Filament is the thermoplastic material used in FDM printing. You can get filament in almost any color, a variety of plastics, and even “exotic” blends.
- Does NOT need a heated print bed
- Environmentally friendly
- Smells like syrup when heating
- Food safe
- Has a lower melting point so printed objects can deform in high heat
- Not as strong as ABS
- Sturdy and hard
- Withstands heat better, this means a higher temperature is needed when printing but it will hold up to higher heat applications than PLA.
- More damaging to the environment (made from oil)
- Smells like melted plastic when printing
- Requires a heated platform
- Prints tend to curl at the bottom
- Not food safe
Other Flexible Filaments
There are other flexible filaments such as MatterHackers Soft PLA.
As we gain more experience using these new materials, we will share our thoughts and update this article.
Filament comes in two main sizes: 1.75mm and 3mm. Most printers will only take one size of filament so make sure you use the right size for your printer. As far as functionality goes, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the two. Some report that 1.75mm gives you better accuracy and others say that the 3mm flexible filament is much easier to work with than the 1.75mm stuff.
We are seeing a fast-growing variety of exotic, or specialty, filaments. These are typically PLA filaments infused with other types of materials like metals, wood, and more. We have experimented with a wide variety of these exotics and they are a lot of fun to work with. Many of them require specific printing adjustments, but most can be used on desktop FDM printers like the Printrbot Simple.
Check out the following links for more information about exotics:
- CorkFill – ColorFabb
- BronzeFill – ColorFabb
- CopperFill – Color Fabb
- BrassFill – ColorFabb
- WoodFill – ColorFabb
- Carbon Fiber PLA – Proto-Pasta
- Stainless Steel PLA – Proto-Pasta
- Conductive PLA – Proto-Pasta
- Aromatic Coffee PLA – Proto-Pasta (Yes, it’s scented filament!)
- Glow in the Dark PLA – MatterHackers
- UV Light Color Changing PLA – MatterHackers
- Temperature Color Changing PLA – 3D Prima