How to Choose a 3D Printing Material Using Material Properties

3D printing material properties

Different 3D printing materials have different surface qualities and different mechanical characteristics.

To achieve the best results with your 3D printer, the material (or filament) you use must be suited to the application.

How do you know what is and isn’t suitable?

You can go with what the manufacturer recommends, or you can be a little more scientific and review the mechanical and thermal properties of the materials in question.

Below, we’ll cover these material properties in more detail to help you choose the right material for your 3D printing project.

Let’s jump right in.

Tensile strength

This is the resistance of a material to breaking under tension. It is the amount of load or stress a material can handle before it breaks.

Why it matters

Tensile strength is the ultimate strength of a material. Greater tensile strength is necessary for static and load-bearing functional parts.

Flexural strength

This is the resistance of a material to breaking when bent. It is the amount of load or stress a material can take before it deforms or bends.

Why it matters

Flexural strength shows the strength of a material when bending. Greater flexural strength is necessary for stress-bearing parts.

Flexural modulus

This is the resistance of a material to bending under load. It determines whether a material is stiff (high modulus) or elastic (low modulus).

Why it matters

Flexural modulus will help you figure out what materials are stiff or flexible. A low modulus material is flexible while a high modulus material is stiff.


This is the resistance of a material to breaking when stretched. It is used to measure the resilience of flexible and elastic materials.

Why it matters

Elongation will help you compare flexible materials for resilience. A higher elongation at break means the material stretches more before breaking.

Impact strength

This is the resistance of a material to withstand a suddenly applied load. It determines the brittleness of a material and indicates toughness.

Why it matters

Impact strength helps you figure out if your parts will survive impacts. This is crucial for protective housings, casings and enclosures.

Indentation hardness (Shore)

Indentation hardness, measured on the Shore hardness scale, indicates the hardness of a material and its resistance to deformation.

Why it matters

Indentation hardness shows you how hard or soft a material is. It will help you identify soft, rubbery materials and elastomers.

Young’s modulus

This is the resistance of a material to stretch under tension. It determines the stiffness of a material and is a measure of elasticity.

Why it matters

Young’s modulus makes it easy to compare elastic materials. It tells you how stiff a material is. In this respect, it is the same as flexural modulus.

Heat deflection temperature

This is the temperature a material deforms under load. It is a measure of a material’s resistance to distortion at elevated temperatures.

Why it matters

A high heat deflection temperature is necessary when you are 3D printing parts that will be subjected to high temperatures.

Thermal expansion

This is the tendency of a material to expand or shrink at different temps. It is a measure of a materials’ physical response to changes in temperature.

Why it matters

Thermal expansion is an important consideration in applications where changes in the size and shape of parts at different temperatures is unacceptable.

Water absorption

This is the amount of water or moisture a material will absorb. The main filaments that absorb moisture are PLA, Nylon, and PVA.

Why it matters

High water absorption can cause parts to underperform and fail. In humid environments, water absorption is critical to performance.

Find the right 3D printing materials

Additive-X has an unbeatable collection of 3D printing materials for metals, composites, plastics and speciality materials.

You can request a sample or call us on 01765 694 007 to discuss your requirements and we will recommend a few materials.