PLA vs PETG vs TPE: Which filament is best for 3d printing?

by Jim
3d printed rocket

There are many different kinds of plastic that can be used in an FDM (fused filament fabrication) style 3d printer.  PLA, PETG and TPE are three of the most widely used filament types. Which filament type is best for you to use for your project?  Well, the answer is often ‘it depends’. As frustrating as that non-answer is, here are some key differences that may help you choose the right filament for your application.

3d printing filament comparisons


PLA: Polylactic acid

PLA is the first filament that most 3d printers start out with.  It is easy to use and prints at a relatively low temperature.  It holds detail well and is a good beginners filament.  If you are printing something that is primarily decorative, where strength and temperature resistance is not a high concern then PLA is likely a good choice.

PETG: Glycol Modified Polyethylene Terephthalate

PETG is a 3d printing filament that is commonly used for outdoor projects or projects with higher heat and strength tolerances.  This filament really comes into its element when exact dimensions are needed.  PLA will shrink as it cools, PETG minimizes shrinkage.

TPE: Thermoplastic Elastomer

TPE is the only filament in this list that is flexible.  Pieces printed with TPE can be bent and flexed.  This is useful in applications such as watch bands and other flexible objects.

In Summary:

  • PLA is great for beginners, and for decorative prints with detail.  It is easy to print and paint.  The main drawbacks of PLA are shrinkage as the plastic cools, and it deforms at a lower temperature than PETG
  • PETG is ideal for prints where dimensional accuracy and physical strength are needed.  It’s main drawback is that it requires a higher printing temperature
  • TPE: is perfect for prints that require flexibility.  It is often used when printing wearables, as the flexibility provides greater comfort to the wearer.

Hopefully this will help you choose which filament is best for your next 3d printed project.

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