3D Printed Material Strength

Pick the right material for your next 3D printing project

When creating new 3D printing projects, it's important to use the strongest 3D printing material you can afford. Strength isn't easy to define and depends on what is done with the printed object. Do you plan to bend it, hang something from it, or expose it to impact or heat? This guide lists the tensile strengths of various 3D printing materials so you can choose the right one for your project.

Titanium ball printed with 3D printer

What Is Tensile Strength?

Different 3D printing materials support different combinations of toughness and tensile strength. Tensile strength is the measurement of a material's resilience. It's the maximum amount of stress the material can take before breaking.

Tensile strength is typically divided into three categories:

  • Yield strength: The amount of stress a material can take without permanently deforming.
  • Ultimate strength: The maximum amount of stress a material can take.
  • Breaking strength: The maximum amount of stress a material can take without a break or rupture.

Tensile Strength of Common 3D Printing Materials

Most 3D-printing enthusiasts know the strength of common materials, including ABS, PLA, and nylon. Engineering software company TriMech offers a summary of common tensile strengths:

Material Tensile Strength
ABS 33 MPa (4,700 psi)
Nylon 48 MPa (7,000 psi)
PLA 50 MPa (7,250 psi)
PC 68 MPa (9,800 psi)
PEI 81 MPa (11,735 psi)

PC stands for polycarbonate and is a widely used industrial thermoplastic. However, you won't hear about many people using it in FFF/FDM type 3D printers.

PEI is polyetherimide resin, and the popular trade name is Ultem. Ultem is a family of PEI products manufactured by SABIC as a result of acquiring the General Electric plastics division in 2007. PEI offers a comparatively high tensile strength.

ABS stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, and it's the same material used to make Legos. It's tough and non-toxic. However, it has an unpleasant smell when heated.

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a popular low-cost option that's resilient. However, it's not as heat tolerant as ABS. It deforms when it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nylon is a name used for a variety of synthetic polymers. It has high tensile strength, and it's non-toxic and cheap. It requires a very high temperature to print.