What is the strongest 3D printing material? (2023)

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 whatstrength 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 thetechnical datasheets for Ultimaker materials. Materials from other brands may vary.

Best FFF/FDM materials for printing strong parts

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.

(Video) What is the strongest 3D printing material

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.

(Video) The BEST 3D printing material? Comparing PLA, PETG & ASA (ABS) - feat. PRUSAMENT by Josef Prusa

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.

(Video) Wait, What? PLA is Stronger Than Carbon-Fiber Nylon?

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? (1)

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:

(Video) 3D Printing Machine Parts with Carbon-Fiber Nylon | NylonX

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? (2)

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.

(Video) 5 Toughest 3D Printing Materials

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.


What 3D print material is stronger than PLA? ›

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.

What is stronger PLA or ABS? ›

PLA and ABS are both thermoplastics. PLA is stronger and stiffer than ABS, but poor heat-resistance properties means PLA is mostly a hobbyist material. ABS is weaker and less rigid, but also tougher and lighter, making it a better plastic for prototyping applications.

Is ABS or PETG stronger? ›

PETG is stronger, more durable, and it prints better. It's also available in a wide variety of novelty and composite filaments. ABS is only necessary if you absolutely need its temperature resistance or its ability to be glued and painted. Otherwise, it's difficult to justify the printing difficulties involved.

What is the strongest 3D printed metal? ›

New titanium alloy has highest specific strength of any 3D-printed metal.

What is the toughest 3D filament? ›

Polycarbonate. According to multiple manufacturers and reviewers, polycarbonate (PC) is considered the strongest consumer filament out there. PC can yield extremely high-strength parts when printed correctly with an all-metal hot end and an enclosure.

Is PLA or PETG stronger? ›

The main differences between the two are their properties, applications, and material costs. PETG is stronger and more resilient than PLA. PLA, on the other hand, is widely used as FDM/FFF filaments because of its better melt and cooling properties. In terms of cost, PETG is more expensive than PLA.

Why is ABS filament so cheap? ›

However, if you're looking solely at the raw material cost, ABS is probably cheaper than PLA. That's because ABS is so widely used in injection molding for making common, small parts, like interior car components or even Lego.

How much weight can PLA hold? ›

So, in conclusion, PLA bars are extremely tough and elastic considering they are plastic. One tiny bar can easily hold 1 kilogram of weight, and go up to 5 and even more!

Does ABS plastic break easily? ›

Because ABS is strong and doesn't break easily, it is an ideal material for vehicle parts exposed to long-term wear and various environmental conditions. This is why it's often used for car trim and cases.

Does PETG crack easily? ›

If you're transitioning to PETG from PLA, you may find that PETG cracks rather easily. While PLA benefits from large amounts of cooling, PETG can suffer if it's cooled too quickly. If print layers begin to separate or crack, reduce the fan speed.

Does PETG break easily? ›

PETG is prone to being brittle if you apply too much cooling. Ideally, print PETG with no cooling for best strength.

What is PETG best for? ›

PETG is best known for its durability and strength, and the plastic is resistant to high temperatures, UV rays, water, chemical solvents, and more. All of this makes PETG an ideal filament material option for printing parts that will exist in harsh environments or have to undergo a lot of physical stress.

Is 3D printed titanium bulletproof? ›

Tony Stark would definitely use Titanium 3D printers to make his suits. In fact, 3D printers can be seen in the background of his workshop. While the outside armor pieces were 3D printed in Titanium to make it bulletproof, other components were also printed in nylon and other flexible materials to make it wearable.

How strong is 3D printed Kevlar? ›

In three-point bending, 3D printed Kevlar is 3x stronger than ABS and 6x stronger than nylon. 3D printed Kevlar is 12x more rigid than ABS and 30x more rigid than nylon.

Is 3D printed titanium strong? ›

Titanium powder, with micrometre-sized particles, is fired into a shape using a 3D-printing technique called laser-powder bed fusion. Then, the printed material is heat-treated at 480°C. The resulting material has an ultimate tensile strength of over 1600 megapascals – making it the strongest known 3D-printed metal.

What filament is best for structural parts? ›

Polyamide or Nylon

It has a print temperature range between 210°C – 250°C. Nylon filament is an ideal selection for machine parts, gear and bearings, structural parts, dynamic load, mechanical components, tools, consumer products, toys, and more.

Is filament stronger than resin? ›

While resin 3D printers can produce better quality parts than filament printers, they fall short when it comes to part strength and durability. Resin parts are often weak and brittle, so they have relatively few end-use applications.

What is the strongest shape for 3D printing? ›

Triangular Infill: Triangular infill is the strongest infill pattern because triangles are the strongest shape. They are least likely to deform and provide the best support structure behind the walls of the part.

Why is PETG so hard to print? ›

The most common reason for PETG parts to warp or lift during the print is due to insufficient bed adhesion or an incorrect nozzle height. If the first layer of extruded plastic is not sticking to the bed, a small amount of residual stress will be enough to lift the part off the bed.

Will PETG melt in a hot car? ›

If PETG is deforming in a hot car, you should reconsider where you're buying it from: proper PETG should be good up to at least 70°C (160°F), and more commonly 90°C (195°F). @Mark not really: it holds shape up to 90 °C, but it loses strength much earlier. 70 °C is about the max for maintaining physical strength.

How long does PETG last? ›

Fortunately, it is not as sensitive as PLA. A PETG filament can still be usable after a year of being in an open package.

What are the disadvantages of ABS filament? ›

What are the drawbacks of ABS?
  • Odor and emissions. ABS emits a strong odor when printed, the odor commonly known as burnt plastic. ...
  • Warping. ABS shrinks significantly as it cools, which is the source of all its printing problems. ...
  • Cracking and delamination.

Why does my ABS filament keep breaking? ›

Like PLA and PETG, ABS is a hygroscopic material. This means that it'll absorb moisture quickly. High moisture content in the filament leads to poor layer adhesion and brittleness. This results in a 3D printed part that can break away easily.

What is ABS filament best for? ›

ABS is often used for engineering and manufacturing purposes as it is a rigid material that can withstand high impact. Its durability makes it common for end-use products, especially as protective cases, like on suitcases or phone cases. PLA is a popular filament for prototypes.

What is the disadvantage of PLA? ›

The most important limitation for the application of PLA in food packaging is its low gas-barrier properties. The properties of PLA, such as, thermal stability and impact resistance, are lower when compared to other conventional polymers used for thermoplastic applications.

Is PLA bullet proof? ›

Even the humble PLA can stop a bullet dead in its tracks with a 20mm thick part, and the fiber pucks only needed 10mm to do the same.

Does PLA fall apart in water? ›

Neither ABS or PLA will degrade much in water. PLA is biodegradable, but it is what is known as chemically biodegradable, meaning it does not biodegrade very fast. ABS, PLA, and Nylon all are hydroscopic, but that does not mean they will absorb a bunch of water and then start degrading.

What can destroy ABS plastic? ›

ABS plastic can be damaged by sunlight, so keep it out of direct sun. It also has a low melting point, so keep it away from any open flames.

What dissolves ABS? ›

Acetone is a kind of conventional organic solvent, little to human body toxic action. ABS can be dissolved in acetone, and PS can swelling in acetone.

What is better ABS or polycarbonate? ›

Polycarbonate is more flexible than ABS and has a higher impact resistance. As a result, it makes for a stronger suitcase. ABS suitcases are cheaper than Polycarbonate ones, but they are often heavier and do not last as long.

What happens when PETG gets wet? ›

Sure, PETG does absorb some moisture and you'll get some extra stringing, but how bad could it be, and is PLA just generally fine to be kept out in the open.

What are common problems with PETG? ›

PETG is very sensitive to print speed. Print too fast, and you'll have poor layer adhesion, extruder skipping, and low print quality, but print too slow, and you'll end up with deformed parts, stringing, and oozing. You'll have to find the sweet spot with the printer and filament you're using.

Can you drink out of PETG? ›

As a raw material, PETG is considered food-safe. This means that there are no toxic chemicals or ingredients in the pure polymer that will contaminate food or pose a danger to humans.

What can dissolve PETG? ›

Chemical dissolving

Ethyl acetate, dichloromethane, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), toluene, and cyclohexanone all work to dissolve PETG.

Does PETG sink in water? ›

Water is 1g/cm3 Salt water is 1.025-1.05 ABS is 1.04 PLA is 1.25 PETG is 1.38 So PETG should sink and survive in saltwater.

Does PETG warp in sunlight? ›

PETG and ASA are filaments for outdoor use

Thanks to the high resistance to deformation these filaments remain solid in wind and sun. Despite the sun's UV rays, 3D printed parts made from PETG and ASA do not significantly change or fade color.

Is PET stronger than PETG? ›

PET is the result of two monomers combining. PETG may involve these same monomers, but also includes glycol, giving it different chemical properties than PET. This means that PETG has better shock resistance and is better suited to higher temperatures.

Is PETG stronger than acrylic? ›

PETG, on the other hand, is impact resistant and won't shatter like acrylic. It's also about five times stronger than acrylic, making it suitable to display in areas where customers pass by such as end caps, aisle violators, or header signs.

Is PETG stronger than polycarbonate? ›

Impact Strength Izod

PETG is food grade, has good impact strength but cannot be used if exposed to UV rays. Polycarbonate is the most impact resistant of the three materials discussed here, but can be negatively affected if exposed to certain oils and chemicals.

What metals Cannot be 3D printed? ›

Theoretically, any metal can be used for 3D printing if it is available as a suitable powder. However, materials that burn rather than melt at high temperatures cannot be processed safely by sintering or melting, but can be used when extruded through a nozzle for 3D printing.

Do 3D-printed guns last? ›

Unlike traditional firearms that can fire thousands of rounds in a lifetime, the 3D-printed guns usually last only a few rounds before they fall apart, experts say. They usually hold a bullet or two and then must be manually loaded. And they're often not very accurate.

Can you weld 3D printed steel? ›

Yes, you can. TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding with silicon bronze filler can be used to weld 3D printed steel parts together. If a strong bond isn't required, you can also silver solder steel parts together with a torch. This is typically done for smaller applications.

Can you 3D print something bulletproof? ›

researchers at rice university in houston have used 3D printing methods to create polymer cubes that can withstand bullets. made up of numerous layers of different patterns, the cubes' elaborate structure makes them ultra-durable.

Is there anything more bulletproof than Kevlar? ›

Dyneema- Polyethylene fiber materials are 15x stronger than steel and 40%stronger than Kevlar/aramid type fibers. UHMWPE – Incredibly strong and lightweight, resistant to both ballistic projectiles and sharp-edged objects.

Is anything better than Kevlar? ›

Twaron is an extremely popular alternative to Kevlar. This product is tough, light, and resistant to harmful chemicals and high temperatures. It is often chosen for its ability to make ordinary products unbelievably durable. Twaron, generally, has the same chemical structure as Kevlar.

Is 3D printing stronger than wood? ›

Mechanically speaking - natural wood is, in a way a bit similar to 3D prints, because it has a weak and a strong axis. Wood is strong along its fiber direction but can be quite weak perpendicular to it just like 3D prints are strong in the print plane but weak between the layers.

Is 3D printed concrete strong? ›

Several concrete materials compatible with 3D printing were developed for the application of 3DP. However, for engineering materials, 3D printed concrete (3DPC) is brittle and lacks sufficient tensile capacity.

Is 3D printing as strong as steel? ›

Tests showed that under certain conditions the final 3D printed stainless steels were up to three times stronger than steels made by conventional techniques and yet still ductile, the scientists report today in Nature Materials .

What is the best 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.

Is PLA stronger than TPU? ›

Another difference between TPU and PLA is its tensile strength, where PLA comes out on top. Although TPU offers better durability, polylactic acid is the stronger of the two 3D printing filaments. However, TPU prints have the upper hand when it comes to abrasion resistance.

What can I use instead of PLA for 3D printing? ›


Is carbon fiber PLA stronger than PLA? ›

When should you print with carbon fiber filaments? This type of filament is way stronger than a standard filament such as PLA or ABS. Furthermore, the quality of the surface is flawless and it is pretty lightweight, bearing in mind that their figures are very stiff.

Why is PLA not widely used? ›

The biggest problem with PLA is the very specific conditions needed in order for it to be properly composted. Instead of being recycled with regular plastic materials, PLA needs to be sorted separately and brought to a 'closed composting environment' as otherwise it contaminates the recycling stream.

When should you not use PLA? ›

Remember not to put PLA parts in the dishwasher or use them for hot food or drink. PLA has a low glass transition temperature of around 65℃. This means the PLA will soften in the dishwasher or in contact with hot food. If you're looking for food-safe filaments that are heat resistant, there are some other options.

Is PETG stronger than TPU? ›

PETG vs. TPU: PETG is tougher but less flexible than TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). TPU can adhere to cooler printing beds than PETG. The bed temperature should be somewhere between 40 °C and 60 °C.

Does TPU break easily? ›

Beyond its flexibility, TPU is also very durable and hard to break. It can absorb impact well, making it an ideal filament to use if you need a strong material.

Which is stronger TPU or PVC? ›

TPU is superior to PVC in abrasion resistance, low-temperature resistance, oil resistance, chemical resistance, and resilience.

What objects Cannot be 3D printed? ›

However, materials that burn rather than melt at high temperatures cannot be processed safely by sintering or melting, but can be used when extruded through a nozzle for 3D printing. Wood, cloth and paper cannot be 3D printed using these processes.

Is there anything illegal to 3D print? ›

Patented Objects: Having a patent on an invention or innovation means no one else can create, use, or sell a product without the patent holder's permission. Therefore, 3D printing of a patented object is illegal, and the patent holder could sue for patent infringement.

What is the strongest way to 3D print? ›

· Triangular Infill Pattern

Most 3D enthusiasts attribute this to triangles being the strongest shape. Using a triangular infill also improves print speed due to the straight-line movement of the printhead.

Is PLA or PETG more brittle? ›

PETG has been on the uprise since a couple of years and is praised for having the ease of printing of PLA but being less brittle and thermally more resistant.

Can Ender 3 print carbon fiber? ›

If you have an FDM printer like Ender 3 V2, don't worry, with the right Ender 3 upgrades you can print from Nylon Carbon Fiber filament to Flexible filament. You just need to install the Micro Swiss direct drive extruder and use a steel nozzle.


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