Have you ever been intrigued to find out what is the strongest 3d printer filament? There are several filaments available on the market that are regularly used to make a wide assortment of objects, from garden equipment to automotive parts.
Picking the right filament for the job you require is going to be in your best interest, otherwise, you run the risk of picking a filament that is not strong enough for your project, which will break and warp, effectively ruining your hard work.
Today we’ll have a look at some of the most popular filaments on the market, as we test PLA, ABS, ASA, nylon, and Polycarbonate, each with its advantages and drawbacks.
To determine the overall strength of each material, the strength measurement we’ll be using is tensile strength which will be measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). We’ve taken an average strength score based on several tests we found across multiple sources on the internet, to make this review as fair as possible. Although; spoiler alert, there was a clear winner!
Read on to find out which is the strongest choice from our list of filaments.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, or ABS, is one of the most common options used for printing on a desktop.
One of the stand out features of ABS is its versatility once the printing process has been completed. With ABS projects you can sand them, paint them, and they are used in many industrial and automotive applications. ABS is found in a wide selection of parts including faxes, kitchen utensils, and vacuum cleaners.
PLA prints at 240 degrees Celsius or higher, and the printing bed needs to be at 120 degrees Celsius or higher. It’s easy to print, it lasts for a long time, however, you’ll need to make sure you are working in a closed environment to avoid potential warping.
Some of its downsides are that it’s quite brittle and is not thermally resistant. It’s not as strong as other filaments such as PLA, coming in with a tensile strength at 4,700 pounds PSI, and is on average the weakest material we reviewed on our list of filaments.
Along with ABS, Polylactic acid, or PLA, is another commonly used 3d printing option, which is typically used in the production of toys and figurines.
PLA is environmentally friendly, compostable, and is quite strong. It’s odorless, is generally low-warp, and is one of the most eco-friendly choices on the market, being made from renewable materials (corn-starch.)
This is also a very good choice for beginners due to the ease of printing. What is worth considering is that PLA degrades with sunlight, and won’t be very good in outdoor environments. Within a couple of hours, your PLA part will be unrecognizable.
PLA has a print temperature of around 190 – 200 degrees celsius and a bed temperature of 60 degrees celsius. The consensus is that PLA has a tensile strength of 7,250 pounds PSI.
Overall, PLA performed below average but it isn’t the weakest of our picks.
ASA or acrylonitrile-styrene-acrylate has become the alternative filament of choice in place of ABS, and is slowly gaining popularity due to its UV resistance, reduced warping tendencies, and has less odor.
It also comes with additional features, such as strong weather resistance, and is excellent for outdoor use. Which is one of the reasons manufacturers prefer ASA to ABS.
It is ideal for exterior signage, garden equipment, sporting goods, and exterior automotive parts.
Printing temperatures of ASA are on average 250-260 degrees Celsius, with a bed temperature of around 90-100 degrees Celsius. ASA displays an average tensile strength of around 6,400 pounds PSI, making it a stronger option than ABS or PLA.
Overall, ASA is not the worst in terms of total strength, but it’s nowhere near the best. We’d rate ASA in the middle of the pack, and is a solid material for production.
When choosing a filament, nylon is a solid option as it’s very strong and durable. Nylon can take more ‘punishment’ than other filaments like PLA and ABS and is commonly used for hinges and strong parts.
When printing using nylon, you get a bright natural white that can absorb color added most commonly with acid-based clothing dyes or synthetic cloth dyes.
Although it’s prone to warping, it’s impact-resistant and can handle a lot of heat when directly applied. However, you are going to need to apply a very hot temperature if you decide to use this filament.
We found that nylon is rated at an average of 7,000 pounds PSI, has a print temperature of 220-270 degrees Celcius with a bed temperature of around 70-100 degrees Celsius.
Overall, Nylon is our number two pick of the strongest filament, as it is more durable than ABS, PLA, and ASA.
Polycarbonate is a very strong material to work with because it’s almost impossible to break.
A great test is to take polycarbonate and throw it against a solid surface, and don’t be surprised if the surface comes away with more damage than the polycarbonate.
It is also very malleable when it’s cool, and can bend without cracking.
The downside to polycarbonate is that it is not the best printable material available, and will only print at very high temperatures, so make sure if you use this filament that you have an enclosed printer. It also doesn’t handle overhangs and comes in a limited range of colors.
Polycarbonate prints at around 290-315 degrees Celsius, with a bed temperature of 145 degrees Celsius. We found that on average, it has a tensile strength of 9,800 lbs PSI, which is nearly 3,000 lbs more than Nylon. It leaves it in the dust in terms of overall strength and is the undisputed winner of the strongest 3d printer filament.
No wonder polycarbonate is used for making bulletproof glass, and drone parts. Even though it wins the strength test, make sure to take into consideration the high-heat requirements and lack of color options.
Well, there you have it. Our strength test for the most popular filaments for your 3D printer has a clear victor, and polycarbonate is the champion, with nylon taking the runner-up spot.
Although it may be the strongest, that doesn’t mean other filaments do not have their place, so always bear in mind that being the strongest doesn’t always make it the best choice for the job!
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