Aaron Pearson
Vice President of Public Relations

Materials offering texture and color realism.

The best 3D printing material for any job is mainly dependent on the desired application. 3D printing materials offer attributes ranging from superior mechanical properties to texture and color realism.

Common thermoplastic materials.

Thermoplastics are used in many different applications, from consumer goods to production parts, and make up some of the most popular 3D printing materials. 3D printed thermoplastics are ideal for industrial applications like rapid prototyping, tooling, and production parts.

A wide variety of thermoplastic materials are available, including low-cost, biodegradable, and high-performance options. Many are tough and rigid but lightweight, making them cost-effective alternatives to metal. Others, like TPU, are rubberlike and durable.

A car in a factory.
Daihatsu Motor Company uses ASA thermoplastic material to 3D print custom “effect skins” for their vehicle.


    Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is a thermoplastic polymer. It’s a lightweight, tough, and inexpensive plastic that can withstand high temperatures. ABS is used in many industries for a large range of applications, from children’s toys to injection molding.

Minimizer's thick-gauge polyethylene fenders benefit from black ULTEM resin 3D printed prototypes and a pair of happy accidents.


PolyLactic Acid is a translucent, rigid polyester derived from renewable sources like plant starches. Because it is low cost, biodegradable, and available and many colors, it’s often used for fast prototyping and concept design.
kayak on top of car
Car racks (like these ones from Thule) are easily iterated on with Nylon material.


Nylon material is extremely tough and durable, and has a high flexibility-to-strength ratio. It has excellent impact resistance and good chemical resistance, which allows it to be used in many industrial applications, including functional parts.
Snowmobile kicking up snow in sunlight
Stratasys’ innovative 3D printing materials allow Polaris to uphold strict cosmetic standards.

Flexible materials.

Flexible thermoplastics blend rubber and hard plastic, allowing for a material with the properties of both. These materials, referred to as TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) or TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane), are extremely durable and flexible and are used for functional parts in both consumer and industrial applications.


3D printing metals offers an alternative to traditional metal manufacturing techniques. Technologies such as DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) use high powered lasers to sinter fine metal powder into a solid object. This allows for highly complex metal parts that wouldn’t be possible with traditional machining. Common metals used in 3D printing include typical industrial metals like stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium, as well as precious metals like gold and sterling silver. Alternatively, metal powder can be added to plastic for composite filaments. These filaments can be printed with a traditional 3D printer, creating final parts with the appearance and weight of metal.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is up to five times stronger than steel at less than half the weight, and is in high demand for industries like aerospace and automotive. For 3D printing, carbon fiber is most commonly used to reinforce a base material, often a thermoplastic like nylon. This creates a composite material that can be used to make extremely strong, lightweight parts.


Photopolymers are acrylic-based resins that are 3D printed layer-by-layer and cured with a UV laser. 3D printing with photopolymers creates accurate, high resolution parts, even with complex design geometries. Photopolymers are also ideal for achieving smooth, even surfaces. In combination with PolyJet technology, 3D printed photopolymers can produce highly detailed models, such as heart models for the medical industry. Characteristics that add to realism, like color accuracy, flexibility, or transparency, can also be achieved with PolyJet technology.
Monkey-Laika Case Study
LAIKA animation studio uses PolyJet materials to model characters, helping to create their signature stop-motion animation.
3D printing materials aren’t limited to this list – there are options to suit every need and application out there. With the right material, a 3D printed part can be stronger than steel, biocompatible, or vibrantly colored. Don’t restrict yourself with traditional manufacturing. With 3D printing, leverage materials engineered to work with your applications.

Ready to learn more about the highest quality 3D printing materials? Visit the Stratasys materials page at to explore each material in detail.