Strongest material for 3D printing. Comparing the strength of 3D printing materials: ABS, PLA, and more

When looking for the best material to use for 3D printing, you will come across a variety of options. Each material has its benefits and drawbacks, so it can be tough to decide which one to choose. In this article, we will compare strongest material for 3D printing: ABS, PLA, and Nylon.

What does “strong” mean when it comes to 3D printing?

The filament strength can be measured by different methods and evaluated in different ways. In this article, we will mainly use tensile strength (Used to indicate the ultimate strength of a material or part, tensile strength can be defined as the ability to resist breakage when under tension, i.e., when being pulled or stretched.). We will indicate the tensile strength limit of each material for 3D printing in megapascal (MPa).

Despite the obvious number of pounds a material can withstand, there is still a margin of error depending on how the part was printed. We’ve compiled research from various sources to make sure that these three materials are the strongest.

High tensile, compact, or shear strength is exhibited by strong materials or components made from them. They can sustain high stress and do not deform when subjected to huge loads, as well as are resistant to impact, chemicals, and extreme weather conditions.

You should also understand that the material itself is not the only factor that affects the strength of the finished product. The design itself, the post-processing, and the 3D printing process also affect the strength of the part.

Is ABS or PLA stronger?

When it comes to 3D printing materials, there are a few popular options: ABS, PLA, and more. But which one is the strongest?

ABS filament is a common 3D printing material because it’s strong and durable. It’s also less prone to warping, making it a good choice for printing large objects. However, ABS can release fumes when melted, so it’s not always ideal for use in a home or office setting.

PLA is a popular alternative to ABS because it doesn’t release fumes and is biodegradable. However, PLA is not as strong as ABS and can be more prone to warping.

PLA filament

This is a plastic that 3D printer manufacturers like to add as a gift to their devices. Polylactic Acid is a biodegradable plastic that is made from lactic acid. The filament is made from natural materials such as sugarcane, corn, potato starch, and cellulose. Decorative plastics are also created on this basis.

The plastic does not emit an unpleasant odor when printed and is safe for children. PLA laminate is unpretentious in work – to create high-quality products does not even require heating of the working table. It is frequently used as a standard filament material since it can print clearly at extremely low temperatures without requiring a heated bed. Bed temperature: 68-140 °F.

Characteristics of the plastic:

  • Melting point: 347-356 °F;
  • Tensile strength: 37 Mpa;
  • Elasticity: low;
  • Shrinkage: minimal;
  • Solubility: insoluble.

ABS filament

This popular plastic for printing surpasses PLA but is also a bit more difficult to work with. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is highly durable and resistant to high temperatures. The plastic can be used to create functional parts and impact-resistant products.

Characteristics of the plastic:

  • Melting point: 347-410 °F;
  • Tensile strength: 29.8 – 43 MPa;
  • Elasticity: low;
  • Shrinkage: low;
  • Solubility: insoluble.

There are other 3D printing materials available, but these two are the most common. Ultimately, the strongest printing material depends on your needs and preferences.

3D printing method and strength

When it comes to 3D printing, there are two main methods: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). In FDM, the printer deposits melted plastic filament one layer at a time to create an object. With SLS, a laser beam sinters powdered material to create a 3D object.

Both methods have their benefits and drawbacks. For example, FDM is more affordable and easier to use, while SLS is more precise and can print in multiple materials.

Now we briefly discuss additive technologies in the context of metal materials. Metal powder is used in 3D printing processes such as Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). A coating of metal powder is applied and then locally fused in a thorough melting process.

Strongest material for 3D printing

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Well, it depends on the material. ABS is stronger than PLA, for example, while nylon is stronger than both ABS and PLA. And the strength of a material can vary depending on the 3D printer being used.

So, it’s difficult to say unequivocally which printing method is the strongest. But what we can say is that different materials have different strengths, so it’s important to choose the right material for your project based on its intended use.

What is stronger than PLA for 3D printing?

When it comes to printing materials, ABS is stronger than PLA. However, other materials are stronger than ABS.

One such material is PETG. PETG is a transparent plastic that is stronger than both ABS and PLA. It has a higher melting point than PLA, meaning it can withstand more heat without warping or melting. This makes it a great choice for printing large or intricate pieces.

Another strong 3D printing material is Nylon. Nylon is a strong, lightweight plastic that can be used to create durable prints with a high level of detail. It is also resistant to wear and tear, making it a good choice for objects that will be used in harsh environments.

PETG

Polyethylene terephthalate-glycol appeared much later than ABS and other types of plastics. PETG is resistant to mechanical damage and has lower shrinkage than ABS and PLA, along with heat resistance, this relatively new material has gained popularity with makers around the world. Plastic is sensitive to water, so products made of it, as well as the filaments themselves, should not be stored in humid areas.

With PETS filament, it is possible to print products that will come into contact with food. The excellent sinterability of the layers makes it possible to print thin-walled products.

PETG could even withstand higher temperatures than PLA, but you must ensure that your 3D printer is capable of reaching the required temperatures before printing it. It is frequently used to create functional prototypes, moderate parts, and protective cases.

Characteristics of the plastic:

  • Melting point: 431.6-437 °F;
  • Tensile strength: 53 MPa;
  • Elasticity: medium;
  • Shrinkage: low;
  • Solubility: insoluble.

Nylon filament

Nylon filament is a synthetic 3D printing material that is strong, flexible, and sturdy. It is used to make parts that will be under constant mechanical stress. For example, gears, bushings, and parts for household appliances are printed from nylon.

This plastic is not decorative, so the choice of colors for printing is small. The main criterion for nylon printing is the presence of a closed chamber.

Characteristics of the plastic:

  • Melting point: 419-428 °F;
  • Tensile strength: 50.0–90.0 MPa;
  • Elasticity: high;
  • Shrinkage: significant;
  • Solubility: insoluble.

Polycarbonate filament 

Material polycarbonate is the strongest plastic for printing. It tolerates mechanical influences along with high-temperature resistance, so it is used for different purposes. PC filaments have transparent and lightweight qualities, as are products made of them. The material can be used to create swimming masks, screens, and commercial products. PC filament is also used in the automotive industry.

Polycarbonate filaments have high resistance to impact; therefore, parts do not break or crack. It has a wider temperature range of usage with a heat deflection temperature of 284 °F.

PC’s unique feature is temperature resistance. Some polycarbonate filaments can have lowering melting points due to additive manufacturing technology, but that will also lower the material’s strength and heat resistance. This makes polycarbonate filament inapplicable for automotive components. It can be combined with flame-retardant materials without losing much quality.

The obstacle to using a PC is the required high melting point for printing. So, you have to make sure that your printer can heat up to 500-510 °F, which is unimaginable for home desktop printers.

Plastic characteristics:

  • Melting point: 510 °F;
  • Tensile strength: 66 MPa;
  • Elasticity: medium;
  • Shrinkage: significant;
  • Solubility: insoluble.

Carbon fiber (composite material)

Carbon fiber is used as additional strength material for 3D printing filaments. The resulting material consists of filament with short fibers of carbon ingrained. In comparison to regular nylon filaments, carbon fiber-infused nylon filament parts will be light weighted and have increased abrasion resistance, but remain of original tensile strength.

To prevent clogs and guarantee a more consistent print quality, carbon fibers should be printed at a low speed.

Carbon fiber provides dimensional stability because of its strength, which helps in mitigating the chances of colliding or shrinking. The stiffness of carbon fiber makes it a top contender for the aerospace and automotive industries.

TPU filament

Thermoplastic polyurethane flexible filament. Such flexible materials.Flexible filaments offer a lot of possibilities for designers and engineers – from prototyping pliable features to creating custom tools.

Plastic characteristics:

  • Melting point:392-410 °F;
  • Tensile strength: 52.4 – 79.3 MPa;
  • Elasticity: high;
  • Shrinkage: low;
  • Solubility: insoluble.

Polycarbonate, Nylon, PEEK

Polypropylene is already widely used for industrial manufacturing, due to its excellent mechanical properties of the material. Additive manufacturingmakes this material a bright future. PP is a strong filament, known for its high chemical resistance, heat resistance, impact resistance, and flexibility.

PP is used in various fields like food packaging, and medicine, and especially in demanding industries like automotive and aerospace industries.

PEEK stands for its composition, which is Polyether Ether Ketone, a semi-crystalline thermoplastic. This material is known for its excellent chemical resistance.

Polycarbonate, Nylon, and PEEK are all examples of 3D printing filamewith are high-performance materials with excellent impact resistance. Therefore, these materials are typically used for tool housings, safety boxes, eyeglasses, and safety equipment.

What is the strongest material an Ender 3 can print?

When it comes to the Ender 3 and material strength, you really can’t go wrong with any of the choices we’ve mentioned. They’re all pretty strong, and it just comes down to personal preference in terms of which one you want to use.

ABS is a little more flexible than PLA, so if you’re looking for something a little more forgiving, then ABS might be the way to go. PLA is a little more brittle, but it’s also a bit easier to print with, so that might be something to keep in mind as well.

It’s really up to you to decide which material you want to use. All of them have their benefits and drawbacks, so it’s just a matter of figuring out which one will work best for your specific needs.

Conclusion

In the end, the answer to the question “what is the strongest 3D printer filament” depends on what you need the material to do. If you require something that can withstand high temperatures and is impact-resistant, then ABS is the way to go. However, if you require something that is flexible and has a low melting point, then PLA is the better option.

FAQs

Is ABS or PLA stronger?

Both ABS and PLA are strong materials. However, PLA is stronger than ABS.

What is stronger than PLA for 3D printing?

Stronger than PLA include PETG, nylon, and polycarbonate.

Which 3D printing method is the strongest?

FDM 3D printing is the strongest 3D printing method.

What is the strongest material an Ender 3 can print?

The strongest material an Ender 3 can print is PETG.

Wonder what is the best 3D printing infill pattern, read the article

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