FDM Materials Comparing

As new materials emergence rapidly in 3D printing market, it is difficult to select the best suitable material for specific objects. In FDMPLA and ABS are two main polymer in application, while new polymers are still play a major role in the future of FDM. New products with material of pure polymer and composites become more and more popular, the main pure polymers in market are PLA, ABS, PET, Nylon, TPU and PC. Our engineering team summarize the key difference of material properties form profiles, so we can make a quick decision of materials application in FDM materials selection process.

Methodology

We always divide FDM materials properties into 3 different categories like mechanical performance, visual quality, and process. In these categories, all materials will be graded in different level, finally create a clear picture of polymer properties. As FDM materials selection depends on final products applications, we will provide key decision criteria to choose materials except cost and speed considerations.

Easy of printing

This point explain how easy to print the material, it including bed adhesion, max printing speed, frequency of failing, flow accuracy.

Visual quality

This point explain how finished parts look, normally including surface appearance, surface roughness.

Max stress

The maximum stress of final products can resist before broken in slowly pulling process.

Elongation

The maximum length of final products can be stretched before broken.

Impact resistance

The force to break final parts in a sudden impact.

Layer adhesion

How good of adhesion between material layers, it will link materials in all directions. The better layer adhesion will result to better isotropic products.

Heat resistance

The maximum temperature of final products before softening and deforming.

Rigidity

This point are just properties suitable for specific applications, there are neither good nor bad.

Humidity resistance & toxicity

These 2 element are important factors, but without a good quantitative assessment.

Material Properties Results

All these materials will been rank with following criteria on 1 to 5 scale in FDM process.

PLA

PLA is the polymer with easiest of printing and good visual quality. It is very rigid and high strength, but is very brittle.

MaterialPLA
AdvantageBio-sourced
Biodegradable
Odorless,Good UV resistance
Post-processing with sanding paper
Painted with acrylics
DisadvantageLow humidity resistance
Hard to glue

ABS

ABS is always applied for products with higher temperature resistance and higher toughness comparing to PLA.

MaterialABS
AdvantagePost-processing with acetone vapors for gloss finish
Post-processing with sanding paper
Painted with acrylics
Good abrasion resistance
DisadvantageUV sensitive
Odorous in printing
High fume emission

PET

PET is a softer polymer with well rounded and additional properties, it has few major drawbacks.

MaterialPET
AdvantageHigh humidity resistance
High chemical resistance
Recyclable
Good abrasion resistance
Post-processing with sanding paper
Painted with acrylics
DisadvantageHeavier than PLA and ABS

Nylon

Nylon has great mechanical properties, especially excellent impact resistance. However, it has issues in layer adhesion.

MaterialPET
AdvantageGood chemical resistance
High strength
DisadvantageAbsorbs moisture
High fume emission

TPU

TPU has flexible application in reason of its high impact resistance.

MaterialPET
AdvantageSterilization
Easy for sanding process
DisadvantageUV sensitive

Conclusion

Selecting the perfect polymer materials for FDM process is critical to final 3D parts with excellent properties, especially for functional applications. We can assist customers find the right materials depending their special properties requirement. However, we also can add additives to modify the polymer properties, such as carbon fiber to increase materials strength.