What Filament to use?


I’m new here, I just bought a Lulzbot Mini and I’m having a good time experimenting in the world of 3D printing.
Something I’m not too sure of is what type of filament to use for my projects. I’m looking at some modeling for fun, figurines, game pieces, etc. Nothing on the industrial level (maybe later).

So, I did the first use print with the octopus with the 1 meter of HIPS, and it came out fine. I notice that the HIPS seems easier to cut into with a hobby knife; if I wanted to “shave” or cut parts off… I then bought some eSun PLA and I noticed that the PLA is quite hard, trying to “trim” the model is more like chiselling. I’ve not yet tried ABS (since I don’t have any). So, for what I want to do, it seems PLA is too rigid and brittle, so should I stick with HIPS or look at ABS or something else? I’d like to make the post-print process work easier.

Thanks in advance for any help,

This is going to sound trite, but if you are getting the results you want with HIPS, why are you looking to switch? I appreciate that you are asking for input because experimenting with filaments on your own can be expensive. :open_mouth:

Each type of filament has pros and cons. PLA prints usually turn out more aesthetically pleasing due to the high luster; however, those prints generally are brittle. (Not good for game pieces.)

ABS is stronger and a bit more flexible but requires special treatment to get a high luster (acetone vapor or smoothing). ABS can also be very frustrating due to thermal delamination.

HIPS is a good, easy to use prototyping and modelling filament. It it comes out very dull but takes paint well. I have heard some folks talk about using a MEK vapor treatment for smoothing/polishing. I would not recommend using MEK unless you really understand the dangers and handling procedures. MEK easily goes through exposed skin and can cause serious damage to your internal organs.

I have found nylon to be easy to use and has the benefit of being dye-able. It is also extremely strong and flexible. The problem with Nylon (from my point of view) is the cost.

T-Glase is very stiff, very hard, and can be very pretty. Cost is the issue with this filament.

Flexible filaments are very specialized and require a bit of a learning curve (not to mention a different tool head). While game pieces made of flexible filament might be fun, you may not be happy with the clarity of the print.

I have not used PETG or any of the filled filaments (metal, wood, carbon fiber, etc.) and cannot provide any insight on those.

Thanks for the great information! I chose PLA because some people I know that do 3D printing said that’s what they used, so I figure why not. I think I’ll switch back to HIPS, since I think I like the properties of the material better.

Interesting. I dislike PLA because of the high luster and much prefer ABS for it’s semi-matte surface. I’m allergic to HIPS fumes so I’ve barely used it.

ABS is very hard to print in a cold environment. WIth my garage in the low 40s / high 30s, ABS is impossible because it splits at the layer levels and shrinks more the farther away from the heated build plate the layer is causing warping. One nice thing about ABS is that it does not tend to gum up the nozzle with residue making auto-leveling on the Mini more reliable.

PETG is nice in that it has the flexibility of ABS without the separation and warping issues. It’s shiny which for me is a negative but for others a positive. The big advantage is that it prints great in my cold garage – the colder the better in fact. When the ambient temperature is warmer, I tend to get a lot of stinging. PETG does gum up the nozzle meaning it needs more manual cleaning to maintain correct auto-leveling.

I basically hate PLA. It is hard, brittle, and shiny and seems really chintzy to me. Mine is a minority opinion obviously. It also gums up the nozzle with residue quite easily and I find that I need to do a lot of manual cleaning to get good auto-leveling results. However, when I want something that will be as rigid as possible, I’ll use it for that structural quality.

Note about manual cleaning: If using metal (bronze or steel wool or wire brush) heat up the nozzle and then unplug the Mini from power before you touch the nozzle. I learned the hard way that it is very easy to cause a short which kills endstops and when that happens, you must replace the controller board.