In the land of 3D printing filaments, the destiny of 3D printing any object rests on the shoulders of two amazing thermoplastics, their names, PETG and PLA. One beautiful fact about thermoplastic is the ability to melt under a certain temperature level and solidify when molded into an object.
While there are tons of materials that can be used for 3D printing, many people use PETG or PLA. The general reason is, both filaments make it so easy to print with the 3D printer. Hence, people tend to switch between these two polyesters thermoplastic for their printing.
Although these two filaments seem similar, they are different in varying degrees. Consequently, we’re placing PETG vs. PLA side by side to compare and contrast their characteristics so you know which filament to go for and stop being confused. Ready for this filament comparison? Let’s dig in.
PLA FILAMENT MATERIALS
PLA is an acronym for Polylactic Acid. It is one of the best filaments for 3D printing. A lot of people subscribe to using this plastic filament to create objects for a variety of reasons. But most importantly, it is environment-friendly as it is a biodegradable and vegetable-based plastic material.
Hence, if you ever lose the object you 3Dprint using this filament, it won’t cause any harm to the environment since it is classified as a natural raw material. Another fancy feature about this filament is that it is affordable.
When you consider the source of this polylactic acid, you realize that it is made from renewable resources. PLA is the result you get when the sugar in maize and sugarcane is fermented. Another reason PLA is so popular in the world of 3D printing is that it’s flexible.
In other words, you can post-process it, sand it, or paint it. The choice is yours; if the smell of some filaments turns you off while 3D printing with them, you would fall in love with PLA. The reason? It has no terrible odor of fumes. Although it might take a while for PLA to degrade, it eventually does, causing less harm to the environment.
Related: Filament Storage
PETG FILAMENT MATERIALS
If you ever wanted an alternative filament for 3D printing that is strong and doesn’t shrink, then you’re better off opting for PETG. Also, the finished product is visibly smoother compared to other filaments used for 3D printing. Just as you must have suspected, PETG is short for a longer-name version of polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified. It is derived from PET (polyethylene terephthalate). The addition of Glycol to PET birthed a much durable and stronger version known as PETG.
PETG is a versatile material as it comes in a variety of colors. It is also translucent and affordable, just like PLA. PETG has quite many superpowers. Some include its moisture, heat, and chemical resistance. The versatility of PETG transcends just the various colors it comes in. It is also used to create a variety of products, not just for 3D printing.
Aside from adopting PETG to create prototypes in 3D printing, it is used to create bottles, packaging for food and beverages, polyester fabrics, covers, etc. Fun fact: PETG is safe for the skin and food. So, if your skin comes in contact with this material, you’d less likely get a skin reaction. Likewise, when adopted in food packaging, you’re less likely to suffer from food poisoning as it is safe.
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PETG VS PLA
Although PLA is regarded as the king of 3D printing filaments, PETG seems to possess PLA strength and other PLA characteristics in double folds. In this section, we address the differences and similarities between 3d printing with PETG and PLA. Without further ado, let’s get down to business.
Remember when we said PLA is the most widely used filament in 3D printing? It turns out one of the reasons for that is its strength. An investigation of PLA strength reveals it has a tensile strength of 7, 200+. Automatically, its tensile strength makes it stronger than most of the other filaments available for printing, especially ABS. You can rest assured that you can subject an object made with PLA to a level of harshness, and it wouldn’t break or bend. But, when subjected to heat or the sun’s UV rays, it would degrade fast and lose its strength in the process. Its low heat resistance makes it a terrible choice for 3D printing during the summertime or warm climates.
On the other hand, PETG has a tensile strength that ranges between 4500- 8000+. In other words, it is a lot stronger than PLA tensile strength. As a result, it has started to become a popular filament in the 3D printing sphere. Its heat resistance is higher compared to PLA. It won’t cave under pressure, and it is flexible as it can in any environment.
Thanks to its strength, it doesn’t shrink, making it a more attractive choice for 3D printing. In conclusion, when it comes to a show of strength, PETG wins this round.
Both PETG and PLA can withstand the pressure of warm temperature to varying degrees. For starters, PLA can only withstand as much as 55-degree C. Any temperature higher than that means that your object made with PLA would start to melt.
As earlier stated, it is best to avoid using PLA to 3D print any object in a warm climate because you’d lose your object sooner or later to the tightly clenched fist of the warm temperature unless you have a way to keep your PLA object cool to prevent it from melting.
PETG, on the other hand, has more heat resistance compared to PLA. With the ability to withstand heat up to 75-degree C, your PETG objects would last longer with you in warm climates. When you use the extreme PETG blends, you’re in for a real treat.
For example, Nexeo 3D’s Arnie 3040 is made from the PETG blend. As a result, it has a temperature tolerance of 250-degree C, making it ideal for warm climates. Extreme PETG has to be subjected to 260-degree C before it starts to melt. The temperature tolerance of PETG is part of the features fueling its popularity in the 3D printing sphere in recent times.
APPLICATION Or USE
When it comes to application or uses, both PETG and PLA are best used in different contexts. For example, PLA can not withstand water. It decays once introduced to water. As a result, it can’t be used to create prototypes that would be exposed to water or moisture of any kind. You can only use PLA in easy contexts like quick fixtures and showcase models.
PETG is water-resistant. Hence, it is used in more complex productions. For instance, PETG effectively creates objects like water bottles and other objects that hold water. All you get in return is a waterproof object that can hold water without decay. PETG is also a great option when creating objects that would be used outdoors. For instance, you can create garden hose connectors with PETG filaments and not have to worry about durability issues; if you’re thinking of the filament to use in industrial production, opt for PETG. It is the better option.
Additionally, PETG is chemical resistant. You do not need to worry about your object made with PETG contacting chemicals and acids. So, if you need a container for salt, create it using your PETG filament as it has strong resistance to chemicals and won’t cave once it is used.
When it comes to how safe it is to use either of both filaments, clearly, PLA wins this round. Here’s what we mean. Remember earlier that while talking about the composition of PETG, we talked about how it is a vegetable-based filament. In essence, PLA is an organic filament. The impact of this is, when using it, it doesn’t release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.
Instead, the smell it releases is quite relaxing and pleasant to the nostrils. In chemistry, while using PLA, lactic acid is released into the atmosphere as this filament converts to lactic acid in the process. Generally, it is safe to say that PLA is a great choice as it prevents you from inhaling harmful toxins, unlike other filaments.
PETG is not as safe as PLA. It is not made from organic materials. While its source might not necessarily be an issue, it is not entirely harmful. PETG is safe as long as you use it within a certain temperature setting. It won’t release any harmful toxins when subjected to a certain temperature. Another factor that determines how toxic PETG can be is the brand you buy. While some brands are concerned with ensuring their PETG isn’t harmful to human health, other brands remain lackadaisical.
Some extruded 3D printed object shrinks. When this happens, it means the filament went through a density increase but a size reduction phase. Shrinkage often occurs when the 3D printed object starts to cool off after being subjected to the hot temperature used to produce it. Now, shrinkage only happens when you print out certain objects like phone cases, etc.
The shrinkage problem often occurs based on the kind of material used to create the object alongside the temperature shift from hot to cold. It is important to note that it could damage your entire output when an object doesn’t evenly cool off. Part of why PETG ad PLA are two of the best materials for printing is because of their shrinkage rate.
The shrinkage rate of PLA ranges from 0.2% to 3%. In other words, it has a very low shrinkage rate which makes it suitable for printing. Its low shrinkage rate is thanks to its low printing temperature. With the printing temperature at 195-degree C, it doesn’t shrink a lot.
PETG also has a low shrinkage rate. Its shrinkage rate is 0.8% and is considered the lowest amongst other filaments. As a result, it is considered one of the best filaments to print with.
When it comes to 3D printing, you can print out almost anything you want, from food plastic to tail lamps, etc., and here’s where you need to be careful with the filament you adopt in creating your object.
If you create a food container to help with food storage around the house, you need to do it with a filament that wouldn’t poison your food with so many toxins. Thanks to PLA and PETG filaments, you can store your food with objects created with either of these filaments.
For starters, PLA is an organic filament. The fact that it was created from sugarcane says a lot about how safe using PLA-based objects is in storing food. You won’t need to bother about toxins from the filament polluting your food. Fortunately, the same goes for PETG.
Although not made directly from organic sources, PETG filament properties make it safe for food storage too. For example, PETG is heat and UV-light resistant. It is also solvent resistant. As a result, these properties make it fairly safe for food storage. Nevertheless, in comparison to PLA, PLA wins this round. Aside from the resistance level of PETG, PETG absorbs color additives to spice it up a bit.
When it comes to the food you eat, it is not advisable to use PETG to store your food, especially when you’ve added color additives to it. Using PLA, which’s made from organic material, is the better filament for 3D printing objects about food.
EASE OF PRINTING
Beginners in the 3D printing game would find it easier to print with PLA compared to PETG. PLA filament properties make it easy for you to successfully print your objects, especially when you lack any 3D printing experience.
Although PETG is another good filament, it might take a while to get used to it to get your desired result. But newbies might find printing with PETG quite tough when it comes to dialing in the settings before printing with it. Mostly, the retraction setting is not something that a newbie with no printing experience would find easy to handle.
To conclude this PETG vs. PLA comparison, it is important to note that both filaments are great and have their strengths and weaknesses, as highlighted in the article. They also seem to go well in certain contexts than in others. For example, PETG is great in warm climates compared to PLA. However, PLA is the best option for printing objects intended to be used for food storage. Let’s not forget that PLA filament gives off a better and healthier smell compared to PETG.
Nevertheless, if you can’t decide which filament you should print with, purchase both if you can afford them. If not, opt for the PLA filament if you are a newbie in the 3D printing field and would not use your PLA objects in warm climates. If not, PETG is not a bad alternative.