3D Printing Materials
Author: Reem AL Jamel Category: Technology

Material science is as important as the 3D printer to the success of the 3D printing world. Its been a long time since 3D printing has graduated from its focal point of plastics only and are expanding to other materials like ceramic, titanium, and even chocolate. In some areas 3D printing has made tremendous leaps to create new  materials that are created exclusively for 3D printing. In my never ending passion to learn more about the 3D Printing Materials world, I’ve put together a list of materials.

Plastic Filament

Plastic Filament

Plastic is the most common material used in 3D printing because of its low cost and it’s easy to use, it’s also the easiest to melt and can solidify at low temperatures. Two common 3D printable plastics are ABS and PLA.


Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)

ABS 3D Model

ABS is rigid plastic produced from petroleum. ABS plastic is less crumbly comparing it to other plastics like PLA. It requires higher extruder temperature. A heated printing surface is recommended to prevent warping of the 3D printed material. While printing ABS,  there is usually a smell of hot plastic. It’s better to store ABS spool in an airtight container because ABS moisture magnet that could lead to breakage in the build. ABS is the cheapest material. However, it is not recyclable and is known not to be environmentally friendly. ABS plastic is available in many colors.


PLA Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA, Poly)

PLA Model

PLA is biodegradable plastic material. It’s made from renewable resources such as cornstarch, sugar cane, tapioca roots, or potato starch, which makes it the most environmentally friendly 3D printing material. Just like ABS,  It’s commonly used desktop 3D printing material. PLA doesn’t need a heated bed, unlike ABS. It’s odorless and has less warping issues. It’s offered in many colors.It can also be recycled.
(check out: Speed modeling of Kylo Ren)


Flexible Plastic (TPE)

Flexible Plastic Model

Polyethylene terephthalate material has the same printability of ABS and PLA but with more flexibility. The filament is transparent, lightweight, stiff and impact resistant. The material is commonly used in the production of automotive parts, household appliances, medical supplies and smart phone covers.


Nylon (Polyamide)

Nylon 3D Model

Polyamide is biocompatible plastic material. It’s made from renewable resources such as cornstarch. It’s very strong, durable and flexible. Nylon is less crumbly and stronger than ABS and PLA.  It can be used to make models that will be in contact with food. It has a slight smell but not as strong as the smell of ABS. The nylon material must be dried before printing and to prevent warping, printing on cardboard is necessary.


Glow in the Dark Plastic

Glow in the Dark Filament

Glow in the dark plastic is available as PLA and ABS filaments. The filament is made with phosphorus dye, the same material that’s used to make sticky star and glowsticks. 3D printing with glow filament is the same as printing standard PLA or ABS.


Wood Filament

Wood 3D Models

Wood filament is similar to PLA and can be printed between 175 ºC and 250 ºC. The final object will look and smell like wood. Just like wood, the final object can be cut and painted.



Copper Filament

Copper 3D Model

Copper filament is printed with a desktop 3D printer. It’s similar to printing with actual copper but much easier. The weight of the material is three times heavier than regular PLA filament. Copper filament will print on both heated and non-heated build platforms. The material has no warping issues.



Powder - 3d printing materials

Using powder to 3D print is popular but usually used in a larger company space because of the size of the machines and it requires special handling techniques.


Full-Color Sandstone

Sandstone 3D Model

One of the few materials that offer full-color capabilities. It works by laying down thin layers of powder and selectively binding this powder together to produce solid parts. The final product is a hard, brittle material that is great for figurines, visual models, and life-like models. the material doesn’t work well for any model that has a hanging structure since it’s likely to break easily. Also, not best suited for models that will be used for daily handling nor to functional parts. Models made with full-color sandstone are not recyclable, not food safe and will fade if it’s exposed to water. The material is heatproof to 60 ºC/140 ºF degrees.

Strong and Flexible Plastic

Strong & Flexible Plastic Model

Strong and flexible plastic is printed with nylon powder. It is very flexible, it can be used to make iphone cases and jewelry. It’s is not recyclable and it’s not food-safe. The material is heatproof to 80 ºC/176 ºF degrees.

Porcelain Ceramic

Porcelain 3D Model

Porcelain is a unique material. Porcelain is printed with ceramic powder using  the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technique. Firing and glazing technique are used to produce the final products. Porcelain is food, dishwasher, and oven safe. The material is recyclable and very heat resistant.

Metallic Plastic (Alumide)

Metallic Plastic 3D Model

Alumide is printed using selective laser sintering (SLS). Products printed in alumide are a mix of polyamide powder and fine aluminum particles. The material is strong but crumbly and usually used to make jewelry. Metallic plastic is heatproof to 78 C/172 degrees



Resin 3D ModelsClear Resin
Resin is a liquid material, Stereolithography (SLA) and Digital Light Processing (DLP) processes uses resin. It is used to create complex and solid forms that are incredibly detailed with a smooth surface in white, black or transparent colors. The items are printed upside-down as it rises out of the liquid.


Formlabs created new functional prototyping resin for Engineers.

Tough Resin

This resin can make functional prototyping and tolerates high stress and strain

High Temp Resin

This resin is used to make application that needs to resist higher temperature

Flexible Resin

This resin can make parts that are able to bend and compress.


This resin is for making prototyping consumer products and has a nice smooth and glossy finish



Metal Powder - 3D Printing Materials


Brass, Bronze, Platinum, Silver and Gold

3D Model Metal

Brass, bronze, silver and gold are printed the same way. The model is printed in wax then to solidify into a mold, a liquid plaster is poured and then the metal object is cast and polished. This material is suitable for sculptures, jewelry, and functional mechanical parts.



Steel 3D Model

Steel is printed by depositing a liquid binder onto steel powder then infused with bronze. The material is very strong. The material is suitable for very large objects, jewelry, spare parts, full functional parts. It’s not food-safe and not recyclable. The material is heatproof to 831 ºC/1528 ºF.



Aluminum 3D Model

Products are printed with aluminum powder using the selective laser melting
process. The material is very strong and it’s used to make tools, gadgets and
sports equipment.


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