PLA vs ABS vs PETG vs Nylon — 3D-Printer Filament Comparison

No matter what it is that you are printing, what kind of filament-based 3D printer you have, or how much time you intend on spending creating your prints, there will always be a varying selection of 3D printer filaments for you to choose from.

It can be a real challenge to know which one to choose, PLA, ABS, PETG, and Nylon, all have fantastic points about them, and they are all great in different ways. So, how can you narrow down your choices and make an informed and accurate choice about what you will use in your prints?

That is why we are here, today we will draw a comparison between these four types of filament and help you choose the best for your needs. All of these are very popular, owing this to their convenience.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty facts around these filaments, we will give you a visual chart that shows how these four filaments look when pitted together in their ratings.

In case you are in a hurry and don’t have time to read all the information we have, you can use this to help you get an idea of what qualities each filament is most desired for. 

[Rated from 1-5.]

Materials

PLA

ABS

PETG

Nylon

Strength

2

3

4

5

Durability

1

4

4

5

Flexibility

1

3

4

5

Ease of Use

5

3

4

2

Resistance

2

4

4

5

Safety

5

2

4

1

Price

5

5

4

1

Filament Strength

PLA

PLA is made from organic materials, and has a tensile strength of almost 7,250 psi. This makes it a high contender when it comes to printing parts that require high strengths.

This being said, despite its high strength, it is almost more brittle than ABS and it's not preferred when you need a totally rock-solid print.

Let’s just say, the army won’t be using this to 3D print tanks. But, while it is not suitable for 3D printing military artillery, it is 100% suitable for printing many toys, a great deal of toys on the market are often made of PLA.

ABS

ABS on the other hand has a solid tensile strength of 4,700 psi. It is very strong, and it is a desired filament for many businesses. Especially for the businesses that are producing headgear, or automobile spare parts, it is very strong.

However, it is much more recommended when it comes to flexural strength, to which is the capability of an object to continue to hold its form even when it is excessively stretched, so it cannot slap as PLA can. You could make a tank out of this, but you could still get better strength.

PETG

PETG has an even more impressive physical strength in comparison to ABS. When compared to something such as PLA, it is flying ahead.

It is an all-rounder and a commonly available filament. It does lack a little in its rigidity which does still make it prone to wear and tear.

Nylon

Then we have Nylon, which is also known as Polyamide, which is a thermoplastic that offers fantastic mechanical strength but less desirable stiffness.

Despite this it is significantly useful for varying industrial applications where there is a high weight ratio involved.

It has an approximate tensile strength of 7,000 psi, which makes it far from brittle. You could probably make a fairly decent tank for this with enough of it.

Although, tanks should really stick with being make out of metals.

Overall Verdict

We use tanks as a judgement of strength, this is because the winner of strength is Nylon, it is used in military grade equipment. Although, not tanks, it is actually used in the formation of tents, ropes, and parachutes in this equipment. So while it's not tank material, it is military-grade as a material and is definitely strong enough to keep you safe.

The other materials are good, but they’re no Nylon when it comes to strength.

Filament Durability

PLA

Being a biodegradable filament, objects made from PLA can be deformed with ease if they are placed in an area that is home to some high temperatures.

This is simply because PLA has a low melting point, with it being just above 60 °C. This means that durability is not really a strong point for PLA, despite it being an organically made filament.

ABS

While ABS is technically weaker than PLA, it does make up for its weakness in its durability, where its long term toughness is a definite benefit.

It has a sturdiness that allows it to play a role in the manufacturing of types of headgear. Evermore, it is designed to withstand long term wear and tear.

PETG

In terms of durability, PETG is better than PLA, physically, but is just as good as ABS. Despite it being less rigid and less solid than ABS.

It has the stellar durability to withstand harsh outdoor conditions, and it can easily tolerate the sun and its heat as well as changing weather conditions also.

Overall PETG is considered to be a much better filament than PLA or BS due to its flexibility and its durability match.

Nylon

If you are experiencing some troubles in making durable prints that last, then you should probably opt for Nylon, since the longevity of Nylon printed objects is practically unmatched by any other filaments in this area.

It offers extreme and fantastic durability, which makes it's a fantastic choice when you are creating prints that are needed to endure mechanical stresses. Also, the semi crystalline structure of Nylon adds even more that the tough and durable features it already has.

Overall Verdict

Once again the winner is Nylon, facing off with ease against ABS and PETG.

Things printed with Nylon have that extra resilience that other filaments just cannot contend with. Nylon is sure to stick around for the longest.

Best Budget 3D Printer

Filament Flexibility

PLA

PLA is a rather brittle filament, and therefore it will be likely to instantly snap when it gets a little overwhelmed, or even if it is stretched a little too much.

When it is compared to something such as ABS, it is significantly less flexible and will rip if challenged. Therefore, for highly pliable prints, you should avoid PLA.

ABS

ABS is less brittle than PLA, it can be flexible to an extent where it can be somewhat deformed, without entirely cracking. It has been proven to be significantly more flexible than PLA and can withstand extensive stretching.

It does offer great toughness but with an impressive flexibility which does make it a great option in this category.

PETG

PETG is regarded to be a bit of a ‘new kid’ and it is slowly making its way to stardom, simply because it offers are wide range of features such as flexibility, resilience, and strength all in a very admirable manner.

It is just as flexible as many would hope for, and it maintains it durability also.

Nylon

Nylon is very strong and very durable, it also offers malleability, which means that it can be formed into a shape without breaking. This is one of the mode adored factors of Nylon that makes it so preferable. It owes its toughness to its flexibility, as well with it having a lightweight feel.

Its resilience, pliability and its strength make it a bit of a ‘jack of all trades’ in the filament game, and is just why it is so popular.

Overall Verdict

No surprises here, Nylon wins again.

With its malleability, it is both flexible and durable. You can’t hate that!

Filament Ease of Use

PLA

PLA is a recommended filament for any beginners in the world of 3D printing. This means that the filament is extremely easy to get used to using, especially for beginners, making sure that there are no complexities.

It even requires a lower temperature for both the heating bed and for the extruder, there is no preheating of the printing platform requires, and it does not need an enclosure over the printer either.

ABS

Relatively speaking, ABS is slightly more difficult to work with since it is fairly heat-resistant.

Therefore, in comparison to PLA, ABS needs a heated printing bed, otherwise users may have a difficult time getting it to adhere as needed.

It is also prone to warping, thanks to its high melting point. Controlling the curling points gets a bit more difficult.

PETG

Similar to ABS, PETG can be a bit of a problem child, since it is hygroscopic in nature. This basically means that it will usually absorb water in the air, therefore you have to be gentle and take care of it when you use it.

That being said it does have a very low shrinkage and is not prone to warping thanks to this. Meaning in turn, beginners will have a fairly easy time when getting used to PETG, thanks to its low temperature setting for best performance.

It does not need drying to print successfully either, but it does help with getting quality results.

Nylon

Despite how much we love Nylon, and how great its qualities are, it is not really a beginner filament. It is also hygroscopic, drawing in moisture from its surroundings.

So, it too, should be confined within a dry structure otherwise it will make the whole process undoable. Its working conditions also prefer an enclosed chamber, a high temperature, and the drying of the filament prior to printing as well.

Overall Verdict

Amazingly, it is not Nylon that wins this second, this time PLA wins. PLA will leave a lasting impression on a person who is just starting up with 3D printing.

Without any foul odors, and just suitable working, it is fantastic for a newbie to the printing game.

Ender 3 Pro vs Ender 3 Compared

Filament Resistance

PLA

PLA has a really low melting point and therefore cannot tolerate heat extensively.

So with it being less resistant than any other filament, it is notable that it will not retain strength or stiffness in temperature over 50 °C. With its brittleness to, PLA doesn’t win resistance.

ABS

ABS has four times the impact resistance of PLA. This proves its solidity, it also had a relatively high melting point, with high resistance to heat and little chance of deformation upon an increase in temperatures.

It is also chemical resistant, however, Acetone is commonly used post process for a glossy finish. That being said, it is also vulnerable to UV radiation and cannot stand in the sun for extended periods of time.

PETG

PETG has brilliant chemical resistant, more so than any other filament, especially when it comes to substances that are high alkaline or acids.

It is also water resistant. It does have a slight edge over ABS in the terms of UV resistance. Temperature wise, PETG can majorly tolerate a temperature around 80 °C.

Nylon

Nylon is tough, we already know this. It is UV resistant, it is highly chemical resistant, more so than ABS and PLA, this allows more industrial applications.

It is resistant to abrasion, which backs up its claims to be tough. Even through extensive use, it can become evident that Nylon is also shock tolerant.

Overall Verdict

Is it ant shock to say that Nylon takes the gold again?

With more impact resistance than ABS, and more chemical and UV resistance than ABS and PLA, it continually proves itself over and over again.

Filament Safety

PLA

PLA is regarded to be the ‘safest’ of 3D printer filaments. Primarily because PLA breaks down to a Lactic Acid which is next to near harmless.

It is also natural and organize, sourced from sugarcane and maize. Users have often noted a ‘sugary’ odor when printing PLA, which is different, and significantly safer, than when ABS and Nylon emit.

ABS

Similar to Nylon, ABS has a melting point that exceeds temperatures of between 210 and 250 °C while also emitting fumes that are irritants for the human respiratory system.

It also poses as potential health risk towards users and is not entirely safe to work with. You should only use it in an area where you can guarantee an adequate circulation of airflow. Having an enclosure of the printer will also assist in the reduction of any toxic inhalations.

PETG

PETG is safer than ABS, and Nylon, but we won’t say it doesn’t smell a bit. It is not odorless, but it does emit micro-particles.

It is less risky than printing Nylon=filaments. Furthermore, it is food safe as well, as it is found being one of the main components of water and juice bottles.

Nylon

Nylon does need a higher temperature for its optimal performance, and due to this it is also more prone to producing toxic fumes that are harmful to humans.

It also is known to emit a volatile organic compound (or VOC), which is called Caprolactam which is toxic when inhaled. So, Nylon needs an enclosed printer chamber as well as proper ventilation to proper minimalism the health risks of use.

Overall Verdict

Breathing in any plastic fumes can be potentially harmful. But, PLA does a stellar job at minimizing the best it can.

It is definitely one of the safest and lowest risk filaments around.

Filament Price

Filaments will always vary in cost, depending on brands and where they are purchased.

We will provide a mid-rage average price of these thermoplastics.

PLA

PLA while being similar to ABS, is one of the most common printing filaments that is used today. A PLA filament of above average quality tends to cost between $15-$20.

ABS

ABS, like PLA, is also a very common filament on today's market. You can get a purchase of ABS filament for as low as $15-$20, much like PLA.

PETG

You can easily get a great quality PETG filament for around $19 per kg.

Nylon

Finally, Nylon filament is the most costly of all, however, it is not really much of a surprise after how many wins it has had today.

For a good quality Nylon filament, you are looking at a cost of between $50-$73 per kg.

Overall Verdict

When considering all of these things, we have to give PLA the crown here. This is especially due yo its being the most popular 3D printing filament on the market and sustaining such a cheap price.

It gives buyers what they need for more than they pay for at a low cost of below $20.

Which filament is the top dog? [PLA, ABS, PETG, or Nylon?]

It is certainly not easy to crown an overall winner between these four filaments. There are so many uses for each individual material. If you want something strong, durable and functional, then Nylon is a great material of choice.

However, beginners are better off steering clear of Nylon. As you enter 3D printing, you may seek a material that has a wide range of uses while being cheap, in this case PLA is your primary choice, and PETG can also be used for this as well.

ABS is the most suitable for a little more experience while adding extra durability and strength to your prince.

Since PETG came onto the scene it is the filament that is known for UV resistance, so for any outdoor prints, it is a great and reliable option. Nylon on the other hand is not only expensive, but it requires a significant amount of knowledge and safety measures to work with.

Depending on your desired end goal and what project you are doing, you can decide which filament will best work for you, but it is safe to say, there is no top dog, all are good for different reasons.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *