Once you have a printable 3D file, the next step is to determine what type of material you need for your project. There are many different types of materials you can 3D print in. Below, we will go over the most common 3D printed materials. The right material can be determined by the amount of detail needed, prototype stage, application, and/or budget.
PLA (polylactide) is a thermoplastic (A special plastic that becomes liquid, at certain temperatures) made from renewable corn starch, tapioca, or sugarcane. Since PLA is plant based, it is bio-degradable. PLA projects are created by FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling).
It is a very popular material due to its low cost and ability to be produced quickly. PLA will finish in a glossy transparent, fluorescent, or metallic. The material will have feel hard to the touch. The durability can be adjusted during the FDM process.
Best Uses: Early prototypes and less complex models.
ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is also a thermoplastic. It is strong and somewhat flexible making it more durable than PLA. This material is commonly used for more professional applications ex: Legos.
ABS Models are also created by FDM. It is a very popular material due to its low cost and quality of finished product. ABS has great post treatment options, it can be sanded, painted, and finished with different solvents for a smooth finish making it very popular among common consumer products.
Best Uses: Inexpensive, strong but slightly flexible plastic that is also non-corrosive with a high temperature resistance.
Full Color Sandstone is a material made from a powdered-gypsum. FCS offers full color capabilities. Unlike most 3D Printing processes, Sandstone capable printers use CMYK printheads to color the part while binding the powder together to produce the colorful solid parts. One of the downsides, sandstone is not ideal for hollow prints, it can be brittle. It can also be costly due to the fact that models require extra thickness. Post-Processing, sandstone requires a cyanoacrylate (super glue) sealant to ensure durability and vivid colors. This coating also protects your model from moisture.
Best Uses: Ideal for photo-realistic, full color prints. Ideal for professional models to scale, architecture, 3D reliefs, and topography projects.
Nylon is a synthetic polymer material commonly used in a wide variety of consumer products. It offers great flexibility as well as strength and durability. It excels in prints that require elasticity or “bend not break” properties and high temperature tolerance applications. When 3D printed, Nylon finishes with a gritty texture, but can easily be sanded down to a smooth surface.
Best uses: Projects that require flexibility and durability.
VeroWhite is a rigid and durable photopolymer that excels in data visualization, durability, and accuracy. VeroWhite uses Polyjet technology and can have a variety of finishes. You can 3D print accurate, realistic prototypes that test form, fit and function, even for moving and assembled parts.
Best Uses: Highly accurate visualizations, especially useful when dealing with smaller parts and complex features.
Is photopolymer material that can be represented as a clear plastic. It uses Polyjet technology to create high dimensional stability with surface smoothness. It is void of color and excels at detail model building, or visual representations that require a transparency. Post processing can alter the amount of transparency needed.
Best Uses: Projects that need transparency and smooth finish.
Digital polymer that simulates ABS plastic but with higher temperature resistance and high-impact durability. It offers the highest accuracy of the materials listed. It finishes smooth and is ready for mechanical and production applications.
Best Uses: Production ready models that require more durability and detail than your standard ABS material.
Rubber-Like is a digital Polyjet 3D printing material produced by Stratasys. It’s great for simulating rubbers with different variations of hardness. Hardnesses (Shore 27 to 96), tear resistances, and tensile strengths can be adjusted for the correct application.
Best Uses: Great for simulating rubber with different hardness, tensile strength, and other properties.
VisiClear is a very accurate and durable 3D material. It is created using SLA technology with a wax support system, making this ideal for hard to reach internal parts. The name would imply that the final product will be clear, however the final product actually has a cloudy appearance.
Best Uses: Accurate, Durable, Professional Final Prototypes.