Different 3D Printer Filaments

Lawrence Bonk Profile image

Written By:

Updated February 3, 2023

If you are new to the world of physical printing, you may wonder about the different 3D printer filaments available for use. Some of the best printers, after all, are 3D printers, and these models can often integrate with a number of filaments and resins. So what are the different types of filaments to use with the best 3D printers, and which is right for you? Keep reading to find out.


  • There is a wide range of 3D printer filament types out there to suit a vast array of consumers, no matter what you are building.
  • The most popular 3D printing filament choices for modern consumers include PLA and ABS, though they offer unique feature sets.
  • Less common, yet still useful, filament types include nylon filament, PET filament, and more. Each of these types is a flexible material with good tensile strength and advanced mechanical properties.

What are the Different Types of Printer Filaments?

Just after learning about the different 3D printer types, it is time to research filaments. Filaments and resins are the materials that comprise the 3D models, after all, so it is important to know what 3D printer filament is strongest, for instance. Even the best 3D printer out there, after all, is only as good as its printing material. Whether you are comparing SLA vs PLA, understanding filament and resin is key to understanding how these printers work.

Insider Tip

If your printer can handle it, purchase multiple types and use each depending on the specific printing scenario.

There are many filament types out there, so the best 3D printer filament for one consumer may differ from another. Some consumers may research the best 3D printer for nylon, while others will stick with plastic. If you are looking for the best material for 3D printing, keep reading to learn all about the various filament types available.

PLA Filament

In the world of consumer 3D printing, polylactic acid (PLA) filament is by far the most common option. This is for good reason, as PLA is a “jack of all trades” material with medium durability, minimal shrinking, and minimal warping. It is also known for being easy to print with, thanks to a lower required nozzle temperature than other filament types. PLA is also available in a vast array of colors and styles, and some PLA filaments are even combined with wood or metal for a vast increase in design options.

Reasons to Buy

  • This is an extremely popular filament type, so the competition has brought the price down in recent years.
  • Available in a vast array of colors and designs, some PLA filament spools are combined with wood, metal, and other materials.
  • Does not shrink or warp too easily, resulting in accurate prints even with detailed schematics.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • PLA is not that flexible and is actually fairly brittle, so avoid it when making items to be twisted or bent.
  • PLA may not be subject to shrinkage or warping, but it does deform at extremely high temperatures.
  • Though somewhat biodegradable, this material is still a net negative for the environment.

Tips for Buying

  • PLA is extremely popular, so purchase in bulk to maximize your savings and to ensure you always have plenty on hand.
  • If you are deadset on buying a mixture of PLA with metal or wood, look for sales, as these upgraded materials are not budget-friendly.
  • Keep plenty of designs and colors on hand to suit the needs of a specific 3D model or design schematic.

ABS Filament

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) has made great strides in recent years, though it is still slightly less popular than PLA. This material started in the industrial sector, as many common household items, like LEGO bricks and bike helmets, were manufactured with the substance. It is also commonly found with items that have been injected and molded.

ABS is known for being extraordinarily strong and durable, making it an excellent option when printing items that need to last for a long time. Objects printed using ABS also tend to be able to withstand high temperatures.

Reasons to Buy

  • ABS is strong and durable, which is why it has found so much success in the industrial sectors.
  • Objects printed with ABS can withstand higher than average temperatures, whereas PLA objects cannot.
  • Moderate flexibility allows ABS to be used to make phone cases and other useful goods.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • This stuff emits a powerful odor during print jobs, so wear a mask or place the printer in an unused area of the home.
  • Items manufactured with ABS are fairly susceptible to shrinkage and warping, in direct contrast to PLA.
  • Requires a high-temperature print nozzle to complete jobs, which adds to the overall cost.

Tips for Buying

  • Just as with PLA, buy in bulk to maximize your savings. Detailed models require multiple spools, after all.
  • Check your printer to ensure it can use ABS due to the temperature and nozzle demands.
  • Consider a dedicated enclosure to minimize those noxious fumes during print jobs.

Nylon Filament, AKA PA

Nylon, also known as Polyamide (PA), is a go-to material in powder-fusion 3D printing and has found popularity in both the industrial and residential sectors. This material is super strong, resulting in durable prints. It is also quite flexible, making it a good choice for toys, phone cases, and other common household items. Another key feature of nylon filament is that it handles dyes well, both before the print job and after, allowing for varied designs and colors.

Reasons to Buy

  • Strong, flexible, and durable. That is the holy trinity of printer filament.
  • Great for making functional prototypes or household components like hinges and buckles.
  • It can be dyed at any point in the process, before the print or even after the print. This increases your aesthetic possibilities.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • This material has only recently entered the consumer space, so it is not exactly budget-friendly.
  • Requires both high nozzle temperatures and high print bed temperatures, which could lead to integration issues.
  • Susceptible to moisture, so great care must be taken during the storage process when not in use.

Tips for Buying

  • This is an expensive type of filament, so look for sales or buy in bulk to keep your bank account from drying up.
  • Check your printer to ensure it can handle the print bed and nozzle temperatures required.
  • Make sure you have a cool, dry place to store the filament when it is not being used to make 3D models.

PET Filament

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), otherwise called PETG and PETT, is one of the most popular plastic types in the world, as this is the material used to make water bottles, among many other items. While unprocessed PET is rarely used in 3D printing, its variant PETG has ballooned in popularity as a common filament type.

PETG includes glycol as an additive, which seriously amps up its usefulness as a filament type. It is nearly transparent, extremely durable, and easy to print with. Many consider PETG the ideal middle ground between ABS and PLA, as it is more flexible and durable than PLA but easier to use than ABS.

Reasons to Buy

  • If you want some of the durability of ABS without the hassle of printing, this is your best bet.
  • Due to its high durability, this material is great for printing mechanical parts or any components that come under high stress.
  • Not the cheapest material on the block, but certainly on the budget-friendly side when compared to some filament types.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Just like nylon filament, PET and its many variants are all susceptible to moisture.
  • It can be sticky when printing, making it a less-than-ideal choice for building support structures.
  • This is not a brittle material, but it does scratch easily, especially when compared to ABS and other hearty filament types.

STAT: The best 3D printer filament in the market is highly dependent on what the application is, and each 3D printing material has its own advantages and disadvantages. (source)

Tips for Buying

  • Make sure to store it in a cool and dry place to keep its integrity intact for future print jobs.
  • As always, buy in bulk or look for wholesale discounts to maximize your filament purchasing dollar.
  • Check your printer to ensure proper integration, as not all modern printers can handle the many variants of this material.

Printer Filaments FAQs

When should I use PLA 3D printer filament?

PLA is one of the more popular 3D printer filaments out there, with decent mechanical properties. Though this is not a flexible filament, it can handle high print temperatures and is considered a highly useful 3D printing material.

What is glow-in-the-dark filament?

As the name suggests, this 3D printer filament glows in the dark, which is a skill that has no bearing on its mechanical properties or tensile strength. This type of 3D printer filament is typically PLA with a glow-in-the-dark mix-in.

What is metal filament?

Some 3D printer filaments are made from metallic powder or dust. This offers increased mechanical properties and tensile strength with a wide range of uses. You can also purchase PLA filament that features a certain amount of metal powder.
Christen da Costa Profile image