FDM 3D Printing Materials: PLA vs ABS vs Nylon

PLA, ABS and Nylon material filaments are used for FDM 3D printing. Out of these three materials PLA and ABS FDM 3D printing materials are widely used. Whereas nylon is used for specialized applications such as making gears. In this article we will discuss what is the difference between PLA vs ABS vs Nylon materials? This will help you in selection of the best FDM 3D printing material for your application. If you are looking for new 3D Printer. Don’t miss this article on best budget affordable 3D Printers. 

The below table compares the properties of PLA, ABS and nylon materials used in 3D printing. During FDM 3D printing material selection process more focus shall be in between ABS vs PLA.

(Polylactic Acid)
ABSNylon (PA)
Material TypeThermoplasticThermoplasticThermoset
Mechanical Properties
  • Rigid
  • Stiff
  • Good Strength
  • Rigid
  • Impact Resistant
  • Wear Resistance
  • Heat Resistant
  • Fatigue Resistant
  • Impact Resistant
  • Flexible
  • Heat Resistant
  • Moisture AbsorptionDegrade easilyMinimal ImpactAbsorbs Water
    Bed Temperature45-60 °C90-110 °C70-90 °C
    Heated BedNot RequiredRequiredRequired
    Enclosed 3D PrinterNot RequiredRecommendedRecommended
    Extruder Temperature220°C220°-250°C125°-265°C
    Spool Price$$$$$$
  • Hobbyist Material
  • Decorative parts
  • Plastic Enclosures
  • Gears
  • Screw
  • Nut
  • Cable Tie
  • 3D Print-abilityEasy to PrintModerateDifficult to Print

    What is the Difference Between PLA, ABS and Nylon

    Here are the more details about the difference between the properties of PLA vs ABS vs Nylon materials and how material properties of these materials have an impact on the material selection.

    What is ABS, PLA and Nylon?

    ABS is a thermoplastic material. Engineering grade ABS is extensively used to manufacture injection molded plastic parts. Therefore ABS is a good option to 3D print parts for engineering applications.

    PLA (Polylactic Acid) is also a thermoplastic material made from corn starch. It has characteristics similar to polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), or polystyrene (PS). PLA is a biodegradable plastic. Therefore it is very useful for short lifespan plastic applications such as water bottles.

    Nylon(PA) is a thermoset plastic. It is hard in nature. PA is also an engineering plastic and used to manufacture gears. One of the disadvantages of nylon is it absorbs water. 

    Material Strength

    For engineering applications, ABS is more preferred compared to PLA or Nylon because it has good ductility and flexural strength. PLA is a heat sensitive material and easily degrades in the outside environment. Whereas nylon has greater chemical resistance and toughness.

    Therefore PLA is mostly used by hobbyists. ABS is engineering plastic and used by engineers for rapid prototyping and Nylon is used to manufacture tough parts such as gears.

    Chemical Resistance

    PLA and ABS have comparatively low chemical resistance. Whereas nylon has very good chemical resistance. PLA is biodegradable whereas ABS and Nylon are non-biodegradable in nature. But they can be recycled.

    Impact of Moisture

    PLA material degrades very fast in the presence of moisture. Nylon absorbs moisture very fast. Whereas ABS performs well in the presence of moisture.

    Ease of 3D Printing

    PLA material is very easy to 3D print because of its low melting temperature. Whereas 3D printing nylon material is a challenging task because of high melting temperature (250ºC).

    Selection of FDM 3D Printing Material

    Following are the examples of the selection of FDM 3D printing material for required application.

    Example-1: For the 3D printing moving components such as gears, linkages etc. nylon material is recommended. Because nylon has good self lubrication properties.

    Example-2: PLA material for FDM 3D printing is recommended for indoor parts such as school projects or toys. Because PLA material is biodegradable in nature and it is easy to 3D print as well.

    Example-3: ABS 3D printing material is recommended for engineering components because it’s properties are somewhat similar to engineering grade ABS. Whereas to manufacture aesthetically good products, FDM 3D printing in PLA material is recommended.

    To sum up, ABS is a good option for engineering applications, PLA material is for hobbyists. Whereas Nylon is a good option for manufacturing gears, screws etc. 

    We will keep updating PLA vs ABS vs Nylon. Please add your comments, suggestions or questions on the difference between PLA vs ABS vs Nylon. Don’t miss this article on the difference between laser marking engraving and etching.

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