How to choose the best filament

How can we know which is the best filament for our 3D printer or for the piece that we want to realize? The main thing is to know in advance the different properties of each material. And then experiment!


Let ‘s start with the ABS .  His full name is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and is considered the grandfather of the filaments of FDM.

temperature :

The ABS is printed at 210 ° – 240 ° C. The warm bed should be at 80 ° C or exceed that temperature.

It is important to know that ABS begins to soften to 105 ° C. Therefore, it must be taken into account that the place to which the object is destined does not reach or exceed this temperature. If so, it would lose rigidity and could even lose its shape.

performance :

The ABS behaves very well during extrusion, because it leaves without inconvenience of most of the nozzles without forming lumps or clogging. However, once extruded its behavior changes and can bring us complications, since it usually shrinks when cooling. If the piece is shrinking as we print it can break or take off the layers, especially if the object is very large. With ABS it is always essential to work with a 3D hot bed printer and preferably with side walls. This ensures the ideal constant temperature for this material. Another aspect to consider is that the environment in which the machine is located is not too cold or drafty.

As for the speed of printing, the ABS can be printed at high speed.

resistance :

ABS is a strong plastic if it is printed at a temperature sufficient to obtain a good bonding of the layers. It has enough flexibility and when exposed to pressure tends to bend or stretch instead of breaking.

vapors :

A disadvantage of printing with ABS is that it gives off a strong odor. It usually does not bring problems, but some sensitive people may feel irritation if the space is not ventilated.

When to use :

Generally speaking the ABS is very efficient for most uses. It is useful for objects that are going to be hit or are going to fall. Also for parts that will be in hot environments (as long as they do not exceed 100 ° C). For example, cutlery handles, parts of cars or machines, cell phone covers, toys, bijouterie …

When not to use :

Restrictions on the use of ABS do not apply to objects but to the machine and the environment. If the 3D printer is not a hot bed and if the space can not be vented to avoid the accumulation of vapors, it is not possible to use ABS.


Let’s take a look at the PLA, whose scientific name is Lactic Polyacid. According to Isaac Powell, a filament expert, PLA is “the hippy cousin with good ABS smell”. Why is this definition? Because it is biodegradable and smells like caramel when it is printed.


The PLA is printed at 180 ° – 200 ° C. It can be used without a warm bed, although it is advisable to use one that reaches 60 ° C.

The biggest disadvantage of this material is that it begins to soften at 60 ° C, which greatly limits the fate of printed parts.

performance :

Unlike ABS, the PLA gets stuck in the nozzle frequently. The reason is that it is sticky and tends to expand. But that should not discourage us. It is solved by putting a drop of oil in the nozzle when loading the filament roll. This gives a fluid free extrusion of jams.

The “fun” with the PLA begins when you get to bed. It hardly shrinks. Large pieces can be printed on open machines without the risk of them falling out of bed or breaking. It is the ideal material to show the printing process in public or educational exhibitions. It also gives off a sweet smell!

resistance :

Although it allows to print very strong objects, the PLA is a bit more brittle than other plastics. When it falls it does not bounce but splits or splinters. And the thin parts can be detached when a blow is received.

However, if it is well printed the adhesion between the layers is very good.

vapors :

This filament does not give off so many vapors and its smell is not unpleasant.

When to use :

Whenever possible! It is a bioplastic that can be recycled or composted. It is perfect for boxes, gifts, models, prototypes … Ah, and can be used for exteriors, because biodegradation requires a heat process and is not soluble in water. Who is encouraged to print a garden gnome?

When not to use :

If we are going to use the printed part in a hot place at 60 ° C or more, we must avoid the PLA filament. On the other hand, due to its greater fragility is not recommended for tool handles. Neither for objects with small elements or that will receive blows or falls.

conclusion :

It pays to learn to print with both filaments. Both ABS and PLA have ideal situations of use based on the characteristics of the material. Knowing their particularities and own experience will allow us to determine which is the best in each case.

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