What is Filament? A Complete Introduction to 3D Printer Filament

Every 3D printer requires consumable materials to print and create a three-dimensional object. The main material used in FDM 3D printers is called filament. The reason for this naming is the appearance of the filament. Filament is a thermoplastic string that comes in various types, and by melting it, you can create a three-dimensional object. The diameter of these plastic strings is usually 1.75 millimeters or 3 millimeters, each with different properties, and a different melting temperature is required for printing the part using them. In a 3D printer, the filament is pulled by the extruder, then melted at a certain temperature, then through the nozzle, it is extruded with a smaller diameter and by creating thin layers of filament on top of each other and then cooling down, it creates the final shape. Filaments are available in various types and colors in the market.

What is Support?

Support in a 3D printer is used when the model we intend to print has overhangs or its angle with one of the X, Y, and Z axes is more than 45 degrees. Since in a 3D printer, the model is built layer by layer, making each layer requires the layer below it. When there is no layer under a part of the printed model (such as the horizontal line in the letter “H” and the letter “T” in the following image), using support is the best option for more accurate and cleaner printing.

Types of 3D Printer Filaments

There are different types of filaments based on their material and melting temperature. Here are a few examples:

  • ABS
  • PLA
  • PET
  • PETT
  • Nylon
  • PVA
  • Sandstone
  • Wood
  • Metal
  • HIPS
  • Magnetic Iron
  • Conductive
  • Carbon Fiber
  • TOP
  • Glow in the Dark
  • Amphora
  • PC
  • PETG
  • TPU

Among the different types mentioned here, some examples are more popular and are considered the simplest and most widely used filaments. Examples include ABS and PLA, both of which are among the most popular types of filaments. But what are the differences between these two examples? Can one be said to be superior to the other?


PLA, or Polylactic Acid, is an affordable and biodegradable material made from corn starch and sugar. It is commonly used for 3D printing, and recycling this filament is easily achievable. PLA filament is used in all FDM printers and is mostly used for rapid prototyping, research, and educational purposes. Other applications of this filament include medical sutures and surgical implants (pins, screws, etc.) in dentistry. Due to its variety of colors, this type of filament is suitable for making decorative and showcase parts. PLA filament has a low melting point, with a melting temperature range between 180 and 230 degrees Celsius. Therefore, you can use PLA filament without needing a heated bed or hot plate. Despite being one of the most popular filaments, this filament does not have much impact resistance.


ABS material, or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is petroleum-based. This filament has high durability over time and is highly resistant to tension. So, it is recommended for functional parts and is particularly popular among professionals. This type of filament has high physical resistance and is a strong plastic. Due to the characteristics of ABS, it is widely used in the manufacture of automotive accessories. ABS filament is suitable for precision work and can even provide high-precision samples without support. ABS filament can also be used for parts exposed to abrasion due to its high-temperature resistance. ABS demonstrates higher resistance to pressure and temperature compared to its competitors. Its temperature range is between 210 and 250 degrees Celsius. Keep in mind that when ABS filament is exposed to heat, it releases toxic and carcinogenic gases. Therefore, your printer must have an enclosure to prevent the release of gases from the filament. Otherwise, you should use it in a well-ventilated area.

Difference between ABS and PLA Filaments

ABS filament has a higher resistance to pressure and impact compared to its competitors. PLA filament has a lower melting temperature, and due to its expansion, it is better not to use this filament at high temperatures. PLA samples have more color options than other samples. PLA filament is biodegradable and does not harm the environment, whereas ABS filament is completely chemical and remains in nature. PLA is not flexible, whereas ABS is slightly flexible. In terms of price, both materials have the same price range. When buying filament, make sure to use a reputable brand and do not just look for the cheaper option, as this may cause your extruder to break and cost you more. ABS filament is used in electronic parts and mechanical parts exposed to high temperatures, while PLA filament is used in typical consumer products and large models.

Other Types of 3D Printer Filaments

PET Filament

PET filament is approved by the FDA, as well as harmless, stable, and 100% recyclable. This filament is colorless in its raw state and becomes non-transparent when exposed to heat and cold. Its applications include everyday plastic bottles and food storage containers.

Nylon Filament (PA)

Another name for Nylon filament is PA. It is a synthetic polymer that is more resistant, cost-effective, and flexible than ABS and PLA. Its temperature range is between 210 to 250 degrees Celsius. This filament is used in machine parts, containers, tools, and mechanical components. An interesting feature of this filament is that it can be melted and reused.

PVA Filament

It is usually used as a support material, and it works better with printers that have dual extruders. Its temperature range is between 190 to 220 degrees Celsius, and it is better to operate at temperatures higher than 200 degrees Celsius. Its common use is as a support during printing with ABS or PLA. This filament is biodegradable, non-toxic, and water-soluble; however, its disadvantages include difficult supply and relatively high cost.

Wood Filament

This filament contains a precise mixture of recycled wood and a special bonding polymer. It is often called the wood pattern. This filament is very similar to wood and smells like wood. At high temperatures, its color becomes darker, and by raising and lowering the temperature and fading and coloring the layers of wood filament, a texture similar to the texture of a tree trunk is formed. This filament is used in making decorative items. Its disadvantages include low flexibility and fragility.

HIPS Filament

HIPS filament is a white, glossy, and biodegradable material that serves as an excellent support. A colorless solvent called liquid hydrocarbon quickly dissolves this filament. Its temperature range is between 230 to 250 degrees Celsius.

TPE Filament

This filament is flexible, durable, and has some elastic properties, but it requires very high precision when working with it. Therefore, this filament is by no means suitable for beginners and novices. One of its most important uses is making phone cases. Its temperature range is between 225 to 235 degrees Celsius.

PC Filament

PC filament, or polycarbonate, has the highest strength among materials with impact resistance. It absorbs a high amount of moisture, and this property can somewhat alter its characteristics. Therefore, it is highly recommended to package and store it before use. The temperature range of this filament is between 80 to 150 degrees Celsius, and it is sensitive to UV rays.

How to Choose the Right Filament? Filament Buying Guide

After choosing a 3D printer, selecting the appropriate filament is essential. With the wide range of filament options available, how can you choose the most suitable one? If you’re unsure about choosing the right filament or have doubts in this regard, we can help you select the appropriate filament for your work.

  • The first influential parameter in selecting filament is your 3D printer. Therefore, it is better to keep the specifications of your device in mind when choosing the appropriate filament.
  • Another important parameter is the diameter of the nozzle used in the printer, which is usually 1.75 mm in size, but other sizes may also be used. Brass nozzles are very common, but if you’re going to use abrasive materials, it’s better to have a stainless steel or stainless-steel nozzle.
  • Another important parameter is the melting temperature range of the filament. The minimum and maximum melting temperatures of various filaments vary; for example, the melting temperature for PLA is between 180 to 230 degrees Celsius, and for ABS, it is between 210 to 250 degrees Celsius.
  • It is necessary to know where your part will be used after printing. For example, if it is used for food, PET material should be used. If you want a part resistant to impact, you should use ABS or PC filament. But if you need a flexible part, it is recommended to use TPU or TPE filament that has shaping capabilities.
  • Other factors, such as the beauty and quality of the filament, should also be considered. Now, about the beauty and appearance of the final part, you should know if you need a transparent and smooth part or a matte part. Since the type of filament affects the final texture and color of the part, choose the filament carefully. Apart from color and texture, how do you want the surface of the final part to be? If surface fineness is important to you, you should use thinner layers of filament on top of each other, meaning you should use a nozzle with a smaller diameter.
  • The last question is, what kind of environment do you plan to work in? Are the filaments you are using suitable for closed spaces? Some filaments produce unpleasant smells and toxic gases when used, so they are not suitable for long-term work in enclosed spaces. Therefore, if you are working in a closed space, it is better to use PLA, PHA, or PET filaments that do not emit any odors when melted.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide what kind of filament to use but keep in mind that in choosing filament, price should be the last thing you consider. If you are unsure, first compare several filaments through testing to find the ideal one for you. If you are a beginner and still can’t decide which type to use, we recommend using PLA filament, which is one of the most common filaments and won’t cause you any problems when working with it.

Filament Expiration Date?

Filaments, like many other materials, have an expiration date. These types of plastics react to moisture and become unusable. By exposing the filament to the environment, the filament string becomes dry and brittle due to the humidity in the air. If you use the filament repeatedly and in large quantities, you should be less concerned about its deterioration. Otherwise, try to choose 100 or 500-gram packages when buying filament and avoid buying one-kilogram packages. By doing this, you will not only obtain the required amount of filament and prevent its damage, but you will also pay less for filament.

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