3D Printed Material Strength

Pick the right material to last, for your next 3D printing project

Titanium ball printed with 3D printer
 TJ McCue

The bulky envelope arrived and inside was a tiny 3D-printed titanium ball printed by Morris Technologies (since acquired by GE Aviation). Terry Wohlers, one of the world’s top 3D-printing experts, sent it to us to showcase just how strong 3D-printed metal could be. He was told that this super light, delicate-feeling, woven-looking ball was strong enough that you could stand on it.

People often question whether 3D-printed objects, in general, are strong enough and worth the trade-off in strength balanced against the costs of acquiring an off-the-shelf product vs. a product you've designed and built yourself.

Material Strength

Strength is not always easy to define—much depends on what you intend to do with an object after you print it. Are you bending it? Hanging something from it? Does it need to withstand impact or heat? Different materials support different combinations of toughness and tensile strength.

Most 3D-printing enthusiasts know the strength of common materials including ABS, PLA and nylon. We've prepared technical specifications on ABS and PLA here. TriMech offers a summary of common tensile strengths, including:

 Tensile Strength Chart 

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

PC stands for polycarbonate and is one of the most widely used industrial thermoplastics, but you do not hear about a lot of people using it in FFF/FDM type 3D printers. 

PEI is polyetherimide resin, but 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.