What is the strongest 3D printing material? (2024)

What is the strongest 3D printing material? (1)

It won’t be an overstatement to say that most of you reading this article have often wondered ‘which 3D printing material is the strongest?’ It is surely an intriguing question. One that everyone wants to know the answer to. Whether you are a hobbyist or an expert, most of your projects need materials that are strong and tough. With this article, we aim to compare the toughest 3D printing materials and provide you with an answer.

But this also begs the question of what strength means for 3D printing materials?

What does ‘strong’ mean when it comes to 3D printing?

Well, strength in 3D printing materials can be defined in a number of ways. Some of them include hardness, impact resistance, compressive strength, and so on. However, two of the most commonly understood types of strength that most people care about are tensile strength and flexural strength. That is how much a material can be stretched and bent respectively. In the following overview, we will list the MegaPascal (MPa) of pressure that each material can endure. The higher these numbers, the ‘stronger’ the material when subjected to those particular stresses. The numbers we use are based on the technical datasheets for Ultimaker materials. Materials from other brands may vary.

Best FFF/FDM materials for printing strong parts

What is the strongest 3D printing material? (2)

For our comparison of the strongest 3D printing materials, we will be considering seven different materials. Namely, Polylactic Acid (PLA), Tough PLA, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polycarbonate (PC), glycol-modified polyethylene terephthalate (PET-G ), Nylon, and Polypropylene (PP). Which one is best for you depends on your needs, budget, and a number of other factors. Later in this article, we will discuss specific applications and which material may be best for them.

PLA filament

PLA, or polylactic acid, is a highly versatile and popular FDM 3D printing material. Its popularity stems from the fact that it is simple to print, easily available at low prices, and comes in a variety of colors. For that reason, it’s likely the first material most people will print with.

PLA is not usually chosen for its strength properties, due to the material being brittle. If you are printing on a budget, PLA can be appropriate in some cases but if your part needs to flex before breaking, you are usually better off using a different material.

PLA filament properties

Tensile Strength: 53-59 MPa
Flexural Strength: 97-101 MPa

Tough PLA filament

Tough PLA is a tougher version of regular PLA or Polylactic Acid. It combines the ease of printing that one can expect from PLA and takes away the main disadvantage of PLA: its brittleness. For this reason, it’s ideal for functional prototypes that need a bit of flex.

Tough PLA is not as brittle as regular PLA, it exhibits higher tensile strength than ABS, is easier to print than ABS, and is compatible with the water-soluble support material PVA.

Tough PLA filament properties

Tensile Strength: 45-48 MPa
Flexural Strength: 83-96 MPa

ABS filament

ABS, also known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, is a popular thermoplastic polymer. It is well-known for its impact, chemical, water, and heat resistance. It also has outstanding high and low-temperature performance, which makes it perfect for automotive components. ABS also has good electrical insulation properties, making it a good choice for the housing and casing of electrical parts.

Furthermore, ABS is comparatively cheaper than most materials and is relatively easy to post-process. As a result, it is an excellent material for mass production and is used in a wide range of common products. The fact that ABS is simple to post-process also means it can be bonded and painted.

ABS filament properties

Tensile Strength: 34-36 MPa
Flexural Strength: 60-61 MPa

Polycarbonate (PC) filament

Polycarbonate filament (PC) is a stiff thermoplastic polymer that is resistant to heat and chemicals. It is a high-strength material designed for use in harsh environments and technical applications. It has good heat deflection due to its high glass transition temperature and it is typically available in a version with improved impact resistance as well.

Polycarbonate filament has numerous applications in everyday life. Polycarbonate, unlike plexiglass, does not shatter. It bends and deforms similarly to hard rubber until it finally breaks. It also has excellent optical clarity.

Polycarbonate can be difficult to work with due to its high temperature resistance, meaning that warping can be an issue. Choosing the correct glue and avoiding sharp angles in your parts can help you print successfully with this material.

Polycarbonate filament properties

Tensile Strength: 43-65 MPa
Flexural Strength: 89-114 MPa

PETG filament

PETG, or Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol, is a thermoplastic polyester that has been chemically modified with the addition of Glycol to limit crystallization and improve toughness. The inclusion of glycol improves PET’s , durability and formability for production. It has a strong impact and abrasion resistance and can sustain higher temperatures compared to PLA.

Because of its excellent properties and relatively low price, PETG is commonly used in 3D printing. It is a good engineering-grade material that can be used in place of ABS. It also has less of a tendency to warp, which means it's easier to print accurate parts.

PETG filament properties

Tensile Strength: 38-44 MPa
Flexural Strength: 75-79MPa

Nylon filament

Nylon for 3D printing is commonly found in several forms: PA6 and PA6/66, which are stiffer versions of Nylon, and PA 12, which is a flexible type of Nylon. Nylon has helpful qualities that make it an appealing material for 3D printing. Nylon is both strong and durable, as well as flexible. This characteristic is beneficial when printing pieces with thin walls. Furthermore, nylon has a high melting point with a very low coefficient of friction, allowing it to be used in the printing of functional interlocking items such as gears.

One major disadvantage of nylon as a 3D printing material is that it is highly hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs moisture. This can make it difficult to achieve the expected performance when printing.

Nylon filament properties

Tensile Strength: 63-65 MPa
Flexural Strength: 63-83 MPa

Polypropylene (PP) filament

Polypropylene (PP) is a widely used plastic that may be found in almost any household. It is the material of choice for storage and packaging applications as well as many traditional forms of manufacturing like injection molding. The popularity of PP is due to its high chemical resistance, heat resistance, impact resistance, and flexibility.

Its qualities make it perfect for applications such as food packaging, outdoor exposure, chemical storage tanks, and even medical applications like prosthetics, among others.

Polypropylene Filament Properties

Tensile Strength: 10-12 MPa
Flexural Strength: 13-15 MPa

Best settings for printing strong parts

What is the strongest 3D printing material? (3)

Wouldn't it be great to be able to print stronger parts even without changing the material you’re using? Luckily, it is possible. The key is to optimize your settings. To get the most out of your printer and material, you must customize the settings you use for not only each material, but also each part.

Below are some of the best settings to modify to strengthen your part:

Infill type and density: Infill type and density are important contributing factors toward the strength of a printed part. The greater the infill density, the greater the strength. However, a high infill density is not usually advised as it uses up a lot of material and takes more time to print. To increase the strength of a part without increasing the density, you can also change the infill pattern depending on the part functionality. For example, in compression strength tests, triangle/grid infill shows higher compression strength versus cubic and gyroid infill patterns

For most visual prints, you can use an infill of around 20 percent, but for stronger parts, try going over 50 percent. An alternative is to use modifier meshes to selectively generate higher infill density in the areas where the stresses will be the highest.

Part Orientation: Part orientation may not be on your checklist of steps to ensure a stronger print, but it is crucial. Tensile strength is weaker along the Z-axis in 3D printing (typically 40-70% of the strength when compared to the XY-axis), especially in tall and thin printed parts. As a result, you must carefully orient the part to match the required axis of strength. While doing this, you will also have to take into consideration the support structure and a balance will have to be found based on what matters most in that particular part.

Shell Thickness: The outer surface thickness of the part is referred to as its shell thickness. Generally speaking, the thicker the shell, the stronger the part. Based on this, you can decide the shell thickness you need for your part. A shell thickness which is double the layer thickness is usually a good place to start.

Post-processing for stronger parts

The work is not finished once a part is printed. It’s possible to increase the strength of your printed part with a little extra work.

Annealing: Semicrystalline materials like Nylon, PET, PEEK and some forms of PLA can be annealed. This is thermal treatment where the material is fully transformed in its crystalline state, giving you a stiffer and stronger part.

Applications for strong printed parts

What is the strongest 3D printing material? (4)

Strong printed parts have a wide range of applications spread across industries and functions. The following are examples of applications where strength is critical along with which materials you may want to consider using:

Functional prototypes: Functional prototypes are meant to test and demonstrate the final functionality of the product being developed. Functional prototypes are rigorously tested so that accurate data can be gathered on the behavior of the part during real-world performance. This means that the characteristics of the prototype and the final product must match so that the data generated during the testing phase can be trusted. Because functional prototypes are prone to wear and tear, they must be robust. For this application, tough PLA and PET-G filaments are commonly used. Although, any material can be appropriate as long as it shares the properties of the material which will eventually be used for mass production.

End-Use Components: When printing end-use parts, improved strength characteristics greatly increase the number of end-use applications that 3D printing can be used for. Polypropylene is commonly used for parts such as prosthetics, polycarbonate is used for eyewear and electronic casings, and polypropylene, PET-G, or PEEK are often used for applications requiring chemical contact.

Manufacturing Aids: These are the tools and devices that assist in the manufacturing of parts. These are also used during the assembly stage to speed up the assembly of parts. Stronger prints are recommended for this application because they can experience a lot of wear and tear with repeated use. Nylon and PET-G are often appropriate materials to use here.

We hope this information will help you make a better decision on material selection. Visit the Ultimaker marketplace to find the material that’s right for your application.

Go to Ultimaker Marketplace

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What is the strongest 3D printing material? (2024)


What is the strongest 3D printing material? ›

Among PLA

Polylactic acid, also known as poly(lactic acid) or polylactide (PLA), is a thermoplastic polyester with backbone formula (C. 3H. 4O. 2)
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Polylactic_acid
, Nylon, and PETG, PETG is generally considered the strongest, especially when evaluating overall tensile strength, durability, and ease of use.

Is nylon 12 stronger than ABS? ›

Nylon is tougher and more resistant to chemicals than ABS and PLA, but its low strength and stiffness keep it from being widely used in the manufacturing industry. As a result, advancements in 3D printing materials has introduced nylon-fiber mixtures, opening the door to accessible industrial 3D printing.

What material is stronger than PLA 3D printing? ›

PETG filament

It has a strong impact and abrasion resistance and can sustain higher temperatures compared to PLA. Because of its excellent properties and relatively low price, PETG is commonly used in 3D printing. It is a good engineering-grade material that can be used in place of ABS.

Is PLA or ABS stronger? ›

PLA is more brittle than ABS but has higher tensile strength. ABS is better suited to applications that require impact resistance and overall toughness. PLA is better suited to parts that focus on form instead of function, for example, a visual prototype.

Is PLA+ stronger than PLA? ›

PLA is brittle and weak. PLA+ is stronger, more flexible, and more ductile. The use of additional fillers/additives makes PLA+ have greater heat resistance than standard PLA. PLA+ materials are used in high-temperature environments—so long as the temperature doesn't exceed its glass-transition temperature of 130 °F.

Is PETG stronger than PLA? ›

Strength. In terms of strength, both PLA and PETG offer good performance, but there are some key differences. PLA has a slightly higher tensile strength than PETG. However, it is more brittle than PETG, making it less resistant to impact or sudden forces.

Is PETG better than ABS? ›

Properties of PETG

It has a tensile strength of 50 MPa and a flexural modulus of 2.0 GPa, making it stronger than ABS in some aspects. PETG also has a lower glass transition temperature of around 80°C, which means it is less prone to warping and shrinkage during the printing process.

Which is stronger HDPE or ABS? ›

ABS is more suitable for applications that require high strength, rigidity, and impact resistance, such as automotive parts and electronics housings. HDPE is ideal for applications requiring high chemical resistance and moisture barrier properties, such as pipes, containers, and agricultural films.

Is PA12 stronger than PA6? ›

However, PA12 and PA11 have lower melting temperatures, lower strength, lower dielectric properties, and more expensive prices. This is the main reason why PA12 is not as widely used as PA6 in actual industrial production.

What makes a 3D print stronger? ›

Increase the infill density

Raising the infill density of a 3D print can strengthen it in any direction. Functional 3D printed parts such as brackets that must withstand loads or forces are best printed with a higher infill percentage. The ideal percentage for most functional parts is 50% to 70%.

What is a better alternative to PLA? ›

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is another commonly used 3D printer material. Best used for making durable parts that need to withstand higher temperatures. In comparison to PLA filament, ABS plastic is less "brittle" and more "ductile." It can also be post-processed with acetone to provide a glossy finish.

Can you 3D print metal? ›

One of the most common metal 3D printing methods is the Powder Bed or Powder Bed Fusion process. The various types of Powder Bed Fusion typically use heat or light energy, in the form of a laser or electron beam, to fuse or melt metal powder material together - and involve spreading the material over previous layers.

Will ABS melt in the sun? ›

ABS is more resistant to high and low temperatures, but it suffers a lot from weathering and UV radiation. UV rays on an ABS print will make the object brittle and lead to delamination of the layers in a short time. Direct sunlight can turn even the most solid print into crumbs within a few weeks.

What is the longest lasting 3D print material? ›

Carbon Fiber Reinforced Nylon: This combines the strength enhancement of carbon fiber additives with the toughness and durability of nylon, making it generally the strongest 3D printing material. Polycarbonate: PC is a tough and durable filament that can withstand high temperatures.

What is the strongest 3D printer filament? ›

At the low-cost consumer level, the strongest 3D printer filaments in terms of tensile strength include polycarbonate (PC), polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified (PETG), and polylactic acid (PLA). Weak materials include thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS).

Is PETG stronger than ABS? ›

PETG vs ABS: Strength and Durability

In terms of strength, PETG has a stronger tensile strength in comparison to ABS.

What is the strongest type of metal 3D printing? ›

The Best Metal 3D Printing Materials for Additive Manufacturing
  • Stainless Steel. Stainless steel is characterized by high strength and excellent corrosion resistance. ...
  • Tool Steels. As the name suggests, this class of steels is used for a variety of manufacturing tooling. ...
  • Titanium. ...
  • Inconel 625. ...
  • Copper.

Is 3D printed resin stronger than PLA? ›

Is Resin Stronger than PLA? Yes, resin prints have stronger mechanical properties than PLA prints, but that doesn't mean they are rendered useless.

Is 3D printing as strong as steel? ›

3D printed steel components can be as strong, if not stronger than their traditionally manufactured counterparts and are widely used in industries ranging from construction to aerospace.

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