What kind of filament you will use depends on what projects you would like to print and the environments those printed objects will be in.
PLA and PLA+
The most common filament is PLA or PLA+.
PLA and PLA+ is great filament for several reasons:
It doesn't require a heated bed
It's made from renewable resources like cornstarch or sugarcane
There are no toxic fumes when printing with PLA
You can buy in bulk and it has good shelf life when stored correctly
PLA also comes in a huge variety of colors, along with many specialty filaments such as silk and glow-in-the-dark, color-changing, and more.
There are some drawbacks to using PLA. The biggest one is that PLA is not good for anything that will be in direct sunlight or located in a hot environment like a car. It will soften up and can warp or just melt.
PLA will absorb water, so it is not suitable for anything that will hold water or sit in water unless it is treated in post-processing. This also means that if it is not stored correctly, it can absorb the moisture in the air and become brittle and break easily while printing or cause poor print quality.
ABS has three main attributes:
It is tough
Can withstand the heat
These attributes of ABS are why it is a good choice for mechanical objects, or objects that will be in cars, placed outside, or toys that have moving parts or will be handled roughly.
ABS has several printing drawbacks though that may make it tough for some users. The biggest is that you need to have great ventilation when printing with ABS. ABS will give off fumes that can cause irritation.
ABS is also prone to warping and needs to have a more consistent and higher temperature to print with than PLA. This typically means your 3D Printer needs to be in an enclosure of some kind.
The objects printed with ABS can also shrink after printing, so if you need something with highly accurate dimensional qualities, this may not be the best option.
These filaments are the best of both PLA and ABS. It is durable, impact-resistant, and heat resistant like ABS but prints like PLA. It doesn't have the fumes of ABS. Some other attributes:
Does not easily absorb moisture from the air
This is a great filament if you are wanting to make pots for planters, water-resistant applications, snap-together items, hinges, or mechanical parts.
PETG may require you to replace your 3D Printer's hot end since it requires a higher temperature to print and the PTFE tube may not be able to withstand it.
Other Filament Types
There are many other filament types, with different applications, such as Nylon, TPU, and even Wood filament. We'll go over those in a different article. In the meantime, happy printing!