What Is A 3D Printer Filament?

printing filament set

Have you ever wondered how a 3D printer can create intricate objects layer by layer? It all starts with the 3D printer filament. These filaments are the raw material that’s fed into the printer, enabling it to craft a wide range of designs.

In this post, we’ll explore the world of 3D printer filaments, discussing various types and their unique properties. Get ready to unlock the full potential of your 3D printer!

Understanding the 3D Printer Filament

A 3D printer filament is a thermoplastic material that’s heated and extruded through the printer’s extruder nozzle. The melted filament is deposited layer by layer to create a three-dimensional object.

Filaments are available in a variety of materials, each with its own unique properties, making them suitable for different applications.

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

These two methods are often used interchangeably, but did you know that they are essentially the same process? It all comes down to branding.

FDM is a trademarked term by Stratasys, a leading 3D printing company. FFF, on the other hand, is a more generic term. Despite the name difference, both processes use the same approach to create 3D-printed objects.

Now, let’s imagine that you’re a sculptor, skillfully crafting a three-dimensional object by depositing layer upon layer of material. In FFF and FDM 3D printing, the “material” is a thermoplastic filament, which is heated, extruded through a nozzle, and then deposited layer by layer onto a build platform.

This method allows for the creation of intricate, detailed objects that would be challenging to achieve through traditional manufacturing processes.

Moreover, to truly harness the power of FFF/FDM 3D printing, it’s essential to understand the importance of precision and patience.

Popular 3D Printer Filament Types

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

ABS filament is a strong and durable 3D printer filament that’s widely used in the industry. It’s known for its impact resistance, making it ideal for functional parts and prototypes.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene has a high melting point, so it requires a heated bed to prevent warping during printing. However, ABS filament emits fumes during printing, so proper ventilation is necessary.

Polylactic Acid (PLA)

PLA is a biodegradable filament derived from renewable resources like corn starch. It’s popular among hobbyists due to its ease of use, low print temperature, and minimal warping.

PLA filament offers a wide range of colors and finishes, including translucent and glow-in-the-dark options. Although PLA is more brittle than ABS, it’s suitable for decorative items and non-functional prototypes.

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU)

Aka the flexible filaments, due to their elasticity and resistance to abrasion. TPU filament is ideal for creating items like phone cases, hinges, and wearable devices.

The flexible filaments are challenging to use due to their delicate nature; therefore, it’s essential to fine-tune your printer settings and use a slower print speed.

Thermoplastic polyurethane filaments can come in various degrees of flexibility, often measured in Shore hardness, with lower values indicating softer and more flexible materials.

Specialty 3D Printer Filaments

Carbon Fiber and Glass Fiber Filaments

Carbon fiber and glass fiber filaments are composite materials that blend standard thermoplastic filaments with glass or carbon fiber.

The composite materials offer improved tensile strength, stiffness, and dimensional stability compared to their base materials.

Filament made from glass and carbon fiber is excellent for 3D printing sturdy and rigid things like drone frames and vehicle parts.

Metal Filaments

Metal filaments combine plastic with metal powder, creating a filament that can be printed using a standard 3D printer.

After printing, the object can be sanded and polished to reveal a metallic finish. Metal filaments are used for creating jewelry, sculptures, and decorative items with a metallic appearance.

Wood Filaments

Wood filaments blend PLA or another thermoplastic material with wood fibers, creating a filament that resembles real wood.

The printed objects can be sanded and stained just like genuine wood, making them perfect for creating wooden-looking items such as furniture, sculptures, or picture frames.

Tips for Successful 3D Printing with Different Filament Types

To achieve the best results when printing with various filaments, follow these tips:

Adjust the mechanical properties: Each filament type may require different print settings, such as temperature, print speed, and cooling. Consult the filament manufacturer’s recommendations and fine-tune your settings for optimal results.

Use the right support materials: Some prints require support material to ensure proper structure and prevent sagging. Depending on the filament type, you may need to use a soluble support material like polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) or a breakaway support material that’s removed manually after printing.

Optimize bed adhesion: To prevent prints from detaching during printing, ensure proper bed adhesion. Use a heated bed for materials like ABS and PETG, apply a bed adhesive like a glue stick or painter’s tape, and level the print bed before starting your print.

Handling the 3D Printing

Just as a superhero must learn to harness their abilities wisely, so too must you exercise caution when working with 3D printer filament.

In this section, we’ll walk you through some key precautionary measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable 3D printing experience.

  • Know your filament: Before diving into a new project, take the time to research the specific type of filament you’ll be using. Each material has its unique properties, such as melting points and potential health risks.
  • Ventilation is key: When 3D printer filaments melt, they can release fumes that may be harmful if inhaled in large quantities or over extended periods. Opening windows or using exhaust fans are simple but effective ways to maintain good air circulation.
  • Keep it clean: Regular maintenance is crucial to both the safety and performance of your 3D printer. Be sure to clean the extruder nozzle and build plate regularly to prevent filament jams or other issues that could lead to accidents.

Applications of 3D Printer Filaments

From custom-made prosthetics to intricate architectural models and even edible culinary masterpieces, 3D printer filaments create endless possibilities. They bring out the incredible world of innovation and design.


One of the most heartwarming applications of 3D printer filaments lies in the realm of healthcare. Imagine a young child, born without a hand, who has always struggled to perform everyday tasks that we often take for granted.

Imagine the joy on her face as she receives a custom-made, 3D-printed prosthetic hand, designed specifically to fit her unique anatomy.

This life-changing gift is made possible by the affordability, customization, and versatility of 3D printer filaments, allowing medical professionals to create tailor-made solutions that enhance the quality of life for countless individuals.

Construction and Architecture

Another fascinating application of 3D printer filaments can be found in the construction industry.

Architects and designers are harnessing the power of 3D printing to create intricate scale models of buildings, bridges, and cityscapes, providing a tangible representation of their creative visions.

These models not only serve as impressive visual aids for presentations but also help identify potential design flaws before construction begins.

As 3D printing technology advances, we may even see entire structures being built layer by layer using large-scale 3D printers and specialized construction materials.

Arts and Crafts

But the applications of 3D printer filaments aren’t limited to serious endeavors alone. In fact, some of the most delightful uses can be found in the world of arts and crafts.

With the help of 3D printing, artists and hobbyists alike can create stunning sculptures, jewelry, and home decor items that showcase their unique talents and personal styles.

The ability to combine different filament materials, colors, and textures enables the creation of truly one-of-a-kind pieces that captivate the eye and spark the imagination.

Revolutionizing Traditional Teaching Methods

Education, too, has been revolutionized by the power of 3D printer filaments. Teachers can now bring complex concepts to life by creating engaging, hands-on learning aids.

From visualizing molecular structures to exploring the inner workings of machines, students can now interact with physical models that foster a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Additionally, by giving students the opportunity to design and print their own 3D creations, teachers may help kids develop their creative and problem-solving skills.

Edible Artworks

Finally, let’s venture into the mouthwatering world of culinary arts. With the emergence of food-safe 3D printer filaments, such as those made from chocolate or sugar, chefs and bakers can now create edible works of art that are as delicious as they are beautiful.

From intricate cake toppers to personalized candies, 3D-printed treats are sure to impress and delight guests at any event.

Using 3D Printer Filaments For Your Printing Needs

By understanding the various types of 3D printer filaments and their unique properties, you can unlock the full potential of your 3D printer and create stunning, high-quality prints.
The world of 3D printing provides limitless opportunities for creativity and invention, regardless of your level of expertise. So go ahead and explore the fascinating realm of 3D printer filaments.