What is Important when selecting your print filament?
3D printing filament is highly important when it comes to bringing your creations to fruition. Naturally, your filament should be of the best quality. We’ve put together this guide to highlight some of the things we think you should look for when selecting a filament for your projects.
Type of Material:
In FDM printing there are two major types of material you can choose from: ABS and PLA.
ABS is known to be a bit more flexible than PLA and can be finished off very nicely with some acetone for a shiny surface finish. ABS, however, is more carcinogenic than PLA and also requires a heated bed and controlled temperature chamber to use. ABS holds its shape better when subjected to lengthy periods of sunlight or heat. Furthermore, some downsides of using ABS are that it may not be as safe for children, or in a school setting due to the carcinogenic fumes that are let off, as well as the heated bed that can reach temperatures of 100+ degrees Celsius. If the material breaks, it tends to break off in shards that can injure those who are not careful with it.
PLA on the other hand, is the preferred material choice for schools and libraries because it is a biodegradable corn-oil based plastic that is much less toxic than ABS material. It is in general, easier to work with since no heated bed or controlled temperature chamber is necessary. PLA typically requires a lower temperature to extrude than ABS and though some may say that ABS is a stronger material, the difference between the strength of both materials is negligible – it is all a matter of choosing your print density. Many engineers and designers are starting to move toward using PLA instead of ABS due to ease of use and reliability. ZEUS only uses PLA, for the aforementioned reasons.
There are also a number of different composite filaments available with both ABS and PLA bases. Some that are popular are filaments that contain just a few percent of bronze, copper, and wood separately. These composites have a very different texture from ABS or PLA alone and allow even more creativity in 3D printing (see to the right our Algae composite filament print-out to the right). There are even conductive filament materials available that can power small lights and fixtures!
Yet another material that is becoming increasingly popular and is actually FDA-approved and food-safe is PETG. PETG is the same kind of plastic that many water bottles are made out of. This material should be printed on a non-heated bed (ZEUS makes great PETG prints, as seen on the left). ABS is not food-safe because it is comprised of toxic materials, while PLA is not food-safe simply because it is a more porous material and can harbor bacteria.
To see the full list of filament types we offer visit this link.
You can purchase virtually any color under the rainbow, of filament. Different brands provide different shades and each different shade has a slightly different chemical composition, which may affect print quality. Printouts can also be painted over (I’ve had the most success with acrylic paint) to make cool figurines and works of 3-dimensional art.
There are 2 diameters of filament that you can choose from, depending on the type of printer you have. For most desktop printers, 1.75 mm is the most popular (as used in ZEUS). 3.0mm is also an option but is less common among desktop printers. Different filament brands will have different degrees of accuracy. For example, our AIO Robotics filament has accuracy of +/- 0.02mm, meaning that the maximum the filament will differ from the 1.75mm diameter is within 0.02mm. This is considered to be very precise, as you will see that many other leading brands of filament will have an accuracy of +/-0.05mm. If you are using a separate slicing software (not the one built into ZEUS as that will already be set for you) you will have to consider your filament size as a factor and set your slicing settings to reflect this size.
There are two main sizes of spools that you can choose from: 1-kilogram spools and 500-gram spools. 500-gram spools are preferred because less tangling will be experienced due to the smaller spool size. Sometimes when you are 3D printing, filament can get tangled and stuck together, leading to a malfunction in the machine by placing too much strain and pulling on the extruder. We used to sell single kilogram spools until we discovered this problem, and have since moved to the 500-gram spools. In addition, having smaller spools keeps your filament fresh for longer since it won’t be sitting out as long and enables you to have a wider variety of colors on-hand for a lower price.
Unused filament should be stored in a cool dry place, preferably inside of a sealed bag with a silica gel packet to maintain freshness. Both ABS and PLA filament will be negatively impacted by humidity and this can damage both the filament and the resulting print. For all of our filament spools, a Zip-seal bag is provided and it is recommended to retain this bag along with the silica get packet that it contains to store your filament.