A Closer Look: 3D Printing Materials Comparison

The most popular question we get at Fictiv is around 3D printing material choice: “which material is best for my project?” Each material has its own benefits and drawbacks, and it can be hard to make a decision without holding and seeing the material for yourself.

You’re always welcome to come by the Fictiv office in San Francisco to take a look at samples, or take a look at the Fictiv Capabilities Guide, but as the next best thing...we have videos!

Here’s a high-level overview of the specs for each material + a quick showcase video, so you can get a feel for the resolution, aesthetic, and functionality of each.


Technology: FDM

Cost: $

Pros: Cheap, rigid, and non-toxic

Cons: Low resolution

Great for: Testing initial form



Technology: Polyjet

Cost: $$$

Pros: High resolution, easy to sand and easy to paint

Cons: Not great for mechanical functionality

Great for: Visual Models.



Technology: SLA

Cost: $$$

Pros: Uses a wax support system, so really easy to melt away support material for accurate geometries

Cons: Counter to its name, it’s not actually very clear / transparent

Great for: Strong and accurate parts; Parts that have complex internal geometries



Technology: Polyjet

Cost: $$

Pros: Relatively clear and not too expensive

Cons: Still not 100% transparent (somewhat foggy); If you need a completely transparent material, contact us at info@fictiv.com.

Great for: Most enclosures and light pipes (check out this post to see how VeroClear works for light pipes)



Technology: Polyjet

Cost: $$$

Pros: Flexible

Cons: Not stretchy

Great for: Functional prototypes that need a rubbery material in the overmold



Technology: SLS

Cost: $$

Pros: Strong and durable

Cons: Not a smooth finish; Has more of a fine-grit sandpaper feel

Great for: Functional parts, fixtures, and high strength-to-weight parts.



Technology: FDM

Cost: $

Pros: Low cost like PLA but with a slightly higher resolution

Cons: Still prints with a fairly low-resolution finsh, so not great for visual models

Great for: More complex early-stage prototypes that need to be low in cost



Technology: FDM

Cost: $$$

Pros: High resolution, high strength & high temperature tolerance

Cons: Expensive

Great for: Functional prototypes with mechanical parts, such as gears; Great for parts that require tapping or mounting


To get an instant quote for 3D printing in any of these materials, create a Fictiv account here.

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