3D printing is a great way to exercise your creativity and even start a profitable side business. For an investment of a few hundred dollars, you can create scale models from your favorite movies or create a small fabrication shop that can generate thousands.
But learning the different techniques and materials used in 3D printing can be overwhelming at first. One of the biggest questions that stumps beginners is filament size. What size filament should you use and with which printer?
Filament comes in two sizes of different diameters or thicknesses. They are either 1.75mm or 2.85mm. A 3D printer will therefore use one or the other. Generally, a 1.75mm printer cannot use a 2.85mm filament, and a 2.85mm printer cannot use a 1.75mm filament.
Why can’t you use any size filament with any printer?
3D printers are designed to use a specified size of filament. The extruder and hot end are made to allow either 1.75 or 2.85mm filament. Swapping out filament sizes would create complications in terms of the fit and flow of the filament through the printer.
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The filament would not fit if you tried to use a 2.85mm filament on a smaller printer. It would be much easier to use a smaller size filament on a bigger printer with some alterations.
What Is The Difference Between 1.75 And 2.85 Filament?
1.75mm filament has grown in popularity since its introduction. It’s fast becoming the standard size filament and is more easily available and in more color options. As it is not used as much, 2.85 filament has fewer options in terms of colors and printers.
The material differences between the two filament sizes are small. Let’s look at each in detail.
1.75mm filament is easier to extrude due to its thinner diameter. There’s less force necessary if you’re working with smaller nozzles. This can give you more control and allow you to produce more finely detailed prints.
The thinness of 1.75mm filament, does, however, make it more likely to get tangled up if it’s not on a spool. Knotting is far more likely to occur when you’re working with a high volume of 1.75mm filament.
2.85mm filament was the first filament size used when 3D printers were first developed. The thicker diameter means a slightly more rigid filament which is especially useful if you’re working with flexible filaments like TPU.
It can also extrude faster especially on wider nozzles, making it particularly useful for printing large models or prototypes. Despite having a greater thickness, the 2.85mm filament absorbs less moisture.
What Filament Size Is Best?
Both 1.75 and 2.85 filaments work well for printing. There are instances, however, where it might make sense to go with one diameter over the other. For example, when working with a large print, using a larger diameter would allow for quicker completion of the print. On the other hand, if a high-fidelity prototype with near-perfect detail is needed, a smaller diameter may yield better results.
One isn’t strictly better than the other. You can achieve great prints with either one. It is far more important to choose a good quality filament than to worry about the filament size. That will have a greater impact on your prints.
Some of the characteristics that make up good quality filament are its composition, purity, and tolerance.
- Composition is what the filament is made of or the ingredients thereof. Most filaments are made with a base component and some additives. PLA has polylactic acid as its primary component.
- Purity is the concentration of the base component in a filament. Fewer additives and a higher concentration of the base component will give a better-quality filament. A poorer quality filament will be highly diluted as the manufacturer tries to produce more filament at a cheaper cost.
- Tolerance is the maximum deviation in width throughout the length of the spool. Some parts will be thinner or thicker than the given diameter. If a spool has a low tolerance, it is of a higher quality. 1.75 has a higher tolerance than 2.85mm filament. Source
One factor that weighs against using 2.85 filaments is that 1.75mm filament is more popularly used. This means it’s more common and therefore easier to find. Retailers are far more likely to stock 1.75mm than 2.85mm filament.
We also highly recommend that you check out our post “How Do I Choose The Right Filament? (Beginner Guide)“
Can You Use 1.75mm Filament In A 3mm Nozzle?
Using a 1.75mm filament in a 3mm printer nozzle typically produces backflow as the filament size is too small. The smaller diameter filament leaves gaps in the extruder which forces the filament to flow back upwards instead of out through the extruder.
The nozzle is part of the hot end in a 3D printer. This is where the filament is heated until it melts and is extruded. Nozzles come in different diameters from smaller (less than 0.4mm) to larger nozzles (more than 0.4mm).
1.75mm filament can be used in a 3mm printer if some mechanical adjustments were made to the printer. One way would be to use a Teflon tube as a feeder or sleeve to run the filament through. This would fill the gaps and prevent clogging or jamming the extruder.
How Do You Use 2.85 Filament?
2.85 filament is especially suited for large prints because of its faster extrusion rates. It has a faster flow which allows for shorter times when making larger prints.
There is no tangible difference in how you would use a larger-diameter filament compared to a smaller filament. You would still follow the same best practices such as preheating or drying where necessary. Source
What 3D Printers Use 2.85mm Filament?
There are several makes and brands of printers that use 2.85mm filament. These include the Velleman K8200 3D Printer, LulzBot TAZ Pro 3D Printer, and Ultimaker S5 3D Printer for example.
On a side note, check out our post ” Does Filament Brand Matter? Which Brands Are The Best !“
It is important to note that printers that use 1.75mm filament are more common and have a larger community of users. A printer with a smaller diameter would be easier to source filament for or get support for if you run into technical issues.