Different types of filament

12 Different Types of 3D Printing Filaments

There are more than one hundred 3D printing filaments, stretching into the low hundreds when you include SLA, SLS, DLP, EBM and MJF technologies.

However, if we stick to the foundation on which 3D printing is built, twelve filaments are prevalent in every industry.

This article explores these twelve filaments and provides comparisons, helping you determine the best material for your project.

Let’s jump in!

  1. ABS

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is the most prevalent filament in 3D printing. It’s the standard filament for hard-wearing parts because it is strong, durable, and capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 100°C.


ABS is impact-resistant and remains stiff and rigid at sub-zero temperatures, and you can also get it in fire-retardant grades.

Although it is arguably the most versatile filament, ABS is also tricky to print with an open chamber. Warping, curling, and cracking are relatively common issues, although this isn’t an issue if you have a printer with material profiles.

Ultimaker ABS filament is one of the best you can buy.

  1. ASA

ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate) is a toughened, reformulated version of ABS with enhanced UV resistance. ASA is around ten times more weather resistant than ABS and is stronger, making it better for outdoor applications.


With greater impact resistance and strength than ABS, ASA is best when parts and casings require high durability and longevity.

There are no downsides to ASA, except it is more expensive than ABS. The printing difficulty is around the same, and most FFF printers support it.

Fancy giving it a go? Check out Additive-X ASA-X.

  1. PLA

Polylactic acid, also known as PLA, is a renewable 3D printing material derived from corn starch or sugar cane. It is biodegradable in an industrial setting and offers several significant advantages over ABS.

PLA is stronger and stiffer than ABS, although ABS is tougher and lighter. The most significant advantage is that PLA is easier to print and showcases more detail, making it the best option for general model making.

The disadvantage to PLA is it has a low glass transition temperature, making it unsuitable for parts exposed to high ambient temperatures.

Check out Additive-X PLA for a high-quality alternative to mainstream brands.

  1. PET-G

PET-G is a superplastic with excellent hardness, impact and chemical resistance, and transparency. It is the best material for food-grade containers and parts and is also 100% recyclable, making it better for the planet.

Compared to ABS, PETG is significantly harder (up to 65Mpa vs 50Mpa) and less stiff, so it is better for hard-wearing, ductile parts. It is also stronger than Tough PLA.

One of the most affordable, high-quality varieties comes from Ultimaker. Ultimaker PETG is available in fourteen colours and is easy to print thanks to Ultimaker Cura’s material profiles (Cura is Ultimaker’s slicing software).

You should reach for PETG when you need stronger parts than ABS provides – it also prints better with similar performance to PLA.

  1. PC

Polycarbonate (PC) is an engineering-grade 3D printing filament with excellent toughness, thermal stability, and dimensional stability.

PC filament

PC is lighter and more flexible than ABS with higher impact resistance, but it prints at high temperatures (290 to 315°C) and is usually transparent, limiting its use cases.

Ultimaker PC offers best-in-class performance, resisting ambient temperatures up to 110°C with flame-retardant qualities. It is also available in white, black, and transparent, giving you many choices for all your creations.

  1. TPE, TPU (flexible filaments)

Flexible filaments like TPE and TPU are printable by most FFF 3D printers and mimic the feel and performance characteristics of rubbers and silicones.

TPU is more rigid than TPE, making it best for semi-rigid products like smartphone cases, while TPE is best for seals. Flexible filaments help replace rubber and injection moulding but are tricky to print because they are soft.

Ultimaker TPUA is the best of its kind, formulated to cure quickly off the extruder to reduce the risk of structural problems.

The good news is once you get the hang of TPU/TPE, 3D-printed parts are durable and can usually withstand ambient temperatures of up to 80°C.

  1. Nylon

Nylon is printable by some FFF 3D printers and is the primary print material for SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) 3D printers.

Nylon is not one material but a family of nylons, including nylon 11 and 12. The significant difference is that Nylon 11 has a greater elongation at break, making it better for thin walls, interior joints and parts exposed to stress. Nylon 12 is better for general use and permanent fixtures, casings, and enclosures.

Another name for nylon is PA, with Ultimaker Nylon based on PA6/66, specially formulated for withstanding mechanical stress.

Whichever strain you use, nylon has the best abrasion resistance of any rigid 3D printing filament, giving it high wear and impact-resistant properties.

  1. CPE

Co-polyester (CPE) is similar to PETG with better chemical resistance, making it a better choice for mechanical and engineering applications.

CPE stands for chlorinated polyethene elastomer – the co-poly part comes from the chlorination of polyethene. Due to its strength and durability, it is suitable for hoses and tubes in industrial environments.

The downside to CPE is it only prints well at high temperatures. You must print directly onto the build platform at a high temperature (260°C) for the first layers and then drop it by 30°C to ensure optimal thermal transfer.

You can find out more and buy Ultimaker CPE here.

  1. PVA

PVA is a secondary filament for printing support structures (structures that help produce complex and intricate overhangs and details).

PVA bonds perfectly to most plastics, and it is non-toxic. However, its best feature is its water-solubility, which lets you dissolve supports in warm water, eliminating the need to cut and snap support structures away.

We have our own PVA, or Ultimaker offers one. It’s the best support material for PLA, Tough PLA, CPE, and nylon models.

  1. HIPS

High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) is a dissolvable and breakaway support material mostly paired with ABS and PLA for printing thin walls and overhangs.

3d-printed hips

HIPS dissolves in limonene solution but is also brittle enough to snap away without damaging ABS models. You can also partially dissolve the supports in d-Limonene and then pull the mushy supports away from the model.

Like PVA, HIPS dissolves without impacting the model it supports. 3DGence produces high-quality HIPS if you want to give it a go.

  1. Resin

Resin is a liquid 3D printing material exclusive to stereolithography (SLA) and digital light processing (DLP) technologies.

Resin is not a single printing material but describes a family of materials which mimic the performance of well-known thermoplastics like TPU and PC.

For example, Formlabs Tough 1500 Resin simulates the strength and stiffness of polypropylene (PP), while Durable Resin simulates polyethene (PE).

Unlike filament spools which feed an extruder in fused filament fabrication 3D printers, resin pours into a tank with the build plate submerged, and a laser cures layers of resin in SLA printers (or a projector in the case of DLP).

Because SLA/DLP 3D printers have no mechanical print head, they are not bound by the same geometry limitations. Resin can produce more detail, provided the laser or projector has a suitably small dot size.

  1. Metal filaments

Metal filaments for FFF are not solid metal – they are plastic-bound metal powders that extrude like a regular thermoplastic. The metal powder is usually bound in ABS or PLA and, once printed, offers unique mechanical and visual characteristics.


The 3D printing process is an off-shoot of FFF called metal-FFF, which calls for a nozzle made from stainless steel rather than brass.

Markforged metal filaments include stainless steel, A2 tool steel, H13 tool and Copper, or you can try materials from third-party ColorFabb.

However, don’t expect metal filaments to perform like solid metal – parts are not particularly strong because the metal is not continuously bonded. If you want solid metal parts, check out the Markforged Metal X.

Find out more

If you enjoyed this article, read our piece on lattice structures for 3D printing.

For expert advice on 3D printer technologies, please get in touch with the team at 01765 694 007, email team@additive-x.com, or you can




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