What material should you use in your 3D print?

Weather you are looking to buy a 3D printed item from us, or if you're going to print something yourself, the choice of material is as important as choosing the right size pair of shoes. There are many factors at play when making design considerations related to materials. In the 3D print world there are endless varieties of filaments (the industry term describing 3D print material). I wont cover all of them here, but I will talk about the most common choices- and likely the options you will see available here at Nard Design when purchasing one of our products.

As you read this, remember that at Nard we make sure to only offer products that will function for most people's uses for the product we are making. We also have systems in place to ensure that our products are safe and ready for their intended use before they make it to our customers unless specifically noted in the item listing or installation guide.

PLA: this is by far the most common flavor of filament. It has many favorable properties when it comes to 3D printing, mostly it's just the easiest material to print with. It's very strong, but can be brittle when it reaches failure. One of it's benefits for 3D printing is that it extrudes at a low temperature, but this also can be a detriment in real world applications because it deforms at low temperatures as well. Some colors of PLA are known to bleach out in UV light over extended periods, which should also be a consideration depending on the application. 

What it's good for:

  • most in home use
  • certain outdoor and automotive uses, depending on application

What it's not so good for:

  • High temp environments- places like on the dashboard of your car or under the hood.
  • Jobs where failure can cause significant damage to people and property
  • Long term sun exposure (depending on color)

PETG: This is one of my favorite materials. It isn't as hard as PLA so it will bend/deflect quite a bit before it fails completely. It extrudes at a higher temperature which makes it a little more difficult to print, but it also will withstand higher temps in the real world. That's not to say it will withstand any temp, just higher temps than PLA. I still would avoid using it under the hood of a car. It's also regarded as one of the most UV resistant filaments available. PETG is considered hygroscopic so, depending on how long ago it was printed, you may want to wait a while before use in a damp/wet environment to avoid any issues. Because of the time it spends in our inventory and shipping, it should be fine to throw right into use on a car, for instance. But I would give it a few days before trying to use it on a boat just to be safe. It does tend to produce "strings" and it is printed so you may notice that the final product isn't always as aesthetically pleasing as the PLA equivalent. Overall it's a good all around material.

What it's good for:

  • higher temperatures, places like a car interior.
  • Outdoor use with high UV exposure

What it's not so good for:

  • Really high temperatures, like under the hood of a car.
  • Moderately hygroscopic- sensitive to water (for a while)

ASA: This is the successor to ABS plastic, and is like PETG on steroids. Everything PETG does well, ASA does a little better. To the same affect it has most of the shortcomings of PETG, but to a more detrimental degree. More UV resistance, if you live in a harsh climate this is probably the right choice. ASA is more temperature resistant- in working conditions you can expect it to perform in environments up to 93 degrees c (200 f) which means that it would be a useable choice for under hood applications. It also means that it's more difficult to print. Like ABS, ASA is considered a high impact plastic. It is extremely strong. It is even more hygroscopic than PETG, which leads to more work to store and print on our end. Overall this is an amazing material but it is hard to work with so products produced in this will bare a higher cost. 

What it's good for:

  • High temps
  • outdoor use
  • high impact

What it's not so good for:

  • Hygroscopic
  • Higher cost

A quick note on additives: You may notice that we offer items produced with additives such as Carbon Fiber or Wood. Adding these gives dimensional stability to the filament which results in a better performing final product. If you see an item printed with an additive, that means it's going to be a good bit stronger and have a better chance of fitting together with other parts, if applicable.

There are still a lot of materials available on the market that I haven't covered here. This is just a list of materials that we print here at Nard Design. In the future, as we expand our products, I will update this list so you can make the best choice for your purchase!