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March 01, 2021 4 min read

As 3D printing is becoming more and more widespread, various cost-effective printers are being produced to accommodate the needs of manufacturers and customers. For these printers, there are the “standard” resins such as pure PLA, PETG and ABS.  However, there are also quite a few alternative 3D printer filaments to play around with. A lot of these are hybrid materials. We have compiled a list of some of the most interesting and fun alternative 3D printer filaments.  This list is focused  on filaments that provide you an alternative to the more standard ones

  1. Glow in the Dark 3D printer filament

As the name suggests, this alternative 3D printing filament actually glows in the dark. However, the 3D printed object needs exposure to light for the source to recharge. From there, it will light up in whatever you have chosen to make the 3D print of. This is a safe product and environmentally-friendly, making it harmless and opens up for a wide audience to use it.  It’s a great way to decorate things like kids’ bedrooms, used for Halloween or similar situations in need of creativity. , A word of caution.  Be sure of what you are buying.  Some filaments (not ours) may be made with brass, a very abrasive material. Meaning it will quickly wear out the 3D printer’s nozzles.   A hardened steel nozzle holds out best when printing with this filament.

 

  1. Coffee 3D printer filament

Let’s add to our list of alternative 3D printer filament out with a refreshing cup of coffee or coffee grounds that is. As a sustainable way of reusing waste material, coffee grounds have found their way into textile manufacturing. So having it been repurposed for alternative 3D printer filament isn’t such an extreme idea.  The waste, or byproduct if you will, from the coffee produced is mix in with a traditional plastic such as PLA as its base polymer, creating a filament from it.  The filament shows as a brown color and noticeable natural grains to provide textures. In this context, it can be used by any machine that can use PLA leaving the uses of it open to the same possibilities as well.

 

  1. Wood 3D printer filament

A very popular alternative is wood-based filaments. These are often made up of wood recycled wood but can range from cork that otherwise have 80% of its use going to wine bottle corks to bamboo (a plant of fast growth and dry stems), wood dust and much more. The wood fibers can be mixed in with various bases such as PLA/PHA and more as a hybrid filament. They look and more or less smell like actual wood, giving a great finishing for the filament when printed well. It can be used for a variety of things. Ranging from décor, tables, figurines and anything else you can think of in need of a wooden look and feel to it.

  1. Hemp 3D printer filament

Hemp and weed are debatable topics.  However, legalizations are being passed in countries all around the world; so, it’s only  natural to see it being used in 3D printing too. Hemp fiber is based on fine particles and is mixed with a PLA polymer base. Due to the natural abilities of the material, it has a number of positive attributes. When talking about hemp 3D printer filament, iIt contains visible bio-fill that creates a unique texture. The filament is a biodegradable plastic that can be recycled or composted after use, making it a sustainable material.

5. Biodegradable 3D printer filament

Speaking of biodegradable, let’s discuss an alternative 3D printing filament with a more ethical input. This category is rather unique, as the main value does not lie with physical attributes. Instead, the value lies in the biodegradable aspect. When you 3D print, the final outcome is not always in the quality one would wish for, leading to a ton of plastic being thrown away. This is where biodegradable filaments come in;  It’s a way to counteract the environmental impact of 3D printing. One of the most popular biodegradable filaments is PLA made from sources such as sugar canes or corn starch etc.   Surprisingly, these materials offer a great variation in terms of strength or flexibility, and they are certainly an option to start with 3D printing.

  1. Conductive 3D printer filament

Keeping it simple this filament is a 3D material with conductive carbon particulates included into it. It basically means that the material has the feature of creating prints with low-voltage electrical circuits, often including sensors and LED lights. One company creating this filament as PLA  with the purpose of expanding the usage of 3D printing. The filament can be combined with regular PLA material through a dual extrusion 3D printer. Simple circuit boards can be made directly in the printer. The fact that it is possible to get both PLA and ABS makes it more personalized to what you 

  1. Magnetic 3D printer filament

As the name suggests, this alternative 3D printer filament has magnetic properties to play around with. It is often done through the use of iron powder being mixed into the PLA filament. This creates a unique trade for the filament.  Simply put, the iron particles provide the material with the magnetic attributes as well as gives the 3D printed parts a grainy and gunmetal-ish finish.

  1. Sandstone 3D printer filament

We end our list to the alternative 3D printing filament with a robust-looking filament – sandstone. This kind of filament is basically made up of PLA with brick mixed into it, it can be in form of a fine chalk powder or similar to provide a stone-like color and texture to it.. The general look can vary depending on the settings of the machine used and can go from smooth to rough and anything in between. The material has only a few limits, but, is still mostly used in a niche market pointed towards landscaping and architecture because of the nature of the material.

 

Mike Cipriani
Mike Cipriani


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