Whatever your project is, our material guide for 3D printing will drive you through the most used materials, their features and applications, and it will allow you to determine which 3D printing material best meets your needs.
As you will learn below, each material is suitable for different applications depending on its properties, and each of them needs to be 3D printed with their specific settings to achieve the best results.
There are countless polymers you can use for 3D printing. Beside the incredible number of plastics, with the wide range of characteristics they come with, there are the composite materials, a combination of basic polymers with other materials, studied to obtain very specific results in terms of functionality or finishing.
With metal laser sintering you can produce parts in stainless steel and titanium as well as in precious metals like gold and silver.
Our material guide will help you to select the perfect material along the many ones available.
We have a large stock of polymers and a huge variety of colors. Special materials, such as composite ones or metals, are usually available on request. Contact us for more info.
Material is priced per gram, taking into account also possible support structures needed to 3D print the model. When asking for a quote for our 3D printing services, you will upload your .stl model and we will calculate the exact amount of material needed. Read more about 3D printing material pricing.
Your own material
Using your own material is possible with our desktop FDM printers. You can bring your own filament, both 1.75mm and 2.85mm diameter, as long as you can provide us with its technical data sheet. That said, we are always eager to test and experiment in order to find new solutions. So if you would like to enquire about other possibilities and discuss them together, feel free to contact us.
3D printing materials
click on the material for more details
PLA – Polylactic Acid
PLA is an organic plastic obtained from corn starch or using other renewable raw materials, this means that PLA is biodegradable, making it the most sustainable polymer for 3D printing. It is easy to produce and is also available in a wide range of colors. These features and its affordability make it one of the most chosen materials for 3D printing.
In stock: white, black, gray, red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, bronze/gold, silver, glow in the dark(white/green).
On request: almost whatever color.
3D printing PLA:
In addition to its good environmental sustainability, PLA is also one of the easiest materials to 3D print with. Being an organic material, it also produces a pleasant sweet aroma during printing, one of the reasons why many people prefer PLA to ABS (which produces toxic fumes). PLA print at a relatively low temperature and it works well also at high printing speeds.
Tip: In combination with PLA, water soluble PVA can be used as support material.
This is the first material to consider for 3D printing: it is cheap and easy to print, available in many colors and is also food safe! PLA is an all-around material suitable for a lot of applications such as artistic projects (casts and molds…), rapid prototypes (concept models, DIY projects…), architectural models, props, cosplay and much more.
The only limit to keep in mind for PLA is its low resistance to heat and sunlight, which does not make it the best material for outdoor projects.
Tip: PLA is dimensionally stable during the printing process, so it is usually the best choice for multiple part assemblies, and projects where accuracy is needed.
ABS – Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene
ABS is one of the plastic materials most used for 3D printing, it is a petroleum-based polymer with good mechanical properties. A very well-known example of an ABS product is Lego bricks, which give the idea of how strong, resistant, and light this material is. This is why we find it everywhere today. Furthermore, ABS is a strong material and has a good temperature resistance.
In stock: white, black, red, blue, green, yellow, orange, magenta.
On request: 24 different colors.
3D printing ABS:
ABS is the second most used material in 3D printing, thanks to its easy printability. ABS is not environmental friendly, nor is it healthy to print since it releases toxic fumes when heated. We print ABS only in close chamber 3D printers. This also solves deformation and delamination problems during the printing process.
Tip: ABS can be post-produced with acetone vapors, which give a smooth and shine surface finish.
ABS is a low-cost material with excellent mechanical characteristics and is used in functional prototypes and complex end-use parts. It is widely used to create mechanically strong products and to shorten development cycles using test prototypes.
ABS parts can be sanded, polished, and painted, they also can be welded with chemical processes. All these features make ABS a suitable material for product development or engineering projects, but also for customization and artistic purposes.
Tip: ABS can withstand a short-term heating up to 80 °, this makes it a perfect material for outdoor applications.
PET – Polyethylene terephthalate
PET (and its variations like PETG, PETE, PETT) is a high impact-resistant material with a certain flexibility and a nice glossy finish. Combined with Glycol (PETG), it offers high transparency. PET is food safe, and has an excellent response to cooling without warping. In fact, it is the most used plastic to manufacture recyclable bottles. For 3D printing, it comes as a translucent material with good resistance to atmospheric agents.
In stock: transparent
On request: blue transparent, red transparent, green transparent
3D printing PET:
PET combines the excellent mechanical properties typical of ABS, with the printability that we appreciate in the PLA. It seems to combine the good qualities of both materials and it is also 100% recyclable. It does not emit odors or fume when printing and the inter-layer adhesion is granted by a very low warping coefficient. It does not fear humidity because it is an hydrophobic material.
Tip: PET is fairly a sustainable filament since it is 100% recyclable.
This is the right material if you want to make any pieces that come into contact with food. Not only is it FDA approved, but it also does not release any odors. Another very noticeable feature is its usability with water and moisture since PET does not absorb liquids and has a quite rigid behavior. Its high transparency and translucent properties make this material often chosen for aesthetic purposes as well.
Tip: Thanks to its weather resistance, PETG is often used for garden appliances.
About FLEXIBLE MATERIALS
There are several flexible materials available for 3D printing, they are generally defined as Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE), the most common of which is the thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). These materials allow to create deformable objects and they are available with different elongation capability. They have a rubber- like finish and a good resistance to oils and chemicals.
In stock: black, white, red
On request: blue, yellow
3D printing FLEXIBLE MATERIALS:
Flexible materials need to be 3D print with different settings according to their degree of elasticity,
They do not have a high degree of accuracy and normally prints at low speed to ensure good inter-layer adhesion. It can be printed solid or with internal structures to control deformations.
Tip: some flexible materials can stretch up to 5 time their length.
FLEXIBLE MATERIALS applications:
These materials are used to create objects able to deform. The first applications of flexible materials were seen in the fashion industry for wearables or experimental jewelry. Soon after, their chemical formulation was refined in order to obtain better mechanical characteristics and make it suitable for end-use parts and final products. The elasticity range available gives the possibility to produce from a rubber band to a strong flexible tube.
PVA – HIPS
About PVA and HIPS
PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate) and HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) are normally used as support material in 3D printing. Their characteristic of being soluble in water, as for PVA, or in d-Limonene , as for HIPS, is advantageous when printing very complex forms with FDM 3D printers. When supports are needed to help create a model, it is a great advantage if the support material can be chemically removed rather than mechanically. It reduces the possibility of breaking the model and even gives the opportunity to create otherwise impossible forms.
PVA is normally used as support material for PLA while HIPS is the support material commonly used with ABS.
PVA natural white – HIPS orange
3D printing PVA and HIPS:
The printing characteristics of these materials are comparable to PLA, when it comes to PVA, and to ABS for HIPS. The solubility in water of the PVA makes it a very easy to use material, but the downside is that it also absorbs a lot of moisture, which can lead to unpleasant printing problems. HIPS on the other hand is more stable, but it needs d-Limonene to dissolve, which is relatively cheap but not nearly as easy to find as tap water!
Tip: using warm water to dissolve PVA will accelerate the process.
PVA and HIPS applications:
PVA is mainly used as a support material, but it can sometimes be used to make quick prototypes or to find creative solutions by exploiting its solubility.
HIPS, in addition to its use as a support material, is also used as a building material. It has properties similar to ABS but it is slightly lighter and more stable. It is often used for prototypes in which weight and dimensional accuracy play an important role.
About NYLON (Polyamide)
The strength and its good degree of flexibility are the main characteristics of Nylon, in addition to the fact that it is abrasion-resistant material with a low friction coefficient. Suitable for different technologies, it can also be combined with aluminum particles to obtain Alumide, which gives a metallic finishing preserving the mechanical properties of Polyamide. Its incredible inter-layer adhesion makes Nylon the best choice for durable parts and functional prototypes. Usually the material comes in a natural semi-transparent withe, but many colors and finishing options are available.
natural white, black
On request: 24 different colors and different finishings.
3D printing NYLON:
Nylon prints at a higher temperature than most materials do (over 230°), and it can be rigid or flexible, depending on the design. It has a strong inter-layers adhesion and does not require a closed chamber to be printed. However a controlled printing environment will help the accuracy. The main issue with Nylon is that it is hygroscopic and absorbs moisture from its surroundings. This makes the material warp while printing and compromises the structural integrity of the print.
Tip: store Nylon in airtight containers when not in use!
Thanks to its good balance of chemical and mechanical characteristics, Nylon is the premier choice for very different applications. Artistic projects will benefit from the high quality of the surfaces and the great finish, while engineering prototypes will exploit its low friction coefficient and its high resistance to mechanical stress. Nylon can be used to manufacture end-use parts and functional prototypes. Perfect for inclusive printing and connectors, it also resists to high temperatures (till 130°).
About COMPOSITE MATERIALS
Composite materials are a mixture of a basic plastic, such as PLA, with another material. This combination is made in order to obtain parts with particular finishes and/or properties. Depending on the mixed materials we can obtain various composite materials: wood filled (in different essence depending on the wood dust), metal filled (with a wide range of metals and percentage in composition), conductive, magnetic, sand like, clay/ceramic and more. The field of application of these materials ranges from visual arts to complex engineering projects.
In stock: wood filled, metal filled
3D printing COMPOSITE MATERIALS:
The printing properties of a composite material depend mainly on the base plastic it is made of, while the filling material adds specific printing requirements. For example, we can analyze the most common composite materials, wood filled and metal filled. In both cases PLA is the base plastic and the printing temperature and environment requirements are the same as for PLA. The wood filled material gives a rough surface-finish and does not allow very thin layers, but it can be printed with a normal setup. On the other hand the metal filled material allows to create thinner layers, but due to the metal particles that it contains, it needs a specif nozzle to be printed.
Tip: It is possible to obtain parts in various shades with the wood filled material by modifying its printing temperature
COMPOSITE MATERIALS applications:
Most of these materials are made for aesthetic purposes, since you obtain parts that can be treated and finished like the filling material. Would you need a prototype with a wood finish? Using the wood like materials you’ll be able to sand, stain, and paint your part as if it were of real wood! The same applies when a metal is the filling material: you can sand and polish 3D printed prototypes to feel like real metal. Other composite materials are developed to obtain specific technical features, and this is the case of magnetic, color-changing, or even conductive materials. They can be used to produce complex parts, such as prototypes with integrated low-voltage circuits.
In recent years we have witnessed a remarkable development of metal 3D printing.
Technologies and products that were devoted to industrial-sized manufacturing are now accessible to small-to-medium businesses.
There are several methods for 3D printing metal, which allow us to manufacture a wide range of them. Aluminum, steel, stainless steel, brass, copper, and bronze are all possible, even with different finishing options. It is also possible to 3D print precious metals like silver, gold, or even platinum and titanium.
3D printing METALS:
The most popular technology of metal 3D printing is Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). SLS offers better results compared to metal blinder jetting in terms of strength and durability, and it also is more accessible than Laser Metal Deposition (LMD). Metal 3D printing requires specific CAD drawings and is not comparable to casting in terms of properties. The main advantage of 3D printing metals is the capability to produce unique complex structures, which cannot be obtained with other techniques. It is possible to create topologically optimized components, making them more resistant where it is necessary to withstand more stress.
Tip: metal 3D printing is not applicable to produce large parts yet due to its high costs.
Metal 3D printing is already widely used in the aerospace industry and is becoming increasingly considered in the automotive industry. At a consumer level, it is a common technology to produce medical devices such as dental implants and prostheses thanks to its flexibility in terms of customization possibility. In jewelry, 3D printing of precious metals will become a standard method for manufacturer.