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

Explore the topics in this article:

  • Standard definitions of material strength used in 3D printing
  • Commonly used 3D printing materials and their strength
  • Introducing nylon PA11 and PA12
  • PA11 and PA12 applications and case studies
  • HP Jet Fusion industrial printers and materials compatibility

In 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, material strength is defined in different ways: tensile strength, impact resistance, chemical resistance, UV resistance, and temperature resistance.

A material’s strength is one of its mechanical properties. The mechanical properties of a material determine its behavior under applied loads. Material strength refers to the maximum stress it can be put under before it fails.

Strength is measured in megapascals (MPa). One MPa equals one million pascals (Pa). A pascal – the standard unit used to quantify internal pressure — is one newton (N) of force per square meter. A newton is the International System of Units (SI) derived unit of force.

This article will introduce you to the standard ways in which the strength of materials used in 3D printing is measured, how strength is defined and what materials exhibit mechanical properties that translate into strength.

You will also learn the differences between HP’s high-performance nylon PA11 and PA12 materials and how they’ve enabled groundbreaking solutions in real world applications.

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Standard definitions of material strength used in 3D printing

Tensile strength

Tensile strength, also known as elastic strength, refers to a material’s stiffness and is the maximum amount of stress it can tolerate before becoming deformed by stretching or breaks.

For the purposes of 3D printing, calculating the tensile strength of a material will indicate how far a model can be loaded before it fails.

Poly Ether Etherketone (PEEK), carbon fiber filaments, and polycarbonate are strong filaments commonly used for load-bearing applications.


Elongation refers to a material’s ductility. In materials science, ductility is the extent to which a material can be deformed plastically when put under tensile stress before it fails.

Image of flexible spring printed with HP 3D HR TPA enabled by Evonik. Post-processed with AMT PostPro chemical vapor smoothing.

Data courtesy2

High ductility means a material will be able to be stretched or elongated into, for example, a thin wire shape without breaking. Gold, platinum, silver, and iron all have high ductility.

Low ductility means a material will fracture if it’s deformed under a heavy load. Tungsten and steel containing high carbon have low ductility.


The Rockwell scale, divided into nine sub-scales ranging from A to K, is a commonly used method for measuring and reporting the hardness of materials used in machining. Using the Rockwell scale, the last letter denotes hardness. 3D printing materials are usually HRC or HRB.

(Video) What is the strongest 3D printing material

For polymers such as PC, we use the durometer scale, which measures rubber material hardness in numbers. The harder the material, the higher the number.

Impact resistance

Impact resistance refers to a material’s ability to withstand impact without fracturing or breaking. The higher a material’s impact strength, the less likelihood there is of it breaking or fracturing when subjected to sudden stress.

Polycarbonate, nylon, and Poly Ether Etherketone (PEEK), flexible filaments typically used for safety equipment, safety boxes, tool housings, and eyeglasses, can all bear sudden high loads before they fracture or fail.

Chemical resistance

Chemical resistance is particularly important when you’re making 3D printed parts in a process that requires chemicals and you’re working in a chemically harsh environment.

For example, if you’re making 3D printed parts that need to be cleaned and sterilized or fluid systems such as the fluid reservoir in a car that must be resistant to the chemicals flowing through them, they would need to be chemically resistant.

Nylon and Polycarbonate are most widely used for printing 3D objects in such conditions because they possess excellent chemical resistance. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is also resistant to certain chemicals.

UV resistance

Being exposed to sunlight can weaken a material’s bonds and cause a part to fail. If you’re making 3D printed parts that will be exposed to sunlight, you will need a 3D printer filament with high UV resistance.

ABS, Acrylic Styrene Acrylonitrile (ASA), and Nylon are the materials most commonly used for parts with an outdoor purpose.

Temperature resistance

When you’re making parts that need to function in high temperatures, it’s essential to use a material that doesn’t soften.

Nylon, PEEK, and Polycarbonate filaments are more heat resistant than other filaments but need to be 3D printed at higher temperatures than other materials. You must make sure that your 3D printer's hot end — where the filament moves out onto the construction plate — can handle these temperatures.

Heat Deflection Temperature

Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT) is the temperature at which a material starts to deform when put under a specific load.

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Commonly used 3D printing materials and their strength

When material strength is an important factor in your 3D printing process, you will choose the material you use by calculating the strength needed and your cost structure.

Polycarbonate (PC) delivers high tensile strength along with high impact and heat resistance. It’s widely seen as one of the strongest 3D printing filaments.

PC can be a little complicated to 3D print with because it requires a relatively high extrusion and build plate temperature.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Polylactic Acid (PLA) are among the most common thermoplastics used in 3D printing.

(Video) 5 Toughest 3D Printing Materials

PLA is typically used by hobbyists rather than ABS, as it is stronger and stiffer, but less heat resistant. ABS is well-suited for prototyping, as it’s weaker and less rigid but also tougher and lighter. ABS is also resistant to certain chemicals.

Nylon, or polyamide (PLA), offers high impact resistance and is tough and semi-flexible. It's abrasion resistant and good for printing durable parts. HP nylon PA11 and PA12 are used with HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology.

PEEK and carbon fiber filaments are strong filaments commonly used for load-bearing applications.

The strongest materials are mostly used inindustrial 3D printing applications — tools, jigs, fixtures, and components in industrial machinery and equipment used in manufacturing and production lines.

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Introducing nylon PA11 and PA12

PA11 and PA12 are types of nylon that differ from each other considerably simply because they possess one different carbon atom.

PA11 is a bioplastic polyamide powder made from renewable resources derived from vegetable/castor oil and is only manufactured by one company. PA12 is synthetic, made from petroleum materials and made by several different manufacturers.

PA11 and PA12 are commonly used in powder-bed fusion processes such as HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF).

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HP nylon PA11 vs PA12

Within the HP 3D printing materials portfolio:

Data courtesy4

  • HP 3D High Reusability PA 127 is ideal for producing strong, low-cost quality parts. It’s a robust thermoplastic that produces high-density parts with balanced property profiles and strong structures and provides good chemical resistance to oils, greases, aliphatic hydrocarbons, and alkalis.

Data courtesy1

  • HP 3D High Reusability PA 118 is perfect for producing strong, ductile functional parts. It enables excellent chemical resistance and enhanced elongation-at-break and offers impact resistance and ductility for prostheses, insoles, sports goods, snap fits, living hinges, and more.

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Learn more about HP 3D printing materials and their properties.

PA11 and PA12 applications and case studies

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

GoProto and Ropes Edge: protecting life-supporting ropes from damage on sharp edges with PA12

The product Ropes Edge wanted to bring to market needed to be able to support the weight of a human body. It could not fail.

Solutions provider and member of the HP Digital Manufacturing Network, GoProto recognized right away that HP Multi Jet Fusion technology would be the best solution. It would help deliver low-volume production of a device with complex geometries and an extremely high level of durability.

GoProto also knew that HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 offered the strength Ropes Edge needed.

Data courtesy5

Data courtesy5

Using HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 and HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, GoProto and Ropes Edge perfected the design and produced a revolutionary life-supporting device, named the Vortex.

Read the story of theVortex case study and watch the video about how Ropes Edge and GoProto teamed up.

Dustram produces strong, rugged tile-removal equipment with PA12

DustRam LLC makes dust-free tile removal equipment for the contracting and flooring industry. It wanted to design and build tougher, more effective equipment while reducing costs and production time and staying ahead of the competition.

Discovering HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology, DustRam realized it could increase productivity by four times (to 1/10 of the time) and at about 50% to 75% of the cost.

Working with MJF and HP’s 3D High Reusability PA 12, DustRam was able to cut time, weight, and costs for some of their 3D printed products while increasing strength and durability.

As Jack King, DustRam President explains, “Most people wouldn’t believe this nylon can withstand this kind of heavy-duty work, but we actually have replaceable noses that are still in use one year later.”

Read the full DustRam HP MJF and PA12 case study and watch the video.

Using PA11, Bowman International disrupts bearings industry with high-performance parts

Bowman International is a leading manufacturer and supplier of plain bearings in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe.

Using HP 3D High Reusability PA 11 material allowed Bowman to 3D print parts that feature enhanced elongation at break — critical when assembled - show improved performance and require less maintenance and fewer spare parts. Parts are also easier to assemble and cheaper to manufacture.

By 3D printing bearing cages with HP MJF technology, Bowman can take the entire bearings load capacity to 30, 40 or even 50% higher. This extends the life of a traditional split bearing by 3 to 5 times.

Data courtesy6

The newly designed split roller bearing now features 3D printed bearing cages that increase the radial load capacities by 70% and increase the axial load by 1,000%. 3D printed seals offer better wear properties and enhanced ease of use.

Read the Bowman case studyand watch the video.

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

HP Jet Fusion industrial printers and materials compatibility

Explore the HP 3D printing materials portfolio and discover which are the most effective when combined with our Jet Fusion industrial 3D printers.

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Want to continue learning?

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Can you recycle 3D printer plastics?


Related article

A complete guide to 3D printing materials


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Learn more about HP 3D printing materials


Footnotes and disclaimers

  1. Data courtesy of OT4 Orthopädietechnik GmbH
  2. Data courtesy of GoProto Inc.
  3. Data courtesy of BASF
  4. Data courtesy of Skorpion Engineering
  5. Data courtesy of Ropes Edge and GoProto
  6. Data courtesy of Bowman
  7. HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solutions using HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 provide up to 80% powder reusability ratio, producing functional parts batch after batch. For testing, material is aged in real printing conditions and powder is tracked by generations (worst case for reusability). Parts are then made from each generation and tested for mechanical properties and accuracy.
  8. HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solutions using HP 3D High Reusability PA 11 provide up to 70% powder reusability ratio, producing functional parts batch after batch. For testing, material is aged in real printing conditions and powder is tracked by generations (worst case for reusability). Parts are then made from each generation and tested for mechanical properties and accuracy.


Which 3D printing material is the strongest? ›

Polycarbonate (PC) delivers high tensile strength along with high impact and heat resistance. It's widely seen as one of the strongest 3D printing filaments.

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 the strongest and lightest material for 3D printing? ›

World's lightest and strongest material: Graphene Aerogel 3D printing! There is a lot of new developments in the field of materials for Additive Manufacturing uses, from 3D printing with Glass or Cellulose to the world's strongest material Graphene.

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.

What is the strongest type of 3D printer 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.

Which 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 3D printed metal stronger? ›

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 .

Is resin 3D printing stronger than filament? ›

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.

Is PLA stronger than steel? ›

RepRap Ltd produced a beam in PLA with the script and tested its bending under a standard weight. They found that the performance of the generated beam was equal to that of an equivalent solid beam made from steel.

Is 3D printed plastic stronger than steel? ›

It's 10 times stronger than steel--and it could have a big impact on manufacturing. It might be weird looking, but it gets the job done. Researchers at MIT have 3-D printed one of the strongest lightweight materials ever. It's 10 times stronger than steel--yet only 1/20th its density.

Is 3D printed plastic strong? ›

TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane) is most well known for its flexibility, which is what makes this 3D printing material so strong. Along with being flexible, TPU is also highly durable, with strong resistance to impact, wear and tear, chemicals, and abrasion.

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.

Are 3D printed parts strong enough? ›

It provides ease of use at a low cost and, importantly, it is reasonably strong. Additionally, you can print with PLA at a low temperature, without a heated bed, but it has a tensile strength of 7,250 psi.

Which 3D printing process gives highest surface finish? ›

Stereolithography 3D printing produces parts with the highest accuracy and smoothest surface finish among all 3D printing technologies. Although it is a layer-by-layer process, the raw material is usually in resin form and solidifies to give a smooth surface.

Is PLA the strongest? ›

In most circumstances, PLA is the strongest material used in 3D printing. Even though PLA has an impressive tensile strength of about 7,250 psi, the material does tend to be a little brittle in special circumstances. That means it's a little more likely to break or shatter when placed under a powerful impact.

How strong is 3D printed polycarbonate? ›

Polycarbonate: The Strongest 3D-Printing Material

Polycarbonate won by a landslide. PLA has a tensile strength of 7,250 psi and was able to lift 285 pounds. In comparison, ABS has a tensile strength of 4,700 psi and snapped instantly under 285 pounds of weight.

How strong is carbon fiber 3D printing? ›

Carbon Fiber is a stiff and strong fiber that behaves like 6061 Aluminum, so it can be used for lightweight components that support heavy loads. This 3D printed carbon fiber can match the strength of aluminum when continuous. Both are supporting a 27.5 lb load.

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.

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.

Is PLA or ABS more brittle? ›

PLA is more brittle than ABS but has higher tensile strength. ABS is better suited to applications that require impact resistance and overall toughness.

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.

Is 3D printed plastic stronger than wood? ›

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. This is something that is very important to keep in mind when designing parts.

How strong is 3D printed aluminum? ›

Aluminum alloys for 3D printing are also not as strong as nickel-based alloys or steel. That being said, aluminum alloys are less expensive than titanium and are more lightweight than steel and nickel-based materials. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of 3D printing aluminum is related to its printability.

What is better filament or resin? ›

Filament printers are superior for producing strong, larger parts, while resin printers excel at producing fine details and can print much more precisely on small parts.

What is better resin or PLA? ›

While the quality of pricey FDM printers such as PLA, PETG and Nylon is still very good, resin printers are generally superior in quality since resin printing allows for the finer details to come through.

What is the strongest resin? ›

Liqcreate Strong-X. Liqcreate's Strong-X is perhaps the toughest resin on this list. Boasting a 91 MPa tensile strength and 135 MPa flexural strength, it can easily be applied for heavy-duty uses. Strong-X also provides high-temperature resistance, enough even for injection molding applications.

Is Wood stronger than PLA? ›

Wood filaments and parts tend to break more easily than regular PLA. The extrusion temperature of both materials is also different.

What is the strongest 3D printed beam? ›

I-BEAM IMPACT PLA was developed to be the strongest, easiest to print, most accurate, and most reliable PLA filament on the market today. Many PLA filaments tend to be brittle, but IMPACT PLA is a true high strength 3D printer filament.

Does PLA break down? ›

PLA plastic offers a stable shelf life, without degrading or disintegrating, but remains biodegradable, breaking down into carbon dioxide and water at temperatures greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit and when exposed to relative humidity of 90 percent or more for approximately 60 to 90 days.

What is the strongest plastic material? ›

PAI – Polyamideimide (PAI) boasts the highest tensile strength of any plastic at 21,000 psi. This high performance plastic has the highest strength of any unreinforced thermoplastic, good wear and radiation resistance, inherently low flammability and smoke emission, and high thermal stability.

What plastic is as strong as steel? ›

It's called 2DPA-1, and it's two times stronger than steel and capable of conducting electricity and blocking gas.

Is 3D printed metal stronger than forged? ›

The most common question when it comes to 3D-printed steel is: “Is it as strong as forged or cast steel.” The short answer is yes … and no. 3D printed steel parts can be as strong or stronger than steel parts made with traditional manufacturing.

Is 3D print stronger than aluminum? ›

Carbon Fiber properties

Compared with 6061 aluminum, 3D printed carbon fiber has a 50% higher strength-to-weight ratio in flexure, and a 300% higher ratio in a tensile moment.

Can you 3D print metal? ›

Titanium, steel, stainless steel, aluminium, copper, cobalt chrome, titanium, tungsten and nickel-based alloys are all available in powdered form for 3D printing, as are precious metals like gold, platinum, palladium and silver.

Is 3D printed nylon strong? ›

With a tensile strength of 7,000 PSI, nylon is another strong 3D printing material. A nylon hook can only hold 485 pounds, but nylon is easier to print with than polycarbonate. To achieve the best results, ensure your filament is dry and print at a temperature between 220°C and 270°C.

What is the strongest casting resin? ›

Tough-Cast 65D is a two part casting resin that is virtually indestructible. It's designed to make durable prototypes, and reproductions. Tough-Cast 65D is a two component polyurethane casting resin that is virtually indestructible.

How can I make my 3D printer resin stronger? ›

Lessen the brittleness of your resin prints by:
  1. Shorten Isopropyl Alcohol Contact Time. ...
  2. Suitable Resin Print Curing. ...
  3. Paint the Resin or use a UV blocker to cover it. ...
  4. Work in a Warm and Well-Ventilated Environment. ...
  5. Create a Hollow Resin Print. ...
  6. Check Your Printer's Settings. ...
  7. Choose a Durable or Flexible Resin.
Sep 9, 2022

Do resin 3D printers print faster? ›

The same file printed using a traditional additive 3D printer took 10 minutes. The resin / light 3D printer provided a 30-fold printing speed increase. Remember, the quality and detail of the two rival print methods are said to be comparable.

How much stronger is PETG than PLA? ›

The Granta polymer database shows that the yield strength for PLA generally falls in the range of 48-60 MPa, while PETG falls in the range of 47.9- 52.9 MPa.

Is PETG stronger than PLA Plus? ›

Despite its low price, standard PLA has very good tensile strength, and PLA+ retains that strength while modifying other aspects of the material. PETG offers a fairly high level of tensile strength — higher than ABS, for instance — but not as high as PLA or PLA+.

Is PLA stronger than polycarbonate? ›

Each material was then tested by loading the hook with weight until it fractured. Polycarbonate won by a landslide. PLA has a tensile strength of 7,250 psi and was able to lift 285 pounds. In comparison, ABS has a tensile strength of 4,700 psi and snapped instantly under 285 pounds of weight.

Is PLA strong enough? ›


It provides ease of use at a low cost and, importantly, it is reasonably strong. Additionally, you can print with PLA at a low temperature, without a heated bed, but it has a tensile strength of 7,250 psi.

Does PETG break down? ›

PETG can take decades to break down completely when sent to landfill, but it is easily recycled using chemicals to break the polymer chains back down to their original components. These components can then be used as raw materials for the manufacture of new polymers.

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.

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.

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.

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 PLA+ stronger then 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.

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.

What temp can PETG withstand? ›

As we saw, PETG has a high melting point of 260°C and a relatively low glass transition temperature of about 85°C. This means that while the printing process requires higher temperatures, parts made from PETG are not known for their heat resistance.


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