What Material Do 3D Printers Use

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Updated March 21, 2023

If you’re searching for a premium printer, you may wonder what kind of material does a 3D printer use. The 3D printing process creates 3D models layer by layer with molten filament or resin. Plastic filament is the most common type, but high-end 3D printers can print with metal, wood, and more. So, keep reading if you’re curious about what material do 3D printers use.


  • Plastic is the most common 3D printing material because of its low cost and straightforward printing process.
  • Metal and wood fiber filaments combine raw materials with a plastic base, creating 3D objects with a unique look and feel.
  • Some printers use liquid resin for highly-detailed models, but it requires a multitude of safety precautions compared to the filament.

3D printing technology has several mechanical properties, like the motor and moving belts. So, if you’re wondering why your 3D printer makes clicking noises, consider performing some maintenance.

Insider Tip

Use a hardened steel nozzle to minimize the wear and tear from printing with abrasive 3D printing materials like glow-in-the-dark or metal filaments.

Before you narrow your search for 3D printing materials, learn what SLS 3D printing is. Selective laser sintering (SLS) provides complex 3D designs, but there are more 3D printing hazards, similar to standard resin.

3D Printing Materials Guide

Some wonder why buy a 3D printer, and many enthusiasts would point to a wide range of applications. However, the type of filament or 3D printing resin you choose affects the durability and appearance of your 3D objects. Plastic is the most common choice for 3D printing, but some machines print with stainless steel, carbon fiber, and wood filaments.

If you need a durable material for functional models or industrial products, see our guide to what 3D printer filament is strongest.

Thermoplastic Filament

Plastic is one of the most popular materials for 3D printing, but it comes in multiple forms.

PLA Filament

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is the most common type of filament in the 3D printing industry. PLA is made from recyclable and biodegradable materials, making it more environmentally sound than other 3D printing plastics. 3D models made from PLA are strong but not very flexible.

ABS Filament

ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is a low-cost and flexible filament. ABS is harder to work with than PLA, but it offers flexibility and strength for appliance and automotive repairs.

PETG Filament

In many ways, PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol) filament combines the best features of PLA and ABS filaments. PETG is easier to work with than ABS, but it offers better temperature resistance, strength, and flexibility compared to PLA.

Wood Fiber Filament

Wood fiber filament is usually composed of a PLA base with wood fibers to provide a wooden look and feel. While not actually wood, users can complete the post-print processing with basic sandpaper.


Your printing temperature must match your chosen 3D printing material, or it may melt too fast or under-extrude.

Carbon Fiber Filament

Carbon fiber filament is a growing trend for 3D printing automotive enthusiasts. This filament typically combines polymers like nylon, PLA, or PETG and carbon fiber to create sturdy and heat-resistant pieces.

Metal Filaments

Similar to wood fiber filament, metal filaments are typically a mix of a plastic base and metal powder. These filaments require a high print temperature but produce 3D objects with a metallic look and feel.

STAT: A 2019 Global EY study showed that 76% of the worldwide automotive industry already applied or considered additive manufacturing for their businesses. (source)

Liquid Resin

Unlike filament-based 3D printers, resin 3D printers use a liquid resin that hardens under UV light. Resin printers create objects inside a vat, and the resin used in these printers is highly toxic for humans.

What Material Does a 3D Print Use FAQs

What is flexible resin in 3D printing?

Flexible resin is a type of 3D printing material that produces rubber-like models under UV light. These flexible models are impact resistant and soft, making them perfect for medical applications and consumer goods.

Is filament food safe?

Filaments like PLA, PETG, and some forms of ABS are food safe, but their applications are limited. Since most 3D-printed objects aren’t watertight or resistant to high temperatures, they wouldn’t be an efficient choice for dinnerware.

Do I need 3D modeling software for 3D printing?

While you do not need 3D modeling or CAD software, you need a slicer program for 3D printing. The slicer software translates 3D models into a file format for the 3D printer.
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