3d printing plastics

Different Types of Plastics Used In 3D Printing

In this discussion, you’ll explore the fascinating world of 3D printing and discover the diverse range of plastics used in this innovative process. Plastic is the go-to material for 3D printing due to its versatility and affordability. You’ll delve into the different types of plastics, including Polylactic Acid (PLA), Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic (PVA), and Polycarbonate (PC).

Each plastic offers unique properties that enable the production of a wide variety of products. So let’s dive in and uncover the possibilities that these plastics bring to 3D printing!

Plastic as the Common Raw Material for 3D Printing

Plastic is the most commonly used raw material in 3D printing. Its widespread use can be attributed to several advantages. Firstly, plastic offers a wide range of applications in 3D printing, allowing for the production of diverse products such as toys, household fixtures, and vases.

Additionally, different types of plastic materials exhibit various properties, enabling users to choose the most suitable material for their specific needs. Comparing the properties of different plastic materials for 3D printing allows for customization and optimization to achieve desired characteristics such as strength and flexibility.

In terms of environmental impact, plastic in 3D printing can have both positive and negative implications. On one hand, using plastic reduces waste as it enables precise production with minimal material usage. However, it is essential to consider proper disposal and recycling methods to minimize any negative environmental effects.

Moreover, cost effectiveness is another advantage of using plastic in 3D printing. Plastic materials are generally more affordable compared to other raw materials like metals or ceramics. This makes them accessible not only for businesses but also for individual customers who want to explore the possibilities of 3D printing.

Overall, utilizing plastic as a raw material in 3D printing offers numerous advantages including versatility in applications, customizable properties based on material selection, potential reduction in waste generation when properly managed, and cost effectiveness that caters to a wide range of users.

Polylactic Acid (PLA

PLA, derived from natural products like sugar cane and corn starch, is an eco-friendly option commonly used in 3D printing. Here are some key points to help you understand the advantages of PLA and its various applications:

Advantages of PLA


PLA is biodegradable and made from renewable resources, making it a sustainable choice.

Easy to print

PLA has a low melting point, which means it requires lower extruder temperatures and less energy during printing.

Minimal warping

Compared to other materials like ABS, PLA has minimal warping or shrinking when cooling down after printing.

Safe to use

PLA does not emit harmful fumes or odors during the printing process.



While ABS is known for its strength, PLA can still provide sufficient structural integrity for many applications.

Ease of use

Printing with PLA is generally easier than with ABS due to its lower printing temperature and reduced risk of warping.

3. PLA printing tips

Bed adhesion

Use a heated bed or apply adhesive such as glue stick or painter’s tape to ensure better adhesion between the printed object and the build plate.

Cooling fan

Enable the cooling fan in your printer settings to improve print quality by quickly solidifying layers.

PLA applications:


Due to its ease of use and wide range of available colors, PLA is commonly used for prototyping new designs.

Educational purposes

Its safety, environmental friendliness, and vibrant colors make it popular for educational projects.

Household items

From decorative objects to kitchen utensils, PLA can be used for creating functional items at home.

With these insights into the world of PLA filament types, you are now equipped with knowledge about this eco-friendly material’s advantages, comparison with ABS, useful tips for successful prints using PLAs, and its various applications. So go ahead and explore the possibilities of PLA in your 3D printing endeavors!

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS

When using ABS in your 3D printing process, you’ll find that it offers safety, durability, and a wide range of vibrant colors to choose from. ABS, or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is commonly used for home-based 3D printers due to its excellent properties.

ABS contains filaments similar to pasta, giving it strength and flexibility. This makes it ideal for manufacturing stickers, toys, vases, and jewelry. Compared to other plastics used in 3D printing, ABS stands out with its high impact resistance and thermal stability. It can withstand higher temperatures without deforming or melting, allowing for the creation of functional parts that require strength and durability.

ABS filament options are readily available in the market with various diameters and colors to suit different printing needs. When printing with ABS filament, it is important to note a few tips for optimal results. First, ensure that your printer’s heated bed is set at the appropriate temperature (around 100-110°C) to prevent warping during the printing process. Additionally, using an enclosure or enclosing your print area can help maintain a stable temperature environment while printing with ABS.

Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic (PVA

PVA is a water-soluble plastic that is commonly used to produce support structures for collapsible products in 3D printing. Here are some important points about PVA and its applications:

PVA applications

PVA is primarily used as a support material in 3D printing. It provides temporary structural support during the printing process and can be easily dissolved afterwards, leaving behind the final printed object.

PVA dissolution process

Unlike other plastics used in 3D printing, PVA can be dissolved in water. This makes it convenient for removing support structures without damaging the printed object. Simply soaking the printed part in water will dissolve the PVA supports.

PVA support structures

When using multiple extruders or dual-extrusion printers, PVA can be utilized to create intricate and complex support structures that are difficult to achieve with other materials. Its solubility allows for easy removal of these supports without leaving any residue behind.

PVA compatibility with different printers

While not all 3D printers are compatible with PVA, there are many models available that have dual-extrusion capabilities specifically designed for working with soluble materials like PVA.

Advantages of using PVA include its ability to create complex support structures, easy dissolution process, and compatibility with certain 3D printers. However, it also has some disadvantages such as limited printer compatibility and higher cost compared to other filament materials. Nonetheless, when used correctly, PVA can be a valuable tool in achieving high-quality prints with intricate designs and overhangs.

Polycarbonate (PC

Polycarbonate, though not commonly used in the 3D printing industry, requires specific printers with suitable nozzle designs and high-temperature capabilities. However, there are advantages to using polycarbonate in 3D printing. Polycarbonate is known for its excellent mechanical properties, including high impact resistance, strength, and durability. These properties make it suitable for a wide range of applications in various industries such as automotive, aerospace, electronics, and consumer goods.

Compared to other plastic materials used in 3D printing, polycarbonate offers superior heat resistance and can withstand temperatures up to 150 degrees Celsius without deforming or losing its structural integrity. This makes it ideal for functional prototypes or end-use parts that require high-temperature resistance.

One challenge of printing with polycarbonate is its tendency to warp during the cooling process due to its high shrinkage rate. To overcome this challenge, it is important to use a heated build plate and an enclosed chamber to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the printing process.

To achieve successful 3D prints with polycarbonate, here are some tips:

1. Use a printer specifically designed for polycarbonate with a heated build plate.
2. Ensure proper bed adhesion by using an adhesive like glue stick or Kapton tape.
3. Print at higher temperatures (around 250-270 degrees Celsius) to prevent warping.
4. Consider using a brim or raft for better bed adhesion and stability.
5. Optimize your print settings by adjusting layer height and print speed based on your desired outcome.


Resin, a liquid polymer that is UV sensitive, is used in Figure 4 and Stereolithography (SLA) technologies for 3D printing. Here are some key points about resin:

Resin Properties

  • Resins can have properties similar to ABS, Polypropylene, or elastomers.
  • They are hardened layer by layer using a laser or projector image.
  • The final product requires post-curing in a UV curing unit for optimal results.

Resin Applications

– Resins are widely used in entry-level industrial technologies and SLA processes.
– They are suitable for creating functional prototypes and appearance models.
– Resins can be customized and optimized for specific applications.

Resin Advantages

– 3D printing with resin allows for the production of complex geometries and lightweight designs.
– It offers faster time-to-market for plastic production parts compared to traditional manufacturing methods.
– Resins provide flexibility and customization options for prototyping.

Resin Limitations

– The cost of resin materials can be higher than other types of plastics used in 3D printing.
– Post-processing steps like post-curing are required to achieve desired mechanical properties.

When it comes to resin manufacturers, there are several notable companies in the industry such as Formlabs, Carbon Inc., EnvisionTEC, Stratasys Ltd., and 3D Systems. These manufacturers offer a wide range of resins with different properties and characteristics to meet various application needs in the world of 3D printing.

Production-Grade Nylons

Moving on from resin, let’s delve into the world of production-grade nylons in 3D printing. Production-grade nylons are widely used in Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology to create tough and durable parts for various applications. These nylons offer a full range of capabilities and exhibit isotropic properties, making them suitable for aerospace components and low volume production.

One key advantage of production-grade nylons is their high temperature resistance. They can withstand elevated temperatures without compromising their structural integrity, which is crucial for aerospace applications where components may be exposed to extreme heat.

Additionally, these nylons possess excellent material properties such as high impact strength and high elongation. This combination of toughness and flexibility allows for the creation of complex geometries that can withstand demanding environments.

Moreover, production-grade nylons exhibit isotropic properties, meaning they have consistent material characteristics in all directions. This uniformity enhances the stability and reliability of printed parts.

Investment Casting

The technology of investment casting allows for the production of customized metal components and low volume production through the use of 3D-printed wax or plastic patterns. Investment casting patterns, created using 3D printing techniques, offer numerous advantages in various industries including aerospace castings and bridge manufacturing. Here are four key benefits of investment casting:

Customized Metal Components

With investment casting, manufacturers have the flexibility to create complex geometries and intricate designs according to specific requirements. This enables the production of highly customized metal components that may not be achievable with traditional manufacturing methods.

Bridge Manufacturing

Investment casting patterns are ideal for bridge manufacturing, which involves producing small quantities of parts before transitioning to mass production. The ability to quickly produce accurate and high-quality patterns through 3D printing accelerates the bridge manufacturing process.

Low Volume Production

Investment casting is well-suited for low volume production runs where cost-effectiveness and efficiency are crucial factors. By utilizing 3D-printed wax or plastic patterns, manufacturers can achieve shorter lead times, reduce tooling costs, and streamline their production processes.

Aerospace Castings

The aerospace industry often requires complex and high-performance metal components that meet stringent quality standards. Investment casting provides a viable solution by enabling the creation of intricate shapes and thin-walled structures that are essential in aerospace applications.


Share the Post:

Related Posts

Looking For Something specific
Get Informed On latest in 3D printing Industry

Sign up for our fortnightly newsletter with the best in 3D inspirations.