FDM 3D printing is the least expensive and most accessible way for people to explore the possibilities of 3D printing. From beginners and students to professionals and engineers, FDM is an incredibly popular way to make your own 3D prints. But, of course, the final look and quality of your 3D printed object doesn’t just depend on the quality of your design and the quality of your printer: it also depends on the filament used to create it. The right filament makes all the difference.
When choosing the right filament, it’s important to consider not only what equipment you are using, but what your final goal for your design is. Those factors will help you choose the perfect filament for your needs. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:
What kind of finish do you want?
ABS filaments produce a matte finish, while PLA filaments deliver a smoother, glossy finish.
What kind of printer do you have?
ABS filaments require a higher extrusion temperature and a heated build plate. PLA filaments melt at a lower temperature and do not need a heated bed.
Are you in a closed environment?
ABS filaments are petroleum-based, and produce a strong smell that can be hazardous in a closed environment. PLA filaments are based on organic materials. They do smell during production, and the smell can be unpleasant, but is not hazardous (although should still be used with caution).
Does your finished design need to be strong?
Some objects, like 3D printed prosthetics, need to be strong enough to support a person’s weight or carry objects. ABS materials are stronger than PLA materials.
Will your finished design need to survive high heat?
ABS filaments produce objects that will not melt except at extremely high temperatures. PLA filaments produce objects that are more likely to melt in hot conditions, softening in a hot car, for example.
How durable does your finished object need to be?
Objects that experience constant use, like these gears that are being 3D printed, need to be very durable. ABS objects are generally considered to be more durable and able to handle some rough use, while PLA objects won’t withstand a lot of abuse.
How precise does your finished product need to be?
PLA is generally more user-friendly in 3D printing applications. It’s easier to use, has superior layer adhesion, and there is a reduced chance of warp, lift, or cracking during the printing process. This makes PLA more desirable for highly detailed designs and sharp corners.
Do you need vivid colors or special materials?
Because PLA is easier to create with just mixing materials, it is also easier to add other materials to create special filaments that incorporate glass, metal, wood, or magnets. It also takes color better for finished prints that are more vivid in a wider range of hues.
For these reasons, ABS is generally the material of choice for objects and components that need to be strong and durable, and PLA is usually the material of choice for objects that need to be aesthetically pleasing.
It’s also worth remembering that 3D filament is not only used in 3D printers, but in 3D pens as well. In fact, for projects that require a combination of strength and delicacy, many designers and artisans opt for building base structures and components with ABS on a 3D printer, and then using PLA in a 3D pen to add fine details and embellishments. In this way, the toughness of ABS can be combined with the precision of PLA for finished projects with the strongest appeal.
Due to the fact that it is easier to work with, safer to use, and better for the environment, PLA is by far the most popular filament choice. In fact, it is usually recommended for beginners to start with PLA and use it until their advanced designs demand other filament types. And, as PLA production evolves, new variations that incorporate metals and carbon fiber are increasingly available, so many users never need to use ABS filament at all.
How to Choose a PLA Filament
If PLA is the right filament for your project, your printer, and your environment, you still need to choose a specific brand of filament. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for PLA:
Not all brands are the same
Some people get frustrated with objects that are brittle or weak, thinking that it’s the fault of the PLA itself. But low-quality manufacturing can make a huge difference in the final durability of your designs. In fact, the “mixability” of PLA means that it is susceptible to having low quality materials added in order to reduce the price. Low-cost manufacturers blend PLA with sawdust or powders that either make your extruder more prone to clogging, or make finished pieces more brittle. These added fillers also react unpredictably to temperature, making the filament less easy to work with during the printing process. It’s worth paying more for higher quality.
Packing and packaging
Like all thermoplastics, PLA will degrade under long exposure to moisture, and to UV light. Filaments should be well-packaged, and many manufacturers also include a desiccant. And well made, well packed filaments unspool smoothly and evenly, which is important whether you are using a 3D pen or a 3D printer, where jams and tangles can cause errors and inconvenience.
When choosing a PLA filament, the AMZ3D 1.75mm Black PLA 3D Printer Filament is a great candidate for all these reasons. It has an even diameter with high dimensional accuracy, is made of high-quality PLA without low-quality fillers, and produces deep glossy black final prints. This filament works well in a variety of 3D printers and pens and delivers a truer, deeper black than most competitors. It’s reasonably priced when compared to similar PLA filaments, and delivers consistent high-quality results.
Remember that, when choosing a 3D filament, it’s not always about ABS vs. PLA. Sometimes it’s about the brand of PLA itself that makes all the difference in your 3D projects, and the AMZ3D is an excellent choice for a wide variety of printers and applications.