Filament Guide

ABS plastic (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

ABS is an oil based thermoplastic and one of the most common plastics in use today.  For the purposes of 3D printing, it is an excellent choice as the objects that you print can be used as working parts in assemblies or other situations, the same way any plastic part can be used.  ABS filament is available in a multitude of colours and two standard thicknesses, 1.75mm and 3mm 

Softens at 90C (also known as the “glass transition” temperature)

Melts at 105C

It can be extruded at 180C

It needs to be extruded at 230-240C to bond properly to the previous layer.

Bed temperature should be around 90-110C

Bed preparation can be done with a glue stick or ABS/acetone slurry.

ABS is soluble in acetone.

Handily, ABS parts can be easily glued together either by using neat acetone or an acetone/ABS slurry.  The resultant join will be easily as strong as the parts themselves.  This makes creating a large part from sections quite easy and is something you should take into account if you need to create an object larger than the print volume of your machine.


ABS is hygroscopic, that is, it will absorb water from the atmosphere.  It should be stored in a container with a lid and some form of desiccant to keep the air inside dry.  ABS that has become affected by moisture will tend to bubble as it leaves the extruder nozzle and the result will be a rough, porous surface to your print

PLA (Polylactic Acid)

PLA is a starch based plastic which can be made from a range of plants. Some of the most common sources are cornstarch, tapioca root and sugar cane.  PLA is currently the greenest material you can use in your 3D printer. In 2010, PLA was the second most important bioplastic of the world in regard to consumption volume. Left to break down, PLA reverts to lactic acid and is classified as being biodegradable.  PLA is more brittle than ABS and parts made from it have a harder surface than ABS. PLA filament is available in a multitude of colours, unlike ABS, PLA is translucent by nature and so many translucent colours are available.  PLA comes in two standard thicknesses. 1.75mm and 3mm

Softens at 50C (also known as the “glass transition” temperature)

Melts at 60C

It can be extruded at 160C

It needs to be extruded at 210-230C to bond properly to the previous layer.

Bed temperature should be around 60C

Bed preparation can be done with a glue stick

PLA is soluble in sodium hydroxide, commonly known as caustic soda which is the basis for many drain cleaning products.

PLA does not offer the same properties as ABS in being able to be glued together.  Joining PLA parts needs to be done with another, separate adhesive.  PLA will also display “stringing” when being printed to a larger extent than ABS.  Stringing can be minimised by setting the “retract” on the extruder to the correct value.  This function will withdraw the filament momentarily and prevent the nozzle from drooling on non-print movements.  Due to its relatively low glass transition and melting temperatures, PLA is not suitable for making objects that could be exposed to heat.  A PLA part could easily distort if left in a hot car for example.

HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene)

HIPS is very similar to ABS and is commonly used in toys and product casings such as CD boxes.  Unlike PLA and ABS, HIPS is non-hygroscopic.  HIPS is a very tough plastic and can be painted and glued, it is also recyclable.  HIPS is quite a useful plastic inasmuch as it can be used as the primary print or as a dissolvable support with ABS.  HIPS dissolves quickly in d-Limonene or orange oil. d-Limonene is much cheaper than pure orange oil.  HIPS has very similar requirements to ABS as far as  printer settings are concerned. Comes in both 1.75 and 3mm diameter filament

Softens at 85C (also known as the “glass transition” temperature)

Melts at 104C

It can be extruded at 180C

It needs to be extruded at 230-240C to bond properly to the previous layer.

Bed temperature should be around 80C

Bed preparation can be done with a glue stick or my recommendation ABS/acetone slurry.

HIPS is soluble in Limonene or orange oil.

PET G (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol)

PET would be familiar to most of us as the plastic used for soft drink bottles and other food containers.  In it’s natural form it is transparent or opaque based on the crystalline structure in the plastic.   This crystalline structure is one of the interesting properties of PET.  See the graph below.

From the graph, you can see the point at which the material bill go from clear to cloudy.  The flow is also affected at this point.

The filament here however is PET G.  The G stands for Glycol and this is a glycol modified polymer created to overcome the crystallization and subsequent decrease in flow at that temperature. The material does not have major shrinkage problems, more than PLA but less than ABS.  The plastic is hygroscopic but very tough when dry.  Support material can be a bit harder to remove than ABS as it tends to adhere to itself very well. Available in both 1.75mm and 3mm diameter filament.

Softens at 75ᵒC (also known as the “glass transition” temperature)

Melts at 200ᵒC

It can be extruded at 230ᵒC

It should be extruded at 230-250ᵒC. Layer bonding is very good with this plastic.

Bed temperature should be 60 – 80ᵒC

Bed preparation can be done with 3M blue masking tape.

PET G is still hygroscopic so it needs to be stored along with your other filament in a container with sesiccant or other humidity control measures.

Polycarbonate (PC)

Polycarbonate (PC) is an extremely strong, impact resistant thermoplastic material which is widely used in automotive, aerospace, medical and many other areas. PC has great mechanical properties and heat resistance. 3D parts printed with PC are accurate, strong and durable. PC filament type has the second highest tensile strength among all FDM materials. The material is also biocompatible and can be sterilizable that is why it is so extremely popular for prototyping needs, functional testing, tooling and composite work. The material should be extruded at or above 250°C and high heat deflection temperature is 138°C. Available in both 1.75mm and 3mm diameter filament.


Nylon is another great material to try for your projects. It is known for its great biocompatibility, which is widely used in medical industry. Majority of cartilage replacements and quite a big number of prosthetics are made using this material. There are several types of Nylon material used in 3D printing, the most popular of them are Nylon 618, which has natural white color, and Nylon 645, which is fairly clear but difficult to work with.

Nylon 618 does not require a heated bed, it also has low warp. In addition, you don’t need to cool down your tiny or big items after printing, which is very convenient. This material has great self-bonding properties, that makes it quite strong and resistant from delimitation.

 Another great feature of Nylon 618 is that you can dye your own material in a color and shade you want. An usual fabric dye can be used for these purposes. Manufactures recommend to print with filaments of natural color and then dye on preferred color. But you can try to change the color of your filament first and then print with one you have got. That is especially convenient if you’d like to have multicolor printed objects. Just put a part of coil in dyeing liquid for a required period of time, then wash coil with water and dye another part of coil with another shade or color. Please make sure to dry your nylon filament after dyeing. The results are quite impressive.

Recommended temperature for printing is 250°C.

Another feature of all types of Nylon materials is that they absorb water from air so it needs to be stored in dry places.