The Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing Materials

3D printing filaments
3D printing filaments

3D printing is rapidly evolving. As a result, there are now more choices than ever before when it comes to 3D printing materials. This can be both good and bad news; on the one hand, it means more options for your project, but on the other hand, it can overwhelm trying to figure out which material to use. So, how do you know what’s best for your project?

In this guide to 3D printing materials, we’re going to take a look at some of the most popular options, their benefits and drawbacks, and when they are best suited for use.

About 3D Printing Technology

3D printing takes a digital file and transforms it into a physical object. This process is also known as additive manufacturing, since it builds an object by adding material layer-by-layer

3D printing technology has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, mostly due to its ability to quickly print objects. It will also easily create a one-of-a-kind product affordably and without requiring lengthy processes.

Manufacturers and other businesses are, therefore, using 3D printing to create prototypes, end-use products, and even entire buildings. To achieve the best results for those undertakings, the right types of 3D printing materials must be used – and there are plenty of these to choose from.

3D printing materials in powder form
3D printing materials in powder form

3D Printing Materials

The range of materials for 3D printing is very broad. With that in mind, we will be taking a look at the main material types, their properties and other useful information about them, such as best applications. This will help you in your decision-making process. The different types of 3D printing materials include the following.

  • Plastics
  • Metals
  • Resins
  • Others (Composites, ceramics, glass, concrete, food etc.)

This list of 3D printing materials is explained in more detail below.

3D Printing Plastics

These are by far the most used 3D printing material types. This is largely due to the fact that they are relatively inexpensive and easy to work with. In addition, plastics are lightweight and have a wide range of applications.

The two major categories of plastic for 3D printing are thermoplastics and thermosets. And while you can melt and reform thermoplastics multiple times, with only a slight change, thermosets will set once they have been heated and cannot be recycled.

As a result, thermoplastics are generally more versatile and easier to work with. The most popular 3D printing plastic materials, and that you may want to use for your project, are listed below:

  • ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) – this is a strong, impact-resistant material. ABS 3D printing is mostly used for prototyping and end-use products.
  • Polycarbonate – a strong, heat-resistant plastic. Polycarbonate 3D printing is ideal for applications that require durability.
  • PLA (poly lactic acid) – a biodegradable plastic made from renewable resources that is becoming increasingly popular for 3D printing concept models as well as prototypes.
  • PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) – Because it’s soluble in water, PVA is usually utilized as a support material.
  • HIPS (high-impact polystyrene) – a tough, impact-resistant plastic often used as a support material in 3D printing, since it can dissolve in a chemical called limonene.
  • PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol) – a strong, durable plastic that is easy to print with and doesn’t require a heated bed. Used in a wide range of applications, from food packaging (some grades are food-safe) to 3D printed prototypes.
  • Nylon – a versatile, strong plastic that can be used for a wide range of 3D printing applications. Nylon is often used for end-use products that must be able to resist wear as well as for functional prototypes.
  • TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) – a flexible material that is perfect for applications that require shock absorption or flexibility such as flexible prototypes and a variety of medical devices.

3D Printing Metal

While plastic is the most popular material used for 3D printing, there are some applications where metal is a better choice. That’s because metal 3D-printed objects tend to be stronger and more durable than those made from plastic. The most popular types of metals for 3D printing include:

  • Steel – offers a good balance of strength and ductility, among other properties. Steel is mostly used to print tools, fixtures, and other objects that need to be strong and tough.
  • Titanium – one of the strongest metals available, but also expensive. Used for 3D printing aerospace parts and other high-strength applications.
  • Aluminum – a lightweight metal that is often used for prototyping since it is easy to work with.
  • Copper – known for its conductivity, copper is often used for 3D printing electrical components.
  • Gold – mostly used for 3D printing jewelry and other decorative objects.

3D Printing Resins

Resin is one of the 3D printing raw materials on the market and it is quickly becoming more popular. Resin 3D printing is a type of photopolymerization, where light is used to solidify liquid resin into a solid object.

The main advantage of resins is that they can produce very high-quality prints with smooth surfaces and fine details. The most popular types of 3D printing resins are listed below:

  • Standard Resin – this is the most common type of resin. It has a wide range of applications but mostly generic uses where higher levels of mechanical properties are not necessary.
  • Flexible Resin – A flexible resin that is perfect for applications that require some flexibility such as damping parts or bendable packaging.
  • Dental Resin – A resin that is perfect for applications in the dental industry such as custom braces or crowns, Invisalign retainers, and dentures.
  • Castable Resin – this is a type of resin that can be used cast metal into jewelry, sculptures, and other objects in very high detail.
  • Food-Safe Resin – a food-safe 3D printing resin that you can use to create 3D-printed food containers and kitchen utensils.

Other 3D Printing Materials

As mentioned at the outset, the range of 3D printing materials used in the manufacturing industry is quite wide. New materials are also being developed all the time. Other less common (but useful in their own way) materials include the following:

3D Printing Composites

Composite materials are those that combine two or more different types of material to create a new one with specific characteristics. In the case of 3D printing, composite materials include ABS plastic (or other plastic) combined with carbon fiber, Kevlar, or other strong fibers.

These are often used to create things like drone parts and other items that need to be both strong and lightweight. That’s because fiber-reinforced plastics are often both stronger and lighter than solid plastics.

3D Printing Ceramics

While not as popular as other materials, ceramics are starting to gain traction in the world of 3D printing. That’s because ceramic 3D prints tend to be very strong and heat-resistant.

The most popular type of ceramic 3D printing material is called zirconia, which is a strong and durable material that can withstand high temperatures. Other types of ceramics that are occasionally used for 3D printing include alumina and silicon carbide.

3D Printing Glass

Glass can also be 3D printed. Glass 3D printing is usually done using a process called fused deposition modeling (FDM), where the glass is heated and extruded through a nozzle to create the desired shape.

The advantage of glass is that it allows for the creation of complex shapes that would be difficult or impossible to create using traditional manufacturing methods. However, glass 3D printing is still a relatively new technology that’s currently undergoing research.

3D Printing Concrete

Concrete is another material that can be 3D printed. It’s often used to create large structures such as homes and buildings. This is a good example of the use of 3D printing for construction.

One of the most popular types of concrete 3D printing is called contour crafting. This is a process where concrete is extruded through a nozzle to create the required design in layers.

3D Printing Wood

Wood is yet another material that can be 3D printed. However, it’s usually not used as the sole material. Rather, it’s mixed with other materials such as plastic or other binders to create a composite material.

The advantage of wood 3D printing is that it allows users to print complex shapes and structures. It also offers improved visual appeal and biodegradability among other benefits.

3D Printing Foods

Surprising as it may sound, food can also be 3D printed. This is usually done using a process called extrusion. In this process, the food material is extruded through a nozzle to create the desired shape.

3D-printed food has a number of advantages. First, it allows for the creation of custom food shapes. Second, it can be used to create food with specific nutritional content. And third, it can be used to create food that is safe for people with allergies.

3D printing material price varies by material type
3D printing material price varies by material type

How much Do 3D Printing Materials Cost?

The price you pay for 3D printing materials will differ depending on the category of material, who manufactured it, and how high-quality it is. Additional factors can also play a role in cost of 3D printing materials.

In general, however, most 3D printing materials will set you back anywhere from $10 to $100 per kilogram. Metals are one example of a material that may cost considerably more.

Liquid resin will also cost more than filament, with prices starting at around $50 per liter compared to that of filament, which can start at around $20 per kilogram.

The best way to get an accurate estimate of the price of 3D printing material is to contact a few different suppliers and ask for quotes.

You can also check online forums and review sites to see what other users are paying for their 3D printing materials.


As you can see, there is a 3D printing material for just about every application imaginable. And while some of the mentioned materials are still under development, others are already in wide use and continually being improved upon.

The best way to find the right material for your project is to consult with a professional 3D printing service. That way, you can be sure that you are using the best possible material for your specific needs –and that your project will turn out exactly as you imagined.

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