Best Material for 3D Printing of Drone/Plane Parts?

I am waiting on my new printer and have the option of getting either PLA or ABS material as part of the initial package.

Can anyone help advise me on which would be best? Material for 3D Printing of Drone/Plane Parts?

Thanks in advance for any help.

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  • Hi

    Which printer are you using? Right now I'm using Flashforge Dreamer and I always use PLA for printing. It is difficult to print ABS as it easily wraps and has a bad smell.

    3d printing hk - 3d printing Hong Kong I Flashforge Dreamer
    Equipped with dual extruders, double nozzle Flashforge Dreamer is a 2-color printing desktop FDM (FFF) 3D printer, which lets you to 3D print at home…
  • Alex,

    Sorry to be late to the party.  Did not even know this group existed until today.  Don't get out much I am afraid.

    We use ABS in all of our BoxBotix designs.  As others have mentioned, ABS has a bit better impact resistance and service temp.

    And as mentioned earlier, we also use carbon fiber to reinforce high stress areas.  Mostly just simple pultruded shapes in the right spots.

    We have tried PETG and PETG+CF and liked the parts, but we needed the ability to acetone weld, which ABS handles very well.

    Otherwise, it's a lot of trial and error.  We have spent a couple years playing with printers and drones to get the design/results we want.  And we still learn new stuff everyday.

    Hope that helps.



  • Hi Alex

    I have been printing my own parts for some years now,, also for customers, right now I am working on a all printed ( except for arms ) tricopter.

    PLA - brittle, UV sensitive, prone to cracking; clogs nozzles, no smell

    ABS- tough as lego ( except for inter layer adhesion ) and great for real use plastic parts; needs (!) heated bed, needs(!) enclosure, pita with cracking between layers when it cools down- used to be my workhorse filament, also cheap

    Netfabb CF20 - 20% carbon fiber in ABS-like polymer, super stiff, nice matte finish; harder print due to bad tackiness but doesn't shrink crack, needs heatbed and enclosure, awesome parts when they work out, expesnive

    Nylon- super tough, like fishing line; ok to print for smaller parts, needs heatbed ( but somehow was never convinced for my uses)

    PETG- my new workhorse filament tough as a coke bottle, but not too much flex, fairly easy to print, no warping and cracking whatsoever, very good inter layer adhesion as well; I do print on heatbed but I believe you get away without, bit more pricey but I have very few failed prints which makes up for it. Same for the CF20 btw, after I had my profile working ok very few failed prints.

    hope this helps

    cheers Phil

    • Thanks Phil
      All great information and I think I have already come to the same conclusion in regards to printers. Or Enclosed with heather and capable of printing with more materials. More expensive up front but in the long run cheaper.
      Great info in materials. It seems that PLA could be good for prototyping but the PETG or Netfabb CF20 is the way to go for final parts.
      I do love how these forums work and the fact that you can keep getting great info from the community.
      Thanks again for the information. I will definitely take it on board and I am sure it will make my life that little bit easier!!!! Well a little less confused.
  • Moderator

    What I've been doing with 3D Printed part is reinforcing them with carbon fiber by printing channels into the parts for carbon fibers tubes, rods, plate etc.  Then I end up with a very strong part.  I found that plain old PLA printed parts are just not strong enough.  

  • Thanks everyone.

    I guess I am taking a bit of a gamble with the Rapid Lite which is just about to be released.  The early bird pricing for supporting the crowd source funding on Indiegogo made it seem like a worthwhile investment.

    From what I can tell it will print Nylon.  I am expecting some work to get it going but I hope that it lives up to the sales hype.  After a bit of research and emails back an forth to them I think it will be a good purchase for me.

    Anyway, thanks for all of the advice.  I does make things a lot clearer to get info from the 3DR community.  I am just about to go off and fly me little 250 Quad as the wind has dropped down.  Thanks again.


  • I use ABS material for my multirotors because its rigid and withstand heat under the sun.

  • First off what machine did you get. Start out with ABS, PLA is tricky to run, i think its all about hot end nozzle heat dissipation design.  It jams up real easy if your temp/feedrate settings are just right.  Anyway, once you get your machine tuned, makerfarm sells Polycarbonate.  Also makergeeks has an excellent selection of filaments to experiment with.  Not sure what machine youre starting with so if you dont have one already, youll need an all metal hotend like E3D or Pico to run the required temp.  Also consider your infill settings as well.  Probably 80%(Time consuming)minimum once youve settled on a design. 

  • PLA:

    Easier to work with

    No odor

    Can get soft on a hot day in the sun


    Slightly harder to work with

    Smells like melted plastic (imagine that)

    Your printer will have a heated bed right?  right?

    Better temperature resistance


    You can do like I do and print PLA molds from which to make "real" fiberglass and carbon fiber parts.

    Other option..

    Nylon is fantastic in terms of strength and heat resistance.  Unfortunately because of those same qualities it requires a special hot end to print.  I have an E3D that can print it.  It generally has good reviews, but they have had major quality control issues that I have spent several late nights dealing with.  Be prepared to do your own mods.

    My advice:  Keep it simple and start by printing PLA.  It's the easiest to use so you can get good practice with your software and printer.  If you run into a situation where you need better temperature resistance, or you want to be able to smooth a print with acetone, then give abs a try.  Only after you are proficient should you try modding your printer and experimenting with new materials.  Just my $.02

    • Thanks Rob.

      I will definitely take your advice..  I have a lot more research to do but your advise makes a lot of sense.

      I like the idea of producing moulds, I was thinking that that was the way to go once I got my head around the 3D printing process.

      Thanks again, that has really helped me.

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