • Glossy Sheen 
  • Note that PETG is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water and will not print correctly if there is too much absorption. Keep the 3D Filament dry using desiccant or a drying chamber. 


    High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) 

    HIPS PRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND                                           

    HIPS is typically used in dual extrusion technology and often paired with ABS. HIPS soluble support material is dissolvable with the solvent Limonene. The 3D printer filament is made of a mixture of two polymers: Polystyrene plastic and polybutadiene rubber. The result of the polymerization and extrusion process in a strong and flexible filament. Used in prototyping, product packaging, toys.

    HIPS Key Attributes:

  • Stable and light material
  • Water and shock-resistant
  • Great Soluble Support  
  • When printing with HIPS it is best to use a ventilated chamber, wear a mask or print in a ventilated space. When printing at high temperature, this material can give off noxious fumes that can irritate if UFP concentration becomes too high. 


    Thermoplastic polyurethane

    Background and Production 

    TPU filament is known for its rubber-like flexible characteristics. This thermoplastic has received a lot of attention for its disruption within the shoes industry. It's rubbery attributes allow users to create wearable printed parts such as shoes with high degrees of customization. TPU 3D Printer filament comes in various levels of hardness, referred to as SHORE Hardness (scale shown below). 


    TPU Shore Hardness Scale

    TPU Key Attributes:

  • Impact, oil, and grease resistance
  • High Shear Strength
  • High Elasticity 

    Polycarbonate (PC)               

    PC Background and Production                     

    PC is a strong material commonly used in the engineering industry and is commonly seen in plumbing and piping. It avoids deformation due to its tough properties, but is hygroscopic, meaning  it will absorb moisture from the air, leading to printing consequences. It is used to make DVDs, contact lenses, food storage containers, and other applications. 

    Key Attributes include:

  • Very durable
  • Bendable without breaking
  • Shock Resistant

    It is popular within applications that best suit high temperatures. For a successful print, the bigger the printing platform that aligns with the printing bed, the better. The printer has to be able to withstand the high temperatures required.


    Quick Takeaways

  • 3D printing materials come in a variety of grades, colors, and abilities
      • When choosing which filament to use, be mindful of the application and choose filaments with attributes relevant to the application.
      • Have to be careful with hygroscopic filaments. They absorb moisture  from air and require special storage.
  • When choosing soluble support identify if Limonene or Water is required as a solvent.
  • Want to learn more about 3D Printing?

    Take a look at these links!

    1.  Commodity Filament Guide: https://filamentmasteryguide.filamenthub.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-3d-printing-pla-abs-and-petg
    2. 3D Printing Technologies: https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S2351978919308169?token=34A35EC638F267663C6B1A5461C11C1020EBFFC100FD31483D1052EB82FEC79A1E77759AD716772C4CB261802088D4FB___