Most 3D printers use a spool of filament in either ABS or PLA available in all kinds of colors. These two plastic materials are known as thermoplastics, which means they can be heated to become flexible and as soon as they are cooled they revert back to being solid, no matter how much the process is repeated. ABS material is flexible, strong and has a high temperature resistance which is why it’s preferred for professionals. PLA can arguably produce thinner layer thicknesses, sharper printed corners and is available in a wide range of colors which makes it preferred by schools and hobbyists. A major difference however between ABS and PLA is that PLA is corn-based and as such is significantly more biodegradable. Nevertheless, you do not need to worry about your parts “going bad” any time soon as PLA still lasts a long time. There are quite a few other options available:
Nylon : There are a several types of Nylon material used in 3D printing, the most popular is the Nylon 618. It has a natural white color that can be colored according to your tastes. It has great bio-compatibility and is mostly used in the medical industry.
Resin : This material creates particularly smooth and precise objects with its rich texture. However, exposing a Resin printed object to UV light will cause its discoloration. The users of this type of material usually paint the model with varnish after printing.
Wood : This filament is a mix of recycled wood and binding polymer. If you like to create objects that look and smell like wood this printing material is for you. The printing process with Wood is very similar to the one with ABS and PLA.
HIPS : High Impact Polystyrene filament is a good example of support 3D materials. It has an interesting property that makes it well suited as a support material. However, its filaments have adhesion problems, which can be reduced by using a heated bed during the printing.
Stainless Steel : This material is a mixture of hybrid of stainless steel and bronze. It’s the hardest of all 3D printing materials. Usually, desktop 3D printers cannot print in this material.
ABS and PLA are available in spools* with two common filament diameter sizes: 1.75mm or 3mm, and not all 3D printers are compatible with both diameters compatibility. It should be noted that some 3D printers have a special ABS or PLA cartridge and as such, it is strongly suggested that you purchase replacement filament produced by the same manufacturer as the 3D printer.
Unlike the filament that has become almost standardized in two sizes (1.75mm and 3mm), the spools still come in a lot of different sizes. The spool size and dimensions is an important characteristic to consider, since it’s different from a printer to another. First thing to notice, is that some 3D printers have a closed holder for the filament spool while others contains an opened one. Usually, the printers with a closed spool holder will take coils made by the same manufacturer or sometimes, made especially for that 3D printer. To choose an appropriate coil of filament for your 3D printer, you might need to know the outer size diameter, the inner spool diameter, the mount hole diameter and the weight.