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3 considerations for choosing 3D printer filament

Filament

The filament is a crucial component of any 3D printing project. These are three considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right filament.

The world of 3D printing is quite fascinating, but it certainly has its pitfalls - like selecting the wrong materials. To help you make the right choice, we've put together this guide to three key factors in choosing the right filament for your next project.

Size
One of the most important determining factors in choosing filament is the size, particularly the diameter. This must fit with your printer's nozzle in order to avoid issues with jamming. Most available filaments are either 1.75 mm or 2.85 mm in diameter, which fit the majority of printers on the market. Check your printer's documentation to ensure you're choosing the right size.
When researching different filament suppliers, it's important to look into their tolerance and roundness specifications - key size qualities that help indicate the filament's quality. The tolerance is a measurement of how much larger or smaller the filament's diameter can be from the indicated size at any given point. Roundness, expressed as a percentage or a measurement of deviation, shows how consistent the filament's shape is. Always make sure to check for tolerance and roundness measurements to ensure you're purchasing quality materials. Ultimaker and FormFutura, for example, both make 2.85 mm ABS filament with a tolerance of 0.1 mm and a roundness of .1 mm and >95%, respectively.

Material
The biggest determining factor in how a printed design will look and function is the filament material you use. Much like size, the material you choose must be compatible with your printer. There are some of the most common filament materials available.

  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): A cheap and durable thermoplastic that produces lightweight and slightly flexible structures. This material requires high printing temperatures and a heated bed. It also produces strong fumes.
  • CPE (co-polyester) or PET (PolyEthylene Terephthalate): Stronger and more flexible than ABS, this material is easy to work with and recyclable. It is made from the same plastic as disposable water bottles.
  • Nylon: This filament is more durable than ABS and PLA. It is a flexible, lightweight and cost-effective option.
  • PLA (Polylactic acid): This biodegradable thermoplastic is made up of renewable materials like sugarcane and corn starch. PLA is a good choice for users that want an environmentally friendly filament. This filament also avoids the odour found in ABS.
  • PVA (Polyvinyl alcohol) - This filament is primarily used in conjunction with PLA or ABS in dual extrusion printers. Many designs require support structures in place for a successful print job. A dual extrusion printer will print these support structures from PVA while printing the main design from PLA or ABS at the same time. When the printing is complete, the support can be removed. PVA dissolves in water, meaning it can be easily separated from a finished design.

This chart provides a quick guide to the filament materials that work with 3D printers available from Redstack.

Printer Filament Diameter Supported Materials
Ultimaker 2+ 2.85mm ABS, CPE, PLA
Ultimaker 2+ Extended 2.85mm ABS, PLA, U-PET
Ultimaker 2 Go 2.85mm PLA
Ultimaker 3 Dual Extrusion 2.85mm ABS, CPE, Nylon, PLA, PVA
Ultimaker 3 Extended Dual Extrusion 2.85mm ABS, CPE, Nylon, PLA, PVA
Formlabs Form 2 SLA Printer   Formlabs Resin
MakerBot Replicator z18 1.75mm PLA
MakerBot Replicator 2 1.75mm PLA
MakerBot Replicator Mini 1.75mm PLA


Brand

FormFutura
Once you've figured out what size and material type you're looking for, you have to choose the right manufacturer. That's a crowded field, so the choice can seem daunting. The Ultimaker, MakerBot and FormFutura filaments are all available from the Redstack eStore.  Redstack strongly recommend the 3D printer filament options from FormFutura out of the Netherlands. We thoroughly test the available filament options and have found the FormFutura filaments deliver exceptional quality and value for money.

In addition to the standard 1.75mm and 2.85mm PLA and ABS filaments in a range of of colours, Redstack also offer the FormFutura CarbonFil, EasyWood and FlexFil specialty filaments, for example:

Selecting the right filament can be a challenge, but the team at Redstack is here to help. For more information about 3D printing needs - from the hardware and supplies to the modelling software - get in touch with Redstack today or browse the full range of 3D printer filament at our online store.

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