PLA or Polylactic Acid is an eco-friendly biodegradable plastic made from renewable resources such as corn starch and sugar. PLA is a wonderful material for 3D printing as it melts at a relatively low temperature and demonstrates much less part warping than other materials such as ABS. If actively cooled, much sharper details can be seen on printed corners without the risk of cracking. The increased flow can also lead to stronger binding between layers, improving the strength of the printed part. With its characteristics of high strength and rigidity, glossy surface, fine details, low toxicity and good chemical resistance, PLA is our number one recommended low-cost choice for general 3D printing applications and is available in a wide variety of colors.
ABS plastic, or Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, is a hard plastic commonly used to produce products such as Lego bricks. ABS is a bit less rigid and slightly more flexible than PLA, and melts at a higher temperature. It is resistant to water and alcohol-based solvents, but will dissolve in acetone. In contrast to PLA, ABS can be sanded and machined. The drawbacks of ABS when 3D printed is its tendency to warp, even with a heated bed, and that heating ABS to extrusion temperatures can produce a hot plastic smell and toxic fumes of acrylonitrile. Because of these challenges, we are only offering ABS as a 3D printing material by special order.
Nylon is the preferred material for printing parts that require maximum strength, durability, chemical resistance and some pliability. Unlike ABS, nylon is a 100% thermoplastic, so it can be re-melted and used again and again without losing its bonding properties. Nylon readily absorbs moisture from the air, so special precautions must be taken to dry the filament and keep it in a low-moisture environment during extrusion. Although nylon can be a more difficult material to 3D print than PLA and ABS, new formulations such as Taulman Bridge nylon are opening up greater possibilities for printing nylon at a lower temperature and with better bed adhesion. With Taulman bridge, there is almost no de-lamination and the bonding of thread-to-thread layers is very impressive. We offer Taulman bridge nylon as an option for applications such as laboratory parts, gears, springs, tubes, and particularly for use in the 3D printing of prosthetics. Nylon comes at a higher cost than PLA and only comes in translucent white but parts can be dyed with any acid-based dye such as Rit.
PLA Plus or PLA Blends. While PLA is the easiest material for 3D Printing, it’s also brittle and has a glossy surface, which you may or may not want. There are new filaments coming on the market that blend PLA with PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) to create a tougher and less brittle PLA 3D printing filament with a slightly more matte finish. Dutch Filament manufacturer Colorfabb and American manufacturer MeltInk have both developed their own unique blends of PLA/PHA 3D printing filament. PLA/PHA filament is more rigid than ABS filaments, is less prone to warping during printing, and PLA/PHA filament printed objects have a lightly glossy finish. Like PLA, PHA is a bio-polyester, so the blend is still 100% biodegradeable.
HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) is very similar to ABS. The primary difference is that HIPS uses Limonene as a solvent. This means that you can use HIPS as a support material which can then easily be dissolved by placing your print in Limonene, leaving the clean high-quality print that you want behind. Some people choose to print with HIPS by itself as it has many of the desirable qualities of ABS without the drawbacks of warping and fumes.
T-glase is a Taulman industrial printing material (PETT ) that has the properties of optical transparency, rigidity, and high strength. T-glase is water-clear, but because 3D printed parts are printed with many thin layers, the parts will tend to be translucent rather than clear. T-glase is popular for printing objects such as vases and jewelry. T-glase will hold liquids and is specifically made of FDA approved polymers for direct food contact/containers such as cups, glasses, and utensils.
Flexible Filament, Soft PLA, or Flex for short, is a new soft and pliable material that enables the creation of stretchy, bendy, and rubber-like objects such as flip-flops, stretchy bands, functional hinges, joints, and rubbery parts. Available in a variety of colors, Flex filaments such as NinjaFlex, FilaFlex, and FlexPLA are some of the newest materials capable of extending the capabilities of many of today’s 3D printers.
Metal Composite filaments are usually PLA blended with various metal fibers to produce a metallic looking print. These include carbon fiber-infused filaments, stainless steel, magnetic iron, bronze, brass, and copper. The resulting prints take on the color of the base metal and can be polished to give a pleasing looking patina reminisent of antique or weather-worn metal sculpture.
LAYWOO-D3 and other wood-based filaments are wood-like 3D printing materials that give 3D printed objects the look and feel of fiberboard. It also imbues parts with other wood-like attributes, such as the ability be cut, painted, and sanded. It is also possible to give parts printed in LAYWOO-D3 a simulated alternating light/dark wood-grain appearance by varying the temperature during printing. Available by special request only.
LAYBRICK is a 3D printing material that gives parts the look and feel of grey stone while retaining the resiliency of plastic, making it ideal for landscape and architectural designs. Anything made with LAYBRICK can be painted and sanded. In the lower range of 165°C to 190°C, the print will come out mostly smooth, whereas with higher temperatures it will begin to have a more pitted, sandstone-like texture.