Metal filaments have a tough job. The best metal filaments can trick the eye into thinking that a plastic object is actually metallic. And the worst metal filaments look nothing like the metal they are supposed to mimic.
At the moment, ColorFabb is making the best metal filaments available. These filaments have several selling points:
- 80% of the filament is real metal
- Works best with E3D all-metal Hotends
- Can be sanded, polished, or rusted for the desired surface finish
Thankfully there are some fantastic metal filaments available for us to play around with. Some of them, like ColorFabb, even contain a significant amount of real metal.
While they can’t be used to produce production grade metal objects, they can definitely be used to make jewelry, figurines, and other objects that look and feel like pure metal objects.
Introduction: Best Metal Filaments
The 3D printing world has been waiting anxiously for years for an affordable metal 3d printer to come to market. It’s almost here, but it hasn’t happened yet.
For now, we are forced to make due with printing plastic filament that mimics metal instead. That’s a tall order even for the best metal filaments out there right now.
Still, some metal filaments are doing a very good job of tricky our eyes with shiny surfaces and metallic properties. Here is our list of the best of these exotic filaments:
1. ColorFabb Metalfill Filament
ColorFabb filaments are usually at the top of our lists of high quality filaments because they really do make some of the best metal filaments in the world.
We’ve written about their PLA line-up and gone into their excellent quality standards in our full review. The ColorFabb Metal-fill filaments are no different from the rest of their high quality products.
All ColorFabb filaments are made of 80% real metal. That’s right! There is actual, honest to god metal in these filaments.
That means you can get an authentic metallic look and feel from your printed parts, and even polish them like real metal. Printed objects are shiny and lustrous after polishing and they are 3 times heavier than regular PLA objects. It’s pretty amazing.
ColorFabb produces several types of metal filaments: steel, brass, bronze, and copper. They don’t make silver or gold because it would obviously be too expensive to put real gold and silver shavings in PLA plastic.
But these other metals will cover most of those colors. And anyway, who cares when you can print yourself actual steel tools and bronze sculptures?
The main thing to keep in mind is that they are a bit more expensive than other filaments. But the quality is worth it.
2. Ultimaker Metal Filament
Ultimaker makes a very good metallic silver PLA. Like all Ultimaker PLAs, this metal filament is top notch. Ultimaker consistently produces some of the best filaments in the Netherlands.
And while they only offer one color of metal PLA at the moment, hopefully Ultimaker adds a few more types, because they do a good job with it.
Ultimaker metallic silver PLA doesn’t contain actual metal in it, but it looks surprisingly similar to actual metal. It also prints very easily at slightly higher temperatures of around 200ºC to 210ºC.
The reason it prints at higher temperatures is that it contains additives to give it that lustrous metallic shine that we are all looking for. It also prints better with a heated printer bed in some cases.
If you are having trouble getting it to stick to your printer bed, try heating the bed to around 60ºC and see if that helps. You shouldn’t need to do this on PEI surfaces, but it can help on straight glass beds.
The main downside to this filament is the price. A spool of this stuff will cost you double what a high-end spool of PLA costs, which is definitely more than you would pay for similar filaments from other brands.
3. Hatchbox Metal Filament
Hatchbox makes this list primarily due to the fact that they sell several popular metallic colored filaments for very good prices. Hatchbox is the best overall filament brand around because they offer high quality filaments at medium-low prices.
Their metallic filaments are no different. They are good quality, and while they don’t contain any actual metal, they make good substitutes.
The best part about them is the price. You can get many Hatchbox filaments for mid-range prices. Even though Hatchbox recently raised the prices of some of their best selling filaments, they are still in line with other similar brands.
The most popular Hatchbox metal PLA is the metallic silver PLA, which now costs a bit more than other filaments. But considering the quality of the filament, that is not bad at all. Check out the hundreds of positive customer reviews Hatchbox has.
4. Proto-Pasta Metal Filament
We put Proto-Pasta on our list of best PLA filaments, and their metallic PLA filaments are definitely good enough for this list as well. Started by a bunch of material scientists who set out to create the world’s best filaments in 2013, Proto-Pasta has definitely come close to the mark.
The two most popular metal filaments from Proto-Pasta are the Rustable Magnetic Iron and the Polishable Stainless Steel. The rustable iron filament is probably the coolest metal filament of the two simply because you can make it rust!
The objects you print with the iron filament will have a stable matte finish. But if you apply a little water, you will get a nice rusty finish across them. It’s also magnetic, which is a nice bonus.
The polishable stainless steel is also pretty cool. The names says it all. This PLA contains enough steel that you can actually polish it like any other piece of steel.
It is perfect for printing jewelry, figurines, machine parts and more. And just like iron PLA filament, this steel PLA has a nice weight to it, so it really feels like metal when you hold it.
Of course, since it contains metal, it is a bit more corrosive to printer nozzles. But it will work with basically every kind of 3D FDM printer on the market.
5. Push Plastic: Metallic PETG Filament
Finally, let’s talk about Silver Metallic PETG from Push Plastic. We decided to include this filament on our list simply because it is so unusual to see a metallic PETG.
PET in general is becoming more popular and will probably become the go to material of choice for many 3D printers over the next few years. It is simply a better material.
But PET (PETG is a type of PET) hasn’t caught on enough yet for filament companies to start producing many different colors and composites. That’s why Push Plastic’s Silver Metallic PETG is so special. It is probably the first of its kind.
Push Plastic also makes several metallic PLA filaments: silver, gold, and bronze.
The gold filament is most interesting of the three PLAs. It is relatively less common to find gold colored PLAs simply because gold is a hard color to get right. Many gold filaments will come out looking too much like bronze or a yellowish brown.
But Push Plastic has pulled it off. This gold PLA captures the subtle luminescence of real gold in it’s surface shine but also mimics the darker shades of gold that the actual metal produces when you hold it in low light conditions.
That makes this filament a very attractive choice if you want to print gold colored jewelry or costume pieces. Check out our full review of Push Plastic filaments here.
Final Thoughts: Best Metal Filaments
While the world waits for actual metal printing to become more affordable, metal filaments are good enough to meet our basic printing needs. There are several brands that even use real metal in their filaments.
ColorFabb, Filament Innovations, and Proto-Pasta make such high quality metal-filled composite filaments that it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between objects printed with these filaments and actual metal objects.
But there are also several high quality metal-colored plastic filaments that don’t contain any metal but resemble metal very well. Push Plastic gold and Hatchbox silver PLA are two good examples.
These filaments don’t have the same weight and polishing characteristics as filaments that contain actual metal, but they pull off the look really well with shiny surfaces and lustrous finishes. With a bit of post processing, you can easily print objects that look convincingly like metal with them.
Hopefully you found the kind of metal filament you were looking for in the list above. If you have any other suggestions for metal filaments worth checking out, please leave a comment below.
We are always looking for suggestions to add to the list. Happy printing!