Because it can be printed at low temperatures, does not require a heated print bed, has a high print resolution, and has very low warpage, PLA is the most popular material for filament-based material extrusion. PLA is thermoplastic, semi-crystalline, hard / brittle with low impact strength and heat resistance. It is made from grains such as corn and sugarcane and is renewable and above all biodegradable. Example: Premium PLA
Main areas of application: first prototypes, presentation objects and illustrative models.
ABS (acrylic-butadiene-styrene copolymer) is an often used, mechanically high-quality material with high heat resistance. ABS is a thermoplastic and amorphous. It is tough and resistant. The butadiene content makes ABS impact resistant. It can be smoothed with acetone. Example of ABS: Titan X
Main application: technical components for standard applications.
ASA (acrylonitrile-styrene-acrylic ester copolymer) is comparable to ABS, with the difference that acrylonitrile has a much higher resistance to aging and weathering. It is thus the “ABS for outdoor applications”. Example of ASA: ApolloX
Main application area: technical components for standard outdoor applications.
PETG is a glycol copolymerized variant of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the latter commonly used to make water bottles. PETG is an amorphous thermoplastic with good mechanical performance, it is strong, tough and impact resistant. The hardness is lower than at PLA e.g. and it is prone to abrasion under high stress. The material also benefits from the excellent thermal properties and it is virtually distortion free. PETG also has a high chemical resistance. PETG is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” that combines the advantages of ABS (temperature resistance and mechanical performance) and PLA (high pressure resolution) and extends it with chemical and UV resistance. Example for PETG: HDGlass
Main application: technical components for standard applications and more complex tasks.
TPE (Thermoplastic elastomer)
TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) is the generic term for all rubber-like plastics which, unlike real elastomers (“rubber”), can be processed by extrusion. This is achieved by a morphological “blend” of thermoplastics and elastomers. As the name suggests, this amorphous material is elastic at room temperature, so that the plastic has a high flexibility. There are several types of TPE, with material extrusion most commonly used being thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and thermoplastic copolyester (TPC). The degree of elasticity of the plastic depends on the type of TPE and the chemical formulation used by the manufacturer. For example, some filaments may be partially flexible like a tough car tire, while others are highly flexible like a rubber band. TPE’s are abrasion and chemical resistant and have a low to medium tendency to warp. Example of TPE: Arnitel
Main application area: flexible technical components for standard applications and more complex tasks.
PP (polypropylene) is a semi-crystalline standard thermoplastic and has a low density, medium toughness, low strength, average heat resistance, but low scratch resistance. PP is resistant to chemicals. PP is the “better” polyethylene, reinforced with fillers, it can even compete with engineering plastics such as PBT at not too high operating temperatures. A major disadvantage in additive manufacturing with PP is the large distortion. Example for PP: CentaurPP
Main application area: technical components for standard applications, filled it can also be used for loaded construction components.
The semi-crystalline thermoplastic PA (polyamide) is very tough as PA6, very hard as PA6.6 and very dimensionally stable as PA12 in media contact. In general, PA has outstanding mechanical properties (combination of strength, hardness and toughness) even at very high operating temperatures. It is the most widely used technical construction material, which with fillers, for. As glass fiber, can be improved. The biggest disadvantage in additive manufacturing lies in the high delay. This can be reduced by copolymers. Example of PA: CoPA
Main application: Design components with high requirements.
A general material comparison including material data, selected printing parameters and applications can be found under: