PETG vs PLA: Pros & Cons

In a rapidly developing world of 3D printing, it’s hard to keep up with trends. Deciding which filament to use is a trend in itself. Both have their pros and cons.

PLA plastic or polylactic acid is raw material used for 3D printing. It’s one of the primary materials used by the industry and has been available since the start of 3D printing. There are many reasons responsible for its wide usage which we’ll discuss. 

PLA is standard material for 3D printing which all other materials are based on.

PETG on the other hand is known as glycolized polyester. Its application is known over many industries and is essential for recyclability. PETG itself comes from PET (Polyester) by the addition of glycol.

Table of Contents

Qualities To consider

Physical Strength

The tensile strength of 3D printing materials is cause for concern. Moreover, depending on the project, some require less strength than others. You have to be familiar with the strength of the material before choosing.

Durability And Outdoor Use

Durability and outdoor use is another essential quality to watch. Durability is about how much pressure the printed object can withstand. Some materials can withstand bad weather while others start corroding on little weather change.

Flexibility

Flexibility or toughness is the ability of material to return to its standard shape after a reasonable amount of stretch. This is also important when choosing material.

Temperature

Temperature tolerance is a big deal when it comes to the 3D printing material of choice. Some can withstand extreme temperatures, while others start losing shape on exposure to high temperatures. The temperature requirement for their molding also differs.

Biodegradiblity And Recycling

The strictness of regulations is different for each country, and this is something you need to consider. Some degrade better than others, but in general, go for biodegradable materials.

Ease Of Use

This is also an important factor, especially if one is new to the world of 3D printing. Some materials are more beginner friendly than others.

Prices

Prices are not much of a thing to worry about since we’re discussing the qualities of each material. However, depending on the kind of project you want to do, you might want to check prices. Generally, filament isn’t too expensive, but it depends. We recommend going for bulk material as it’s usually cheaper. 

Qualities Of PLA

PLA material
Source: amazon.com

Physical Strength

PLA is a contender in the battle of strength, but not compared to some other printing materials in the 3D industry. It has about 7,250 psi and can be used to print a fair amount of projects. But, we wouldn’t want to use this for everything.

Durability And Outdoor Use

PLA is not a very durable material which makes it less than ideal for making outdoor tools. PLA can deform easily when placed under the sun. If you have any outdoor projects, PLA wouldn’t be the best option. Look for projects like a small cup holder or toothbrush case to insure your project doesn’t break if you’re using PLA.

Flexibility

PLA is not flexible but somewhat brittle. It snaps easily when above-average stretch. The truth is that some materials are not designed to have such flexibility. So, PLA might be a good choice for those. Still, suppose a material requires maintaining the shape or not breaking after an above-average stretch. In that case, you should consider choosing PLA.

Temperature

The melting point of PLA is relatively low, which means it cannot tolerate the high amount of heat. It can not retain its stiffness and shape when exposed to high temperatures. When the temperature reaches about 50°C, it starts to lose shape.

Biodegradibility And Recycling

PLA is readily biodegradable. In fact, among many other 3D printing materials, PLA comes first in biodegradability and recycling.

Ease Of Use

Over time, PLA has proven to be more user-friendly than other materials. It is easy to handle and can quickly help cover for your mistakes as you are printing. Its bed or printing surface does not require prior heating. Thus, there is a limited number of processes before you get your printing started. A beginner should consider starting with PLA.

Prices

PLA is among the first materials used for 3D printing. For this reason and others, it’s relatively the cheapest material to use for 3D printing on the market.

Pros

Cons

  • Printer speed
  • Highly biodegradable
  • It can be printed on cold surfaces
  • Smooth and shiny appearance
  • Beginner friendly
  • No fumes
  • Low tensile strength
  • Outdoor durability
  • Flexibility

Qualities Of PETG

Source: amazon.com

Physical Strength

When it comes to strength, PETG stands tall among many other materials used for 3D printing. It’s much better than PLA and many other materials. Although PETG has excellent physical strength, it has low rigidity. This means that it’s prone to wear and tear. PETG’s strength can be as high as 10^6 psi which is more than a thousand times more than that of PLA. Thus, when it comes to printing stuff that requires high strength, you should consider using PETG.

Durability And Outdoor Use

When you compare PETG’s durability to its counterparts like PLA or ABS, it takes first place. Although it seems softer than the remaining two, it’s still the most durable. This is why it’s the best choice for printing heavy and large stuff. It can withstand harsh outdoor weather because it tolerates abrupt changes in weather and sun temperature.

Flexibility

PETG is not as old in the hood compared to PLA but has become very popular due to its amazing feature: its flexibility. People are drawn to flexible materials. Just the flexibility of the material alone makes people view it as quality filament. Its flexibility is highly pronounced and has made it material of choice when 3D artists are printing materials needing such quality.

Temperature

As said earlier, PETG can withstand a high condition of heat. This good quality has brought a slight disadvantage: it takes a lot of heat to work with PETG compared to other 3D printing materials. It requires a heated bed around 70°C – 80°C and requires a high printing temperature of over 250°C. This high temperature might increase the cost of printing.

Biodegradibility And Recycling

PETG is also a biodegradable material and is easily recyclable. Due to its high melting point, it takes more effort to recycle it than most other ones. PLA is relatively better at biodegradation than PETG, but we’re just nitpicking here.

Ease Of Use

PETG has proven to be difficult for beginners due to its hygroscopic nature. The hygroscopic nature means it absorbs water when exposed to air. Therefore, it requires some professional skills in handling. Definitely harder to handle in comparison to PLA.

Prices

PETG is a new player in the game and is still more expensive than most other materials. Still, the price increase is worth it. It comes with better qualities compared to others. Moreover, the prices don’t have much difference so it might not be much of a determining factor. 

Pros

Cons

  • Smooth surface
  • Strong
  • Low shrinkage
  • Lower risk of warping
  • High printing temperature
  • High bed temperature
  • Sticky and stringing problems

Which Is Better?

From all of our analysis up there, it’s evident that PETG takes the lead. First, PLA was the first material used for 3D printing which is why it has lower quality than PETG. Like everything, incremental improvements happen over time, and now, PETG is an improvement over the PLA.

As we discussed, all the qualities of importance include durability, strength, temperature, flexibility, and more. PETG comes first in all of this, but you should know that each of these materials has its specific use. Depending on your kind of project or your budget, this article has given insight on the filament to consider for your next project.

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