An Introduction to FFF/FDM Plastics

3D printing plastics overview

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is the simplest and most common additive manufacturing technology. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is the same thing, except it is a trademarked term owned by Stratasys.

An FFF 3D printer extrudes melted thermoplastic in layers to form a three-dimensional model. Various thermoplastics are available, from standard plastics like ABS to specialist plastics like PEEK and plastics with composite reinforcement.

As we revealed in our 3D printing nozzles article, the material range of a 3D printer depends on the temperatures it can reach and the nozzles available. Not all plastics print at the same temperatures, and some materials are abrasive.

This article will run through the most widely used FFF/FDM plastics. Hopefully, it helps you choose the right filament for your project.

Print materials

ABS

Print temp: 190 to 220°C

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. A standard filament with a relatively low melting temp, offering good strength and durability.

PLA

Print temp: 240 to 270°C

Polylactic Acid. A standard filament that is biodegradable in the right conditions. Softer than ABS but able to capture more detail.

PC

Print temp: 290 to 315°C

Polycarbonate. Lighter and more flexible than ABS with higher impact resistance. Prints at a higher temperature and is transparent.

PETG 

Print temp: 230 to 250°C

Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol. Hard, strong, transparent, UV resistant and ductile. Food compatible. Heavier than ABS.

Nylon 

Print temp: 220 to 250°C

An incredibly strong, durable and versatile plastic derived from crude oil. High strength, tear resistance, impact resistance and abrasion resistance.

PCTG

Print temp: 250 to 270°C

Poly Cyclohexylenedimethylene Terephthalate Glycol. An impact-resistant formulation of PET-G for mechanical applications.

PA-CF

Print temp: 260 to 280°C

Nylon reinforced with Carbon Fibre. The Nylon provides abrasion resistance and tear strength while the carbon fibre adds strength and rigidity.

TPU 

Print temp: 220 to 250°C

Thermoplastic Polyurethane. A bridge between rubbers and plastics. Flexible and strong, suitable as a replacement for silicone.

PEEK

Print temp: 360 to 420°C

Polyether Ether Ketone. A colourless, high-performance plastic for demanding applications like pistons, bearings, pumps and compressors.

PEKK

Print temp: 360 to 420°C

Poly Ether Ketone-Ketone. Has a higher glass transition temp and a lower crystallization rate than PEEK, decreasing the chances of defects in the structure.

Support materials 

ESM-10

Print temp: 360 to 420°C

Engineering Soluble Material. Used as a support material for high-performance polymers, enabling complex parts to be printed.

HIPS

Print temp: 220 to 240°C

High Impact Polystyrene. A breakaway material used for the support structure. Prints alongside other plastics to support designs.

BVOH 

Print temp: 190 to 220°C

butene-diol vinyl alcohol copolymer. A water dissolvable support material that can be poured down the drain when dissolved.

If we’ve missed any materials that you feel should be included, be sure to let us know!