Basic filaments could just as easily be termed ‘introductory’ filaments.
Because of their ease of use, low price point, and high availability they are largely considered ‘base line’ filaments all users can use to begin modeling and the general learning process. While they offer various mechanical and chemical benefits, they are typically not geared towards functional prototyping, end use products or anything considered high performance.
Included in the ‘Basic Filaments’ are filaments considered ‘staples’ in the FDM printing world. These include;
PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol)
PETT (Polyethylene coTrimethylene Terephthalate)
PLA – Polylactic Acid
PLA (Polylactic Acid) is likely THE most commonly used desktop 3D printing filament material. PLA is found commonly in everyday items like shopping bags and candy wrappers.
It is widely considered the “default” material for many desktop 3D printers, and with good reason – PLA is useful in a broad range of printing applications, has the virtue of being both odorless and low-warp, and does not require a heated bed. PLA filament is considered eco-friendly 3D printer material because it is made from renewable resources like corn-starch and is reclaimable.
PLA is a great filament for beginners due to it’s ease of print and low melting point
PLA is strong, but brittle
PLA has a low glass transition temperature (60 degrees) meaning that it will get soft and deform when heated.
PLA has been shown to release Ultra Fine Particles when heated, so an enclosed printer with proper filtration or using in a well ventilated area is strongly recommended
POSSIBLE USES: Prototyping, low-wear toys, containers
POST PROCESSING NOTES: PLA is not the easiest material to post process. It is strong to be sanded smooth and can be painted. In addition, there are now products available that will help smooth out layers
ABS – Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is one of the most widely used thermoplastics in the world, used in such products as Lego and piping. It is also a common 3D printer material.
ABS is great for making strong and durable parts that need to withstand higher temperatures or stress. In comparison to PLA filament, ABS plastic is less brittle and a little more pliable – which essentially means that under stress the component will ‘give’ a little rather than crack.
ABS is a filament better suited for more experienced users
ABS is a strong material with good wear and heat resistance
ABS has a high rate of thermolinear expansion and is prone to warping
ABS is known to release VOCs when heated, so printing with an enclosed printer or in a well ventilated area is strongly recommended.
POSSIBLE USES: Phone cases, high-wear toys, tool handles, automotive trim components, and electrical enclosures.
POST PROCESSING NOTES: ABS has post processing options (like acetone vaping) available.
PETG – Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol (modified)
PETT – Polyethylene coTrimethylene Terephthalate
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most commonly used plastic in the world. Best known as the polymer used in water bottles, it is also found in clothing fibres and food containers. While “raw” PET is rarely used in 3D printing, its variant PETG is a popular 3D printer filament.
The ‘G’ in PETG stands for “glycol-modified”, and the result is a filament which is clearer, less brittle, and most importantly, easier to use than its base form. For this reason, PETG is often considered a good middle ground between ABS and PLA, the two most commonly used types of 3D printer filament, as it is more flexible and durable than PLA and easier to print than ABS. PETT in another copolymer, popular because it is slightly more rigid than PETG and more transparent.
Copolymers are hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air and must be kept dry.
Copolymers have good wear resistance and are more flexible.
POSSIBLE USES: PETG is a good all-rounder but stands out from many other types of 3D printer filament due to its flexibility, strength, and temperature and impact resistance. This makes it an ideal 3D printer filament to use for objects which might experience sustained or sudden stress, like mechanical parts, printer parts, and protective components.
HIPS – Hi Impact Polystyrene
In the commercial world, high impact polystyrene (HIPS) – a copolymer that combines the hardness of polystyrene and the elasticity of rubber – is commonly found in protective packaging and containers, like CD cases.
In the world of 3D printing, HIPS typically plays a different role. 3D printers can’t print onto thin air. Overhangs require some underlying structure, and this is where HIPS really shines. When paired with ABS in a dual extrusion printer, HIPS is an excellent support material.
For dual extrusion printing with HIPS, simply crank the supports to the max and fill any gaps in your design with HIPS 3D printer filament. Immersing the finished print in limonene will strip away the HIPS leaving your final product behind.
Unfortunately to use HIPS as a support material limits you to printing your actual part from ABS. Other 3D printer filament materials will be damaged by the limonene. Handily, HIPS and ABS print well together in any case, being of similar strength, stiffness, and requiring a comparable print temperature.
In fact, despite its primary use as a support material, HIPS is a decent 3D printer filament in its own right. It is stronger than both PLA and ABS, warps less than ABS, and can easily be glued, sanded, and painted.
PVA – Polyvinyl Alchohol
PVA in the everyday world is used as glue or as the soluble sheaths for laundry detergent balls.
In the 3D printing world, PVA takes on a whole different role. It is often used with multi-extruder FDM 3D printers as a support material. The biggest advantage of PVA filament is its ability to dissolve in water. This means there are no ugly marks left on the print after the support material is removed. And since PVA filament dissolves in water, it is a great choice for a support material when printing complex geometries, large overhangs and detailed features on models.
In single extruder printers when the supports are made out of the same material as the part itself, post processing work is a common requirement to remove the supports where marks are left on the surface of the print. PVA helps avoid issue since it is a material that dissolves in water.
Imagine printing a very complex structure with an FDM printer that has only one extruder. When that print finishes, it requires some post processing but first of all, you need to remove support material, but that’s the main problem because the support material is the same material out of which the part is made. It is extremely hard and challenging to manually remove support from the complex geometry part. That is when PVA is used because it dissolves in water, there is no need to manually reach challenging places of a complex part to remove supports.
PVA in general works very well with PLA and Nylon filaments since it requires same operating conditions such as the desired temperature.
Parts printed with PVA supports usually need to be placed in water for a few hours (depending on the manufacturer’s specifications), until all of the PVA is dissolved.
Remember, PVA is a hydrophilic material, “it likes water” so the material connects with water molecules which results in PVA dissolving in water. PLA is a hydrophobic material so it “doesn’t like water” which means PVA and PLA are a perfect match because putting a PLA part in water does not affect it since it’s made out of a hydrophobic material, it doesn’t absorb water.
Like PVA and HIPS, breakaway filaments are designed to support prints while being printed. Unlike PVA and HIPS, break-away filaments do not dissolve but are rather designed to snap or break off when the print is complete.
The exact chemical composition of breakaway filaments may vary but they are typically a mix of polyurethane and polylactic acid.