Printing With Different Materials

The majority of our filament stocks here at CU3D consist of PLA. It is a relatively cheap material, is reliable to print with and actually quite strong. However, we are very keen to explore different options to learn more about materials available. We do therefore have a box of "special" filaments that may have a very specific purpose. Here is a brief run down of some common filament types (note that preset print settings should be selectable in Cura):


Best printer: Any

Nozzle temperature: 205 ± 15 ˚C

Heated bed temperature: 45 ± 15 ˚C, but can be used without a heated bed at all.

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is quite a stiff but brittle material, making it ideal for decorative 3D prints or prototypes, but less suited to mechanical parts such as brackets or gears. PLA is by far the most common FDM filament used these days, mainly because it is reliable and easy to use. It is odor-less, meaning an enclusure isn't necessary. It has a low shrinkage when cooling, meaning it rarely warps and parts are quite dimensionally accurate It has a relatively low melting point meaning that print temperatures don't have to be as hot. It has a relatively low uptake of water, menaing it doesn't need to be stored in an airtight container, although this is still ideal. Moreover, it is also completely biodegradable and is made from corn-starch. This means it takes less energy to produce, and will not stick around in the environment for hundreds of years to come.


Best printer: Any

Nozzle temperature: 230 ± 10 ˚C

Heated bed temperature: 90 ± 10 ˚C

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is most commonly used for mechanical parts that need to be more durable, as it is less brittle than PLA. It also has a higher melting point, which means that it takes more energy to print with, but parts can also withstand higher temperatures afterwards. It has the other advantage that parts are capable of undergoing post-processing with acetone to create a really smooth finish. Unfortunately ABS suffers quite significantly from warping, which is why a much hotter heated bed must be used. It also gives off a small amount of odor.


Bets printer: Strawberry

Nozzle temperature: 255 ± 15 ˚C

Heated bed temperature: 70 ± 10 ˚C

Nylon is a more expensive filament, but much stronger and more flexible than both PLA and ABS. This makes it suiable for compliant mechanisms and similar functional parts. One disadvantage of Nylon is that it will absorb water from the atmosphere very readily, and so it must be kept in an airtight bag with silica gel.


Best printer: Any

Nozzle temperature: 245 ± 10 ˚C

Heated bed temperature: 60 ± 10 ˚C

PET(T/G) (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is a very popular material that is considered an ideal compromise between PLA and ABS. It has the strength and reduced brittleness of ABS, while retaining the reliablity achieved with PLA due to its low warping and lack of odor. It also has the added advantage that it is a food-safe material. While it is not biodegradable, it is commonly recycled.

Soft PLA / Flexible PLA

Best printer: Honeycomb

Nozzle temperature: 230 ± 10 ˚C

Heated bed temperature: 30 ± 10 ˚C

This has most of the same properties as PLA, but is more flexible. This is useful for applications such as belts or phone cases, where some give is required. The flexibility can also be controlled by the amount of infill used.


Best printer: Honeycomb

Nozzle temperature: 250 ± 10 ˚C

Heated bed temperature: 50 ± 10 ˚C

TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) is a very resistant flexible filament. It is ideal for uses such as tires, castor wheels or rubber grips on handles. It has a shore hardness of 95A.

ColorFabb Copper

Best printer: Strawberry

Nozzle temperature: 210 ± 10 ˚C

Heated bed temperature: 50 ± 10 ˚C

This is PLA filament with small copper shavings mixed in. This has the downside of being more abrasive for the nozzle of the printer, however it creates a very convincing metallic finish. Raw prints look like cast metal, however they can be sanded and polished to create a really impressive shiny finish. They are also denser, making them feel more like metal.

Carbon Fibre

Best printer: Strawberry

Nozzle temperature: 210 ± 10 ˚C

Heated bed temperature: 50 ± 10 ˚C

Carbon Fibre reinforced PLA is as easy to print with as PLA (although it will be abrasive to your print nozzle), but much stronger, stiffer and less brittle, and has excellent layer adhesion. It has short carbon fibre strands mixed in, rather than long continuous strands, but still has excellent strength and impact resistance. It is not very flexible and so is perfect for applications such as fan blades or frames.


Best printer: Mint Choc Chip

Nozzle temperature: 180 ± 20 ˚C

Heated bed temperature: 45 ± 10 ˚C

PVA (Polyviunyl Alcohol) is commonly used for printing support material for a more geometrically complicated part. This is because it dissolves in water, meaning your print can simply be submerged to remove all support material. This does mean that, like Nylon, it must be kept completely dry before use and so needs to be stored in an air-tight container with silica gel.