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What Materials Are You Printing Now? By Christopher Addy Whether you want your next 3D printing project to be bright and shiny, super strong, or bendable, there’s a material for that. When making parts, whether for fun or for a project, the ability to print with different colors and different types of materials can really help you optimize the final product. There are many factors to consider when deciding what material to use, including strength, durability, and flexibility. While there are a number of materials available on the market, the three most popular materials for a home printer are PLA, ABS, and nylon. There are many different variations of each type available as well, especially in the PLA category. Before trying out any new material in your printer, make sure your printer is capable of printing that particular material, and that it is properly set up for it. Another benefit of using PLA is that it doesn’t require a heated print bed or an enclosed heated environment. Because PLA melts at a lower temperature, it doesn’t have to cool as much as other materials, which helps prevent warping. The lower melting temperature allows the material to flow from the nozzle more easily, which leads to more precise, finely detailed prints than ABS. PLA isn’t as strong or flexible as ABS or nylon, though. So what are the differences between these materials? PLA PLA is short for Poly Lactic Acid. It’s an environmentally friendly, biodegradable material based on cornstarch and sugarcane; basically, the same stuff plastic utensils are made from. It has a lower melting temperature than the other filaments, so it’s easier to print with and it doesn’t put off any unpleasant odors when printing. 34 PLA also offers a wide variety of filaments that are infused with other materials, such as wood, brick, copper, brass, iron, and more. These filaments can yield some exceptional results and give unique properties to your prints. A word of caution though: be sure to check that your print nozzle is in good shape after a few prints. Some of these blended materials can wreak havoc on brass print nozzles over time. It may be worth looking into a stainless steel nozzle for your printer if you would like to experiment with blended materials.