The best 3d printer filaments for the best price, is it a fairy tale?

With the exponential growth of the desktop 3d printing scene, even more and more hobbyists and makers are looking for the cheapest plastic filaments for their self-built or out-of-the-box 3d printer. If you google ‘em, you can easily realize that you can get the best prices from the far east, but you should know you mostly get what you pay for when it is about the 3d printer filament prices and the material quality.

sculpture design by parametric | art 3d printed with cheap GigamaX3D filaments

sculpture design by parametric | art 3d printed with cheap GigamaX3D filaments

In this entry, I just want to make clear a few things about choosing the optimal 3d printer filament for your needs, depending on what you want to use your 3d printer for. There aren’t any 3d printer filaments for universal use, the maker itself has to decide in every 3d print job which kind of extrudable plastic is the best for the actual needs.

If there were an award for the most innovative desktop machine of the 21st century, it might well go to the desktop 3d printer. These machines, which turn digital designs and virtual 3d models into real physical objects made out of plastic or other materials like 3d printed wood or sandstone, are getting better, faster, simpler and cheaper at such a dizzying pace that it’s not hard to imagine a future in which they’re as pervasive as personal computers or mobile phones. Just think about the beginning of the internet. There are some common points and milestones in their history. And already, you can buy a basic desktop 3d printer for about €450.

building open-source 3d printers

Velleman open-source 3d printers in the GigamaX3D store

But it isn’t the best decision, however, to hung up on the incredible low prices of the 3d printers themselves. Just think about the most common and conventional 2d inkjet printers which need those expensive ink cartridges every month, affordable desktop 3d printers can work with open-source 3d printing materials with the specified diameter and 3d printing guidelines, other work with cartridges using a built-in chip which makes the system closed. Of course, 3d printer filament cartridges are more expensive than the normal PLA, ABS, HIPS or wooden 3d printer materials, although the material is made in the far east in every single case. Although the plastic pellets of the raw 3d printing material is quite cheap, the spools of plastic filament which a 3d printer layers into an object have a huge impact on the long-term economics of 3d printing.

If you don’t want to pay a huge amount of money for expensive, brand-specific 3d printer filaments, you have a lot of opportunities: if you’re a hacker kind of guy, you can produce your own filaments for your 3d printer by purchasing or building a 3d printer filament extruder like the Strooder, Filastruder projects appeared on Kickstarter a couple of months ago. If you don’t want to turn your bedroom into a plastic factory, you can search for the cheapest 3d printer filament suppliers on the web to get the best offer. It can build up some trust if you see a lot of people using the type of 3d printing material you want, it is always good to see the results of other 3d printers using the same plastic material from the same supplier.

We’ve complained about the high price of 3D printing filament, and cheered at the machines that makes filament for the 3d printer out of plastic pellets. Still, the costs of the material for our 3D printers is getting higher and higher, making every hacker and maker searching for the cheapest 3d printer filaments on the internet. Trying to find the best 3d printing filament supplier is always a work in progress. Canvassing suppliers on every continent for 1.75 and 3mm ABS, PLA, HIPS, PVA, Nylon, Conductive, Flexible or wooden 3d printing material for every possible color while accounting for different amounts and spools of filament and shipping is a whole lot of work. Therefore, I’m going to describe it from the european point of view, first starting with how much it will cost somebody like me to get a kilogram of usual 3d printer filament shipped to my door. And this way I only think about local 3d printer suppliers.

3d printed wood

Spiral by Akemake 3d printed with the TImberfill 100% wood 3d printer filament

If you do some research, you might realize that the cheapest spools are from China or the Far East, which means you have to pay the taxes and high shipping costs for your 3d printer filament spools. If you order it with airmail, it is incredible expensive, if you choose the normal transport, it can take months until the package arrives. A fact is a fact: you’d better choose a 3d printer supplier in your neighborhood because you can check the quality and have some warranty for the quality of the product. 3D printing materials aren’t easy to produce, it can be made wrong both overseas and here in Europe. GigamaX3D wants to bring 3D printing accessible to everybody, so that everybody with an idea for a product can turn it into reality. They think that open-source 3d printers like the Velleman K8200 3d printer KIT or the Flashforge Creator desktop 3d printer and cheap 3d printer filaments could help.

In the GigamaX3D 3D print webshop you can find the cheapest 3d printer filaments with a high quality. They also offer premium 3d printing materials for special applications with higher accuracy and strength, but you also can order ABS, PLA, HIPS, PVA, Nylon, Wood, Conductive or Flexible 3d printer filament spools at an incredible low price starting from € 12.70 / 1 kg. The premium filaments are made in the EU by Fillamentum, which is a czech plastic filament manufacturer with the highest quality materials and most beautiful colors. You also can find filaments from the far east, the cheapest spools are made in China by Esun and are widely used with success around the world since it’s one of the most popular 3d printing filaments.

All the chinese and european 3d printer filaments distributed and used by Gigamax 3D printing technology are extruded with inline laser diameter control for guaranteed quality, and have a tolerance in the cross section dimensions better than +/-0.10mm. They just have started a promotion offer, which means, if you place an order above 10 spools (except the discount white PLA) you can get FREE SHIPPING to the EU using the coupon code 10PLA at the checkout! That means, you can get many colors of PLA, ABS, and HIPS 3D PRINTER FILAMENTS for € 16,50 / 1 kg spool with free shipping! In my own opinion, it’s the the cheapest 3d printer filament available in the EU I ever met. But price is one thing, let’s have a look at the quality of the 3d printer filament. PLA and ABS plastics are the most common 3d printing materials, but the devil hide in the detail and it all goes about the diameter accuracy. I can’t test if the given tolerances were true or not but I know a lot of people who are using Gigamax 3D printer filaments with amazing results on different types of 3d printers with FDM technology. An architect/designer and 3d printing enthusiast, who runs parametric | art generative 3d print studio in Hungary works always with the cheapest Esun filaments purchased from GigamaX3D, a girl who makes unique jewelry with a 3d printer mentioned GigamaX as a filament supplier on her blog as well. The universities and high schools use 3d printers and filaments for different use, the technical and material support is mostly provided by the Hungarian 3d printing company.

3d printe sculpture with fine detail

model downloaded from Thingiverse – 3d printed with cheap white PLA 3d printer filament

Just have a look at these 3d printed movie monsters like Diablo, the Terminator, the Alien or the Predator, they all have been 3d printed with the cheapest GigamaX3D PLA 3D printer filament on a Makerbot Replicator 2 desktop 3d printer with default settings! And you can get this cheap PLA 3d printer filament for € 12,70 / 1 kg spool! That sounds irresistible, don’t it?

high quality 3d printer filament

LIMITED OFFER – 1 kg spool white PLA 3d printer filament for € 12.70

Feel free to ask the guys at GigamaX3D, they can tell you everything about the filaments and 3d scanners they offer. They are working on several projects from movies to medical applications, with key point on education and open-source solutions! Do you want to try something new? Check out the special 3d printer filaments or search the blog for useful tips and tricks about 3d printing!


3D printed generative jewellery with affordable desktop FDM printers

I remember that it wasn’t a long time ago that 3D printing was a little-known term of the high-tech industry. And now, today it is a household name and an accepted technology entering its next major development phase. Right now, we can see 3D printing and all the hybrid additive manufacturing solutions for production taking off and we believe will fundamentally change the world of manufacturing.

In the last couple of years, the global media has given 3d printers a fair amount of attention and the industry now has great expectations placed on it. Perhaps the greatest asset of 3D printing is that it is an enabler . for both corporations and individuals. In fact, 3D printers is being used in three types of manufacturing and fabrication processes: personal manufacturing, augmented manufacturing and alternative manufacturing.

The oversimplification of 3D printing in the media and in conversations does the job of grabbing attention and drawing focus to the highlights of this fabrication process’ capabilities. That big picture has involved more and more people and attracted more interest in 3D printing than ever before. But of course, for an average customer, the details are missing. Without them, you can make poor decisions and you may conclude that 3D printing isn’t quite right for you. But you might know that the devils is in the details, and as the idiom indicates, getting to them may be a challenge for you.

The jewelry industry already understood the importance of harnessing the power of 3D technologies and additive manufacturing for the benefit of the industry in general – and training the next generation of jewelry designers. Parametric design processes like computational algorithms and data based design are the new tools for young designers, and the digital design combined with fully digital fabrication allows them to create some really amazing pieces using a CAD software or only coding.

generative lampshade designed by parametric | art 3d printed by GigamaX3D on a Leapfrog Creatr Dual extruder 3D printer

generative lampshade designed by parametric | art 3d printed by GigamaX3D on a Leapfrog Creatr Dual extruder 3D printer

There are some breathtaking projects around, you have to check out Nervous Systems Kinematics Home app to create custom generative jewellery pieces which can be downloaded and 3d printed on your personal 3d printer at home. Of course, you’ll need a desktop 3D printer with a resolution of 50-100 micron to be able to make high quality prints, nobody wants to wear something barbed. Post processing might be necessary, ABS prints can be smoothed in acetone vapour to get a shiny finish (fine details and contours often disappear during the smoothing process).

When it comes to getting the best out of 3D software and a desktop 3D printer, we can keep in mind that this technology is still a complementary tool, it supports and enhances traditional techniques (like lost-wax casting for example), not replacing them.  It’s a technology that gives the jeweler a new set of tools (both for design and fabrication), but it’s not a replacement for traditional skills. When we are talking to a designer and they want to design a conventional wedding ring, they would not need to take advantage of the things 3D printing offers because on many cases, traditional manufacturing techniques are better placed to do so. According to this, we can say that a 3D printer won’t put a traditional jeweler out of his job. The whole new process of 3D printing only saves designers from having to model the initial part of the design from scratch.

It is a really nice idea for students of for those trying out the technology, to push the technical boundaries of jewelry design and manufacturing with new digital tools as a pattern language. Fashion design, industrial design, architecture and jewelry already adopted the parametric design language which allows the designer to generate a huge amount of variations and iterations for a defined situation depending on fitness values and genetic algorithms. There are some open-source tools for generative design, which makes this game much more fun!

gyroid pendant by parametric | art

gyroid pendant by parametric | art

A dear friend of mine has designed the generative 3d printed jewelry pieces shown in the pictures I’ve inserted, I think they all look really unique, and they all came out from an affordable desktop FDM 3D printer. Most of them are 3D printed on a Leapfrog Creatr Dual extrusion 3D printer, some of them have been printed on a RepRap Huxley or the Velleman K8200 3D printer. In some cases, he has made some test prints on a Makerbot Replicator2 as well. I bet you’ll like all the stuff of the parametric | art 3d printed generative jewelry collection, for some design, there are already uploaded design files (.stl) on Thingiverse, so you only have to download and scale it, and then 3D print it!

'chiselled' bracelet by parametric | art

‘chiselled’ bracelet by parametric | art

The illustrated 3d printed jewelry pieces are great examples for the quality which can be reached with a well-calibrated 3D printer and using premium quality 3D printer filaments. For the chiseled details and overhangs, you’d better print these kind of objects with high resolution (100 micron or finer) and use water-soluble PVA 3D print support material to avoid the trouble while removing supports manually.

'vorocuff' bracelet by parametric | art

‘vorocuff’ bracelet by parametric | art

If you want to design and 3d print your own generative 3d printed jewelry (for example like the voronoi bracelets on the picture above), you don’t need to buy any expensive stuff. You don’t need a professional CAD software which are really expensive, there are plenty of open-source and free tools which you can use as well. Just like I described in a former blog post about 3d modeling for 3d printing, you can use Meshlab, Grasshopper for Rhino and Meshmixer for the modeling work and Netfabb or similar software for optimizing and repairing you meshes before generating the g-code. If you want to learn this stuff, there are some really nice workshops offered by Gigamax 3D printing technology.

DIY 3D printer workshop GigamaX3D x parametric | art

DIY 3D printer workshop
GigamaX3D x parametric | art

Actually a dear friend of mine runs and GigamaX3D facebook page.
They are the official european distributors of ESUN filaments and Velleman 3D printers. They sell nice quality ABS/PLA/HIPS/PVA 3d printing filaments with 1.75 and 3 mm diameters in 1 kg spools in 16 vibrant colors, which I’ve already tested on my Replicator2 and they are all good (I’ve had some serious troubles with 3d printer filament diameter issues before).

3d printed with purple PLA filament

3d printed with purple PLA filament

They also carry consumer and prosumer desktop 3D printers like the Leapfrog Creatr or the Tricolor Mendel RepRap model and also offer print on demand services and training/education workshops. A lot of RepRap parts and electronics are available on stock as well. Gigamax 3D printing workshops offer an impressive scope of standalone desktop 3D printing technology, the Leapfrog Creatr dual extruder model, tricolor Mendel, K8200, Reprap Huxley to name just some of the best ticket items being put to use and build by this busy little center.

GigamaX 3D Printing

GigamaX 3D Printing

Which filament is the best for your desktop 3d printer?

From engineers, plane- and car manufacturers to architects, artists and other product designers, they all use 3D printing to test if their designs come out the way they were intended. Thanks to the winde range of open-source and affordable desktop 3D printers and cheap 3D printing materials, schools, students, small offices, makers, enterpreneurs and professional designers are now able to set up a studio full of 3D printers to have their students or consumers (workshop participants) experiment on their own. In this article I’m going to discuss the most important facts when choosing the filament for your 3d print. There is a huge amount of companies and webshops offering PLA and ABS filaments for 3D printing, but if you aren’t carefully enough, you can get some really serious issues with bad filaments.


Most desktop 3D printers use the fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology, which means, that they all work with plastic filaments with 3 mm or 1.75 mm diameter. The hot end of the 3D printer heats the filament which melts before being extruded from the nozzle. Most 3D printing plastics have a melting point from 180 to 240 Celsius. After 3000 hrs of 3D printing on my Makerbot Rep2 and several types of RepRap 3D printers, my tip would be: if you want to start 3D  printing, you have frustrations enough (mechanical and electrical issues), spend a few extra bucks to eliminate possible filament issues. I’ve tried several suppliers of 3D printing filaments last year, from the cheapest ones to the premium quality spools as well. The moral of my story is:  you get what you pay for, buy materials from a trusted and verified supplier where you know who makes it, and watch out what you put in your 3D printer. 3D printing is already hard enough without nozzle blockages to deal with.


Unfortunately, the nozzles of the usual desktop 3D printer setups aren’t self-cleaning, so you can have some dust or particles while feeding the filament into your extruder head. Accumulated dust/dirt on the filament, or even actual debris inside the filament, can partially or fully block the narrower output end of your nozzle. High quality filaments come vacuum-packed and sealed for your security, but I’d suggest to check it before you put anything into your 3D printer. I’ve found some really cheap stuff on ebay as well, but the pain of clogged nozzles and wasted failed 3D prints its not worth it.


Some 3D printer extruder constructions might be sensitive to the diameter of the filament, it may be have problems if your roll of filament varies widely in diameter.  I’ve had some bad experiences with the Formfutura supplier, although I’ve ordered several spools from them. With the FlexPLA and the Laywood, I haven’t got any problem, but with their normal PLA spools I have discovered some irregular values after measuring the diameter. I mean, the cross section of the filament should be round with a diameter of 1.75 mm, but mine looked like an ellipse with 2.05 mm along the longer axis. Unfortunately, the hot tube of the extruder of the Replicator 2 has only a 2 mm hole in it, so the filament just got stuck int he hot tube while feeding.


I had to take my 3D printer apart, remove the clogged filament and clean all the parts before re-assembling. Sometimes, the diameter variation could be gradual; in this case, you might have great print jobs for a long time, and then unexpected as the filament gradually gets narrower, you have an extrusion issue.  Or, as the filament gets wider, you start to have an over-extrusion problem. I’ve already read some reports about knots ont he spools, int hat case, those plastic spools weren’t originally manufactured for 3D printing, maybe they are common plastic welding rods sold as 3D printing material. If you have experienced knots or stuff like that, you’d better switch to higher quality filament (like the filament that Gigamax3D sell) that is made specifically for 3D printing. I’ve found that supplier a couple of months ago, and I’ve been really glad because they are from nice quality for an affordable price. I’ve tested them before buying, because they have a store in my country so I could measure the diamter of the sealed spools. They have allowed me to test every spool I wanted, and their filament passed the tests with my micrometer. It was the first time I bought some HIPS spools, and they worked fine as well.


Gigamax-supplied filaments have been tested to conform with all the common desktop 3D printers’ specifications and work best for most applications.I you already have some experiences with desktop 3D printers like RepRap machines, Makerbots, Leapfrog 3D printer or any other FDM 3D printer, you might have discovered as some filaments won’t work fine or can cause serious damage to the extruder head and machine. The quality of your 3D prints depends ont he quality of your 3D printing material as well. That’s why it is important to use high quality filaments for 3D printing. Gigamax offers an array of plastic filament colors. If you visit the Gigamax 3D print webshop  you can see the full range of colors and special materials like glow-in-the-dark PLA or HIPS filaments in bright colors. All Gigamax 3D printing filaments come in a vacuum-packed foil bag with a desiccant pack to keep the ABS, PLA and HIPS spools dry during storage.


They also sell PVA material, which can be really useful if you have a dual extrusion 3D printer like Leapfrog Creatr or a multimaterial RepRap machine like the Tricolor Mendel. 3D printing with FDM technology is really popular because of the simpliness of the process. There is no finishing necessary when 3D printing with extruded PLA, ABS or HIPS filaments. After the FDM extrusion process, the plastic solidifies right away. No chemical reactions, resins, etc. and no further post-processing and/or finishing needed. In case you use a 3D printer with multiple extruder heads with the water-soluble plastic PVA plastic as a support material, you have to dissolve the PVA in water after your print is finished. PVA is an amazing material, unfortunately it only can be used with at least 2 extruders and costs a little bit more than usual 3D printing plastics.


Since I switched to Gigamax3D filaments I haven’t got any issues with filament diameter and clogged nozzles, unless I unloaded the HIPS filament and loaded some Laywood and Laybrick material. I think that some particles may have stayed in the brass nozzle and that’s why it acts like a barrier and the plastic cannot extrude. You know, 3D printing can be sometimes really frustrating, especially if you don’t know the reason for the problem. I’ve had several issues along the months, I’m going to post about typical issues with my Makerbot soon (problems with the Delrin plunger, broken cables, SD card reading errors and wrong plastic pulleys… c u next time;)

How to check your .stl files before 3D printing them

Hi there, today it’s going to be about some general design rules that should always be performed on any .stl file you create before 3D printing. Most of the downloadable .stl files for 3D print offered by several platforms are already checked for 3D printing, and the feedback is quick as well if something is wrong because of the nice community around 3D printing.

© parametric | art

© parametric | art

After the 3D printing boom in the last couple of months, the number of the 3D printer owners has rised and a lot of people started to 3D print their downloaded things at home. The system of the RepRap-like FDM 3D printers hasn’t been designed for a plug&play use, if you’re into 3 printing you should know what I am talking about. If you are a natural born hacker, RepRaps are just for you, but if you want a 3D printer for professional production you should buy an expensive FDM printer from the higher class. They use the same technology but the system is closed so it doesn’t need any adjustment or special maintenance.

© parametric | art

© parametric | art

If you want to design a 3D model for a visualization render or a video game, you needn’t pay any attention to real world physics. In the practice, the most 3D objects will only contain the meshes that are visible, they don’t need to really connect, there can be a lot of 2D elements in the geometry and there can be some holes and broken meshes or duplicates which can disturb the slicing process while generating the g-code, etc. You can completely ignore the physical world. 
As some of you have already discovered, once you start working with 3D printers this is very different!

Screen shot 2013-07-19 at 1.19.52 PM

I just would like to share the basic design rules of my general design for 3D printing process and the machines I’ve worked with. If you design something in 3D, at the beginning, you probably don’t know which type of machine and material you want to use to realize your object. In general, every single 3D printing technology like FDM, SLS or DLP has got its own pros and cons, so the designs should be optimized for the actual chosen additive manufacturing method and the material for the fabrication. I mostly use my desktop 3D printer which works with fused deposition modeling technology (FDM), actually it is an upgraded/hacked Makerbot Replicator2, which is capable to 3D print with experimental materials as well, like laybrick (sandstone-like stuff) and laywood (wooden filament). I usually print with PLA filaments and sometimes I make 3D prints with wood and sandstone. I already have 3D printed more than 2000 hrs with my machine, and I had to learn the limitations of the FDM process so I could design more complex geometrical forms and parts.

Usually, I make my designs in Rhino with the Grasshopper parametric modeling tool, which is absolutely free. This great plug-in gives you parametric control over your meshes, so I can think about the 3D printing process while designing my sculptures or stuff like that.

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 2.13.04 PM

If you want to prepare your model for 3D printing, you should know the boundaries of your machine. If not, there are some general guidelines to choose the right and universal maximum size and wall-thickness, based on the build volume and nozzle/beam diameter of the 3D printer. In general, the model should fit into a 15 x 15 x 15 cm cube and mustn’t contain walls with a thickness under 1mm.

Screen shot 2013-07-19 at 11.44.21 AM

If you need support structures for your 3D print, maybe you should add them manually to your model; the automatic generated supports by the several slicer software are a waste of material and if you don’t use some soluble material for 3D printing support structures with a dual extrusion 3D printer, you may have some issues while removing the support structures and get a nice surface finish.

@ parametric | art

@ parametric | art

Another important thing is the position of the normal vectors of the meshes of your .stl file. All meshes of your model should have their normals pointing in the correct direction. When your model contains inverted normal’s, the 3D printer cannot determine the inside or outside of your mesh or 3D model.  Usual problem is the error of the mesh surface as well, holes, duplicates can make your print wrong.  In Rhino, there are some really nice Mesh Repair tools like Cap Holes of Remove Duplicates, which can make your work easier. Netfabb is an awesome cloud-based tool as well, the free version already allows you to analyze, test and repair your .stl files, split and cut them into parts.

Your 3D printed surfaces must be closed, I’d like like to call this being ‘watertight’. It can sometimes be a pain to identify where this problem occurs in your 3D model, if you can’t find it, there are some really nice algorithms or applications and tools which will highlight the problem area for you. Will It 3D Print is useful site with a funny design, unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me with complex and huge .stl files, with simple geometries it might work. I’ve already put together an algorithm in Grasshopper which analyzes meshes for holes and unifies their normal vectors.

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 2.20.10 PM

Let me share some really nice apps and tools which I’ve used to create and optimize my 3D models for the 3D printing. At first, you have to create the 3D geometry of your model. I use several professional 3D software’s, but if you don’t want to get into 3D modeling and complex geometries, there are some easy-to-use sculpting solutions which can give you great results without any 3D experience. Of course, you can download .stl files from 3D databases like Thingiverse, GrabCAD, Ponoko, or Nervous System, you also can customize your stuff with some really nice WebGL based 3D modeling tools which run in your browser window.

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 2.23.35 PM

If you want to create something unique, SculptGL, 123D and Leopoly could be the right choice for you! Both are in-browser 3D modeling environments with 3D print and .stl export function, and Leopoly has got an absolutely awesome controller called Leonar3Do which is a bird-like device to navigate and work in a 3D virtual reality space.

If you already have your model, you have to optimize and check them before 3D printing, Netfabb, the Mesh Repair functions of Rhino, WillIt3DPrint and Meshmixer are great solutions for that, and of course, the new 3D printing features of Blender’s latest release gives you a nice control over these parameters as well.

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 2.16.17 PM

After your .stl meshes have been tested, you have to slice your model to generate the g-code which defines the tool path for the extruder head of your 3D printer. This article cannot describe the whole world of g-codes that the most desktop 3D printer firmwares use and how they work, but some facts should be cleared. The main target is additive fabrication using FFF/FDM processes. Codes for the 3D printer head movements follow the NIST RS274NGC G-code standard, so RepRap-like firmwares could be used well for CNC milling or stuff like that.

As many different firmwares exist and their developers tend to implement new features without discussing strategies or looking what others did before them, a lot of different sub-flavours for the 3D-Printer specific codes developed over the years. The most common slicing software solutions like Slic3r, MakerWare, ReplicatorG, etc. can save the information in the main format and as a pure g-code as well. If we aren’t sure about the success of our 3D prints, because we try it for the first time, we can test and simulate the 3D printing process with our g-code. There are a couple of g-code visualizers available, some of them already runs on Android as well. CNC Simulators can animate the 3D printers movement and working process as well, so can easily check if our print will work or not. The ReplicatorG and Slic3r offers similar simulating and analyzing functions like Netfabb and WillIt3DPrint.

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 2.34.44 PM

If everything is ready, and our model has been sliced and fully prepared for 3D printing, we can turn on our magic machine (I mean a desktop 3D printer for example) and prepare it for the work. Make sure your build plate has been leveled correctly because it can cause the first layer not to stick to the plate. You can wash it with acethone but always check the leveling before you print.

© parametric | art

© parametric | art

You can use a painters tape if you want to, I personally don’t prefer stuff like that because I print all the time so it would take too many hours to change the tape, I always print with solid raft structures so I can easily remove the prints from the plate without any risk of damage. Make sure you have enough filament on the spool to complete the process, and let’s start heating the extruder! In a couple of hours (or days depending on the size and resolution) your prototype is ready, just like this huge industrial prototype I’ve printed, which took more than 50 hrs to print in 3 separate parts.

© parametric | art

© parametric | art

But it looks really cool, I’ve made it with translucent PLA using 70 micron (.07mm) layer height, which is quite good from a desktop 3D printer like my hacked Makerbot. Of course, all the 3D printer manufacturers offer their own software for the machine, and I bet they work pretty good as well, but if you want to push the boundaries of your desktop 3D printer, the open-source software solutions gives you more possibilities for fine tuning and calibration of your machine for special materials or experiments. In my next entry, I’m going to post some results about my latest 3D printing experiments: 3D printing with sandstone and wood – organic materials in the digital fabrication process! Stay tuned 😉


3D printing plastics – PLA vs ABS in practice

Welcome on my blog! Today, we are going to go on with the differences of the most common 3D printing materials, the ABS and PLA plastics. The most desktop 3D printers can work with these materials, last week’s post was about the main characteristics of the two filament types, today it’s going to be about some special aspects of use in practice. I want to discuss some important things about these 2 materials, I mean the shrinkage factor, rigidity, bio-degradability and heat resistance.



A fact is a fact: PLA is a much more rigid material compared to ABS. If you compare ABS and PLA by applying a progressive force, ABS will start to bend and finally will break; while ABS is bending, PLA on the other hand will hold it’s shape (it’s very rigid and doesn’t flex). Actually, this one is the reason for the design fail of the plunger construction of the MakerBot Replicator 2. The guys at MakerBot have set the old plunger construction used in the Replicator1 and other RepRap 3d printers. But those all work with ABS filament, which is . as mentioned above – not as rigid as PLA. After 100 hrs of 3D printing with my new Replicator2 desktop 3D printer, the filament has cut a hole in the plastic cap of the plunger. It’s okay – I thought – and I have tightened the screw on the plunger a little. I got another 100 hrs of 3D printing, but after that, another hole has appeared. There is a much better – a spring loaded – construction for that, you can download the upgraded plunger form Thingiverse and 3D print your own.


PLA is more rigid and its surface is harder as well. When applying more force, after a certain point it will eventually break before bending. You often need more force to break a PLA part than an ABS one especially if you have a thick part.


Something about the shrinkage factor of PLA for 3D printing

Fact: PLA has a much lower shrinkage factor than ABS. Usually it means that it is MUCH easier to use in the most common desktop FDM 3D printers: unlike ABS, PLA deforms definitely less and suffers from very little layer detachment leading to a much higher success rate on your 3D prints. I’ve 3D printed my most beautiful parts all with PLA, ABS isn’t the right choice for fine surface finishes.


With ABS, even a relatively small part will deform when printing if you don’t have a heated bed and/or a heated building environment. With the RepRap machines like the Felix or the Prusa model, it is really hard to get a tempered 3D print environment, because the working area of the 3D printer isn’t closed. (I’ve never managed it to heat it up to 100 Celsius as suggested, my maximum of bed temperature has been 80 Celsius with my RepRap.) With the more expensive desktop 3D printers like the MakerBot Replicator 2X it would be better: the tempered chamber of the 3D printer allows you to control the temperature of your prints immediately.


Are you interested in painting of your 3D printed plastic parts? I have really good news for you: both usual 3D printing materials – PLA and ABS – can be painted and post processed (sanded) if needed. First thing is first… Preparation. There are some Items that you need when prepping the plastics to paint. This first step is really important, because if you missed it, the primer didn’t bond well with the ABS plastic and tended to flake off.


Bio degradability

PLA is a bio degradable material. This means it will resist for very long in indoors use and occasional outdoors use but permanent exposure to the elements will eventually start to degrade it. It is not suitable, for example, for parts that need to stay outdoors 365 days a year; for these applications ABS is preferable.From what we’ve seen over the years we’ve been selling 3D printers there are 3 very specific cases where ABS is preferable over PLA:

Outdoors use

I’ve had a customer a couple of weeks ago who has asked me to 3D print build enclosures for electronics modules that were going to be left outside for many years. In that case ABS was the better choice because it’s not biodegradable, so it is more durable for outdoor use.

Flexible parts

Another customer needed to build supports for DIN rails. The support needed to flex enough to fit into the DIN rail. I have 3D printed the same part in PLA and ABS. PLA, caused by its rigidity, wouldn’t flex so ABS was the right material because of its flexibility. In the last couple of weeks, some flexible PLA materials have appeared on the market as well; I’ve already ordered some spools for testing but I haven’t got any experiences with them yet. I’m looking forward to see the results.

Temperature and heat resistance

Fact: ABS has a higher melting temperature so if you need plastic parts that need to deal with high temperatures (about 100 Celsius or more), than ABS is also preferable over PLA because of its higher melting point.



My conclusion: all in all PLA is not a “one size fits all” but it will meet the needs of 95% of the 3D printing enthusiasts and – from experience – it is so much easier to 3D print compared to ABS.

That’s it for today, I hope this posts helps clear out some questions about the right choice of material for 3D printing. In my next post, I’m going to write about some really special, experimental materials which can be 3D printed as well, just think about some wood or sandstone 3D printed things. It sounds awesome, doesn’t it?


Some facts about the most common 3D printing materials: PLA vs. ABS

Hi there, it’s me again. Today we’re going to discuss some myths and truths about the most common 3D printing materials used in FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) technology, which is applied in the usual affordable desktop 3D Printers like my MakerBot Replicator2, Cube, Solidoodle, RepRaps, uPrinters and so on…

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© parametric | art

Honestly I felt – based on your questions and feedback – that it would be really necessary and important to clarify some key facts about PLA (Polylactic acid) and also the pros and cons, I mean the the advantages and disadvantages of PLA vs ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) when used on FFD printers (such as the Makerbot Replicator2, Thing-O-Matic, Cupcake, Mendel, Felix, Rostock, UP!, etc.).

At first, I really would like to say that PLA is an absolutely strong and very durable material for 3D printing.

There are a couple of myths around this great material (PLA):

Some of you think that PLA will dissolve in water and/or will degrade in moist or wet environments. That is totally false. The 3D printable plastic, which is often used as a support material with dual extrusion 3D printers and which dissolves in water is PVA (Polyvinyl alcohol), not PLA.

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© parametric | art

Another fake myth is the durability of this great material. Some people – even some 3D print enthusiasts – are afraid from PLA, because they think that it will self destruct and simply become undone in a matter of months, just because PLA is biodegradable. I have to repeat myself, again, not true.

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© parametric | art

“Biodegradable” means – in my opinion and literally as well – that the product is strong and performs its function very well but when you throw it in a landfill or soil it will ultimately break down, of course not instantly, it takes a couple of years to complete the biodegradation process.

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© parametric | art

This is actually much more environmental-friendly comparing to ABS which takes over hundreds of years to break down. In addition PLA is made from natural resources such as corn starch or sugar cane, which makes this great material the right choice to create plastic parts at home. Just think about it, what if it will be true and the revolution of additive manufacturing and desktop 3D printers was going to escalate, everyone would like to be a designer and will print the own ideas day and night. We should be more responsible for our mother nature and not 3D print too much ABS junk. (Although we have to recognize, that ABS and PLA could be recycled as well.)

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© parametric | art

Some people claim that ABS is much stronger than PLA. That’s a little bit more complex, because the sentence mentioned above is absolutely true. This is the most recurring myth in the PLA vs ABS war and it’s also absolutely inaccurate: if you compare injection molded parts, ABS parts are pretty much stronger than it’s PLA counterparts; however we’re doing our 3D printed prototypes layer by layer, not injection molding and this changes things considerably:

A 3D printed part in PLA is MUCH stronger than a part printed in ABS. This is because PLA has much stronger layer bonding than ABS.

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© parametric | art

Let me tell you some words about layer bonding: unlike injection molding, FDM printers  3D print layer by layer so layer bonding is what determines the part strength.

If you are familiar with 3D Printing you’ll know that the strength of a 3D printed plastic part changes depending on the direction: if you pull perpendicularly to the Z axis – I mean vertically – (where layers are deposited), they will detach; if you pull in any other direction the part is much stronger. It behaves a bit like wood, this kind of anisotropy is really characteristic for natural wood products, and for 3D printed wood as well.

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© parametric | art

Because PLA has much stronger layer bonding it’s almost as strong in all directions (even when pulled in the Z axis).

ABS on the other hand, will detach layers much faster and much easily than PLA, making 3D printed ABS parts less strong. (they aren’t weak either; PLA parts are just stronger).

In my next blog entry, I want to discuss the PLA vs ABS thing in practice; there will be a lot of useful information about the shrinkage factor, rigidity, post-processing/sanding and melting temperature, so stay tuned;)