Choosing materials for 3D printing: PETG vs PLA
3D printing has revolutionized the way we create prototypes, products, and parts. It has made it possible for anyone to turn their ideas into physical objects without the need for expensive tooling or manufacturing equipment. However, when it comes to choosing the right materials for 3D printing, there are many options available, and it can be challenging to know which one to choose.
Here at Makelab we deliver 3D printing services to designers & engineers making physical products and answer these kinds of questions on a daily basis to guide you into making the right decision. More often than not, the material that comes to mind when thinking about 3D printing is plastic. And although polymers are the predominant material for 3D printing, there are other materials like metals and ceramics. Nevertheless, even when we narrow our options to polymers, there are still a few options to analyze.
In this blog post, we will compare two popular materials for 3D printing: PETG and PLA, by analyzing their ease of 3D printing, strength and durability, chemical resistance, cost, printing speed, post-processing, environmental impact, and real-world examples for each 3D printing material.
Let’s start with a short introduction to PLA and PETG.
- PLA, or polylactic acid, is a biodegradable thermoplastic made from renewable resources such as corn starch, sugarcane, or tapioca roots. It is the most commonly used material for 3D printing due to its ease of printing, low cost, and wide range of available colors. PLA is a good choice for 3D printing simple objects or prototypes that do not require high mechanical strength or resistance to high temperatures.
- PETG, or glycol-modified polyethylene terephthalate, is a strong and durable material that is resistant to impact, chemicals, and moisture. PETG is a popular choice for 3D printing applications that require high strength and durability, such as mechanical parts, toys, and outdoor signs. PETG is also a good choice for printing objects that will be exposed to high temperatures.
Both PLA and PETG are technically non-toxic, although long-term effects have not been studied and we do not recommend this material be used directly in food applications and prolonged skin contact.
PLA vs PETG: Ease of Printing
Let’s talk about ease of printing. Both PLA and PETG are known for being easy to 3D print with when looking at the wide range of materials available.
But since PLA is a low-temperature filament, it makes it easier to use on a wider range of 3D printers, including those with lower-end heating elements. PETG, on the other hand, is a more challenging material to 3D print with than PLA because it requires higher temperatures.
Another point in favor of PLA is its lower tendency to warp than other materials, allowing you to print large objects with minimal distortion. PETG, on the contrary, is more prone to warping and cracking, which can lead to failed prints or parts that are not as strong as they need to be. The success of printing parts in this material is determined by the geometry of the part.
PLA vs PETG: Strength and Durability
If you’re looking for a material that is strong, durable, and can withstand impact, we have a clear winner: PETG. Plus, it is also more resistant to temperature changes, and more flexible than PLA! Considering these properties, PETG is a great choice for outdoor applications, parts that will be exposed to high temperatures, and printing objects that need to bend or flex without breaking.
Beware that neither PETG nor PLA is known for being UV resistant. Though PETG is known for having a higher heat and UV resistance than PLA, meaning it can be exposed to the elements more than PLA before starting to break down.
PLA vs PETG: Chemical Resistance
Following the previous topic, another advantage of PETG is its chemical resistance. PETG is more resistant to chemicals than PLA, making it the go-to choice for printing objects that will be exposed to harsh chemicals or solvents. If you predict your part will be exposed to water or humidity, worry not, since PETG is also resistant to moisture.
PLA vs PETG: Cost
Regarding cost, PLA is the cheaper option. Because PLA is widely available, it can be purchased in bulk for a low cost. PETG, on the contrary, is more expensive due to its higher manufacturing cost and more advanced properties.
Nevertheless, while PLA is cheaper than PETG, it may not always be the most cost-effective option (you know how the saying goes, sometimes cheap is expensive). This is because PLA is not as durable as PETG and may need to be replaced more frequently, which can increase the overall cost of using PLA.
Want to have an idea of how much a 3D-printed piece might cost? We got you - but please, be mindful that the cost of 3D printing an object can be influenced by several factors, including:
- The complexity of the object
- Printing technology
- Printing resolution
- Post-processing requirements
As a rule of thumb, the more complex, large, detailed, and accurate the print, the higher the costs. But each case is unique, and you can get a quote through our 3D printing quoting software.
Still, we want to be as transparent as possible, and make your 3D printing journey smooth and easy. Here are some examples, their characteristics, and their price before shipping:
Price for PETG: $1.53
Price for PLA: $0.98
Price for PETG: $10.54
Price for PLA: $6.42
Price for PETG: $21.28
Price for PLA: $12.75
Prusa PETG Jaw
Price for PETG: $88.1
Price for PLA: $52.11
All the dimensions are displayed in mm. Click on the images to download the files.
PLA vs PETG: Printing Speed
In terms of printing speed, PLA is unequivocally the faster option. As previously mentioned, PLA prints at a lower temperature than PETG, meaning that it can be printed more quickly. While the printing speed for PETG is said to be kept at max at 60 mm/s, PLA can easily go up to 100 mm/s. This can be an advantage if you need to produce large quantities of prints in a short amount of time.
PLA vs PETG: Post-Processing
When it comes to post-processing, PLA and PETG have some notable differences. PLA is generally easier to post-process, as it can be sanded, painted, or glued easily due to its lower melting point. However, PLA can be brittle and prone to cracking, which can make it more difficult to work with in some situations.
Post-processing PETG can be more challenging. Due to its higher melting point, PETG may require more specialized tools or techniques.
An important remark is that PLA filament can be painted while PETG cannot. But PETG is known for being able to be transparent which has its own benefits in a number of applications.
PLA vs PETG: Environmental Impact
Nowadays we can’t overlook the environmental factor, and it is something we care dearly for at Makelab. Luckily, both PLA and PETG are considered to be the most eco-friendly 3D printing materials. PLA can be composted, while PETG is recyclable and can be melted down and reused. However, it is important to note that both materials require energy to produce and recycle, and the disposal process for 3D-printed objects may vary depending on local regulations.
PLA vs PETG: Real-World Applications
Sometimes the best way to decide what’s the best 3D printing material for your project is by analyzing real-world examples. We selected the most common applications for each 3D printing material.
PLA real-world applications:
Prototyping (3D prototypes of products or parts with high accuracy);
Toys and Games (like puzzles, action figures, and board game pieces);
Decorative Items (3D printed display stand, vases, figurines, and picture frames);
Reason: easily painted or finished to create a polished look.
Education (models of historical artifacts, scientific models, and architectural designs);
Artistic (sculptures, installations, or other forms of art).
Reason: versatility and ease of use; It can be molded into complex shapes and finished with a variety of techniques.
PETG real-world applications:
- Packaging (packaging for food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals);
- Medical Devices (syringes, medical containers, and surgical instruments);
- Reason: it can withstand sterilization and is resistant to chemical corrosion.
- Automotive Parts (dashboards, door panels, and trim pieces);
- Reason: durability and resistance to impact.
- Electronic Enclosures (protective enclosures for electronic devices);
- Reason: high strength and resistance to impact and heat.
- Water Bottle.
- Reason: clarity, toughness, ability to withstand high temperatures and chemicals.
- PLA is a good choice for simple objects or prototypes that do not require high mechanical strength or resistance to high temperatures. It is also a more cost-effective and easier-to-use option than PETG
- PETG is a stronger and more durable material that is resistant to impact, chemicals, and moisture. It is a good choice for 3D printing applications that require high strength and durability or exposure to high temperatures or chemicals.
Ultimately, the choice between PETG and PLA will depend on the specific needs of your project and the properties required for the printed object. In any case, we are always available to help and guide you in the right direction. Feel free to reach out to us through our chat, this form, or if you feel comfortable already about what you’re looking for, to get a quote through our self-serve auto quote.