How are filaments made

3D printer filament - everything you need (and want) to know

Manufacturers of 3D printers sometimes offer their own 3D printer filament and recommend using only this one. However, numerous other types of plastic wire can now be found on the market. Some materials have very special properties (electrical conductivity, transparency or fluorescence). Some colors are only available from a few 3D printer filaments. You quickly lose track of what is on offer.

That's why you will find an overview of all manufacturers of 3D printer filament worldwide and can compare the individual filament materials directly with one another - filament comparison. You will receive tips for the correct handling of the filaments and find suggestions on what you can do with them (application examples).

Which plastic can be printed?

So-called thermoplastic is used as the plastic for 3D filament. In contrast to other types of plastic, thermoplastics change into a plastic to liquid state when exposed to temperature. This property is used in the 3D printing process Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM - in German: melt layer process - is also called FFF Fused Filament Fabrication).

Plastic in the form of filament is fed to an extruder in the 3D printer, heated to melting temperature and pressed through a nozzle in a liquid or viscous state. This is how a component is built up layer by layer.

The most common and easiest material to process for beginners in 3D printing is PLA (polylactide or polylactic acid). It is environmentally friendly and compostable. In industry, however, ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) is mainly used. You can also find out which plastics are otherwise processed here.

How is 3D printer filament made?

3D printer filament is produced by extrusion. A thermoplastic material (partially also thermoplastic elastomers TPE) in the form of granules is used as the starting material. This is pressed out of a nozzle by an extruder with pressure and a correspondingly high temperature. The shape and cross-section of the nozzle determine the geometry and diameter of the end product.

The picture shows the scheme of an extruder screw with funnel, screw and nozzle.

The common 3D printers process two different diameters with 1.75 mm and 3 mm (or 2.85 mm). Because of this, filament is also offered in these sizes.

When extruding, the process must be constantly monitored and an optimal quality must be ensured. A filament that fluctuates in diameter, is deformed or dirty will produce poor printing results.

After filament is made, it is either called loose bundles or on Do the washing up delivered. The coils are not standardized and each manufacturer supplies different ones. For example, there are spools made of plastic, cardboard or simple three-spoke spools.

When winding, it is important to ensure that the filament is not wound too tightly (minimum bending radius). Otherwise the thread could break. Therefore, the processing of loose material should be done directly and with as few diversions as possible to the extruder.

3D printer filament is charged based on weight when purchased. Some suppliers offer so-calledSamples at. These are small packs of different filaments for testing.

Danger! Health protection

Since there is still no standardization in the production of filament, it must be assumed that cheap filament contains plasticizers and other additives. Nothing is known about the health effects of these additives - is 3D printer filament harmful?

The quality of cheap filament, often from Asia, is also not optimal. It is therefore advisable for beginners to rely on high-quality filament from trustworthy manufacturers.

For more information:

  • more than 75 filament manufacturers in direct comparison
  • our filament comparison - the most important parameters at a glance and a list of manufacturers for 3D printer filament

Since our own health is important to us and we live the idea of ​​sustainability, we recommend filament manufacturers from Germany or other countries in Europe.

Recycling of 3D printer filament - own production of filament

Recycling of plastic is not always completely possible. Only pure plastic can be 100 percent recycled. The usual processes such as pressing, extrusion or injection molding are used for this.

A number of projects (Filabot, Filastruder) have already emerged via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, which enable filament production in-house. For example, old plastic bottles are coarse-grained into filament.

Since not every 3D print works right away, the misprints can now be kept and used later for your own production of filament.