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Resources3D Printing DesignAll About Wood 3D Printing Filament: Materials, Properties, Definition
Macro photo of wood 3D printing filament. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Jack Soldano

All About Wood 3D Printing Filament: Materials, Properties, Definition

Learn more about wood 3D printing filament and how to use it for 3D printed parts.

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
November 11, 2022
 9 min read
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Wood 3D printing filaments hit the market in 2012. The first was invented by German inventor, Kai Parthy, the founder of Lay Filaments. Wood filaments are unique in that they lend wood-like surface finishes to complex printed designs. Their compositions are usually 20-40% waste wood materials and 60-80% polymer. PLA (Polylactic Acid) is generally used as the polymer material and the wood component can be a selection of wood derivatives, including cork or wood shavings/sawdust. 

Even if the focus isn’t aesthetics, wood can be used as a filler material to reduce the cost of 3D printing materials. There are also other wood-like filaments that use coloring to give the illusion of wood, but since there are no wood particles in these filaments they typically look and feel more like plastic. 

There are three main advantages of wood 3D printing: layers of wood-infused materials bond more strongly to one another, sawdust is available as cheap waste material from other industries, and wood filaments are biodegradable and recyclable. However, they are also inflexible and can make the polymer brittle. Wood filaments are mostly used in the aerospace, automotive, architecture, engineering, medical, and jewelry industries, and even find use in the education sector.  This article will focus on wood-infused PLA filaments because these are the most common 3D printing wood filaments. We will discuss the definition, composition, and properties of this material and compare it to other 3D printing filaments.

What is Wood 3D Printing?

Wood 3D printing is a process where wood-based waste materials are re-purposed and used as ingredients in the construction filament for additive manufacturing. Wood is one of the most popular 3D filament additives because it makes parts look like they’re carved out of wood. For more information, see our all about 3D printing guide.

What is the Composition of Wood Filament?

Wood filaments are composite filaments that typically use PLA (Polylactic Acid) as a base and some form of wood as an additive. Manufacturers offer many types of wood, such as: birch, cedar, bamboo, cork, ebony, pine, olive, and even coconut. The standard composition of wood filament is usually 30% wood component and 70% PLA, although these values can differ between products and manufacturers. Because the main component is PLA, most of the filament’s properties are linked to this material. There are, however, some altered properties – like increased brittleness and a wood-like finish – that come into play when wood is added.  Figure 1 below is an example of a wood filament:

Slide 1 of 1
spools of wood filament
spools of wood filament
spools of wood filament

Spools of wood filament for 3D printing.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/luchschenF

What Are the Properties of Wood Filament?

The properties of wood 3D printing filament are listed below:

  1. Wood filament has a very low tendency to warp or shrink.
  2. Wood filaments are biodegradable and recyclable.
  3. Wood 3D printing filaments are very stiff and rigid and are not intended to be flexible.

Comparison of Wood Filament Properties

Table 1 below compares the properties of wood 3D printing filament to a selection of other 3D printing filaments with no additives:

Table 1. Comparison of Wood-Filled PLA vs PLA vs ABS vs PETG
PropertyWood-Filled PLAPLAABSPETG
Property

Tensile modulus (MPa)

Wood-Filled PLA

3650

PLA

2696

ABS

1699 

PETG

1711

Property

Tensile stress @ yield (MPa)

Wood-Filled PLA

50

PLA

47.5

ABS

38.1 

PETG

46.2

Property

Elongation @ break(%)

Wood-Filled PLA

3.8

PLA

9.4

ABS

5.8

PETG

6.8

Property

Flexural strength (MPa)

Wood-Filled PLA

14.47

PLA

91.6

ABS

21.5

PETG

50

Property

Charpy impact strength (kJ/m2) - 

Wood-Filled PLA

5.1

PLA

8.9

ABS

1.5

PETG

7.9

Property

Hardness (Shore D)

Wood-Filled PLA

72.2

PLA

80

ABS

76

PETG

76

Property

Glass transition temperature (°C)

Wood-Filled PLA

45

PLA

59

ABS

100.5

PETG

77.4

Property

Melting temperature (°C)

Wood-Filled PLA

130-210

PLA

152

ABS

Amorphous, no Tm

PETG

Amorphous, no Tm

What Are the Limitations of 3D Printing with Wood?

There are some challenges associated with wood filaments. These include:

  1. Wood 3D printing filament mimics the durability of PLA rather than that of wood itself. Wood prints are inflexible and brittle and it is not recommended to use them to support loads. 
  2. Wood filaments are very brittle and can easily break if the filament’s path from the spool to the extruder is not smooth.
  3. Unlike other composite filaments (such as metal or carbon fiber filaments), wood filaments can catch fire and burn when exposed to high temperatures. 
  4. Wood filaments can damage brass nozzles due to their abrasive nature. 

Listed below are some of the advantages of printing with wood filament. 

  1. Wood filament prints imitate a wood-like finish that looks and feels like real wood.   
  2. The grains in the wood filament hide seam lines between layers. 
  3. Layer thicknesses that look ugly in plain polymer are not as conspicuous when wood is incorporated. 
  4. Wood prints can easily be sanded with standard sandpaper.

Why is Wood Used in 3D Printing?

The main reason for 3D printing with wood is the unique aesthetics that it delivers, especially compared to regular plastic filaments. Models printed with wood filaments have a finish that closely resembles the natural grainy finish of pure wood. It is possible to create complex or intricate designs and patterns with 3D printing that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with traditional woodworking techniques. Wood filaments are also significantly less abrasive than other composite 3D printing filaments that contain carbon fiber or metal, and they are less likely to warp or shrink. 

How to Use Wood in 3D Printing

To achieve excellent results in wood 3D printing, remember the following tips:

  1. Wood 3D printing filament does not have the same level of adhesion as PLA. It requires a print adhesive to bond to an unheated build plate. Print tape, gluesticks, or hairspray adhesives are usually sufficient. 
  2. Use the correct nozzle diameter and nozzle material. Hardened steel nozzles are the best options. To avoid clogs, a nozzle size of at least 0.6 mm is recommended. It provides a good balance between print quality and printing speed. If smaller nozzle diameters are used, adjust the flow rate. 
  3. Wood filament is hygroscopic and can absorb moisture from air very quickly. Store it away from moisture in an airtight container and dry the filament before use. If the filament bubbles as it gets extruded, that’s typically a sign that it has been infiltrated by moisture.  
  4. Post-process the part either by sanding or polishing your print.

What Are the Best Configuration Settings for Wood 3D Printing?

Listed in Table 2 below, are the printer settings that you can apply when printing with wood filament:

Table 2. Wood Filament 3D Printer Settings
Printer SettingsValue
Printer Settings

Extruder temperature (°C)

Value

170-220 °C (or up to 240 °C for a darker wooden finish)

Printer Settings

Bed temperature (°C)

Value

Not necessary, 45-60 °C if a heated bed is used

Printer Settings

Nozzle temperature (°C)

Value

170-220

Printer Settings

Print speed (mm/s)

Value

40-75

Printer Settings

Extruder fan speed

Value

Maximum speed

Printer Settings

Retraction speed (mm/s)

Value

45-60 

Printer Settings

Retraction distance (mm)

Value

6.5 

Printer Settings

Flow of filament (%)

Value

100-110%

What is the Best Wood 3D Print Speed?

The printing speed for wood filaments should usually fall within the range of 40-75 mm/s. It is good to start at the low end and increase speed gradually. Because wood filaments have good layer adhesion, it is possible to print at high speeds. This good layer adhesion may also improve the overall strength of the final print due to improved interlayer bonding. The added wood particles to the PLA allow products printed with wood filaments to have reduced layer lines. Larger layer heights without compromising on aesthetics or the integrity of the print can be produced. 

What is the Melting Temperature of Wood Filament?

The melting temperature of wood filament ranges from 130 to 210 °C. 

Is a Heated Printing Bed Required When Printing With Wood?

No, a heated printing bed is not required when printing with wood filament, though it may be helpful. If the filament manufacturer suggests heating the bed, a temperature between 45 and 60 °C is usually best. 

What is a Good Wall Thickness for 3D Printing Wood?

The ideal wall thickness for 3D printed wood parts depends on its end-use application. PLA filaments infused with wood are slightly weaker than regular PLA because the wood particles interrupt some of the polymer bonds. To address this problem, it is advised to use a minimum wall thickness of 1.2 to 3 mm (nozzle diameter = 0.4 mm).  

What is a Good Wall Density for 3D Printing Wood?

A minimum infill density of 20% is usually advised, though it can vary depending on the application. Though load-bearing applications are not advised, an infill density of 50 to 100% would be required depending on the amount of weight to be supported. 

Is Wood Filament Toxic?

Yes, when heated, the fumes emanating from the wood filament can be toxic. It also releases carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons if it is burned. It is, therefore, important to print in a well-ventilated area. 

Is Wood Filament Abrasive?

Yes, wood filament is considered mildly abrasive. Due to their relatively soft surfaces, brass extruders can be damaged by wood filaments. Steel extruders are more resistant to the abrasiveness of wood filaments, but they are still not immune to damage.

Is Wood Biodegradable?

Yes, wood filament is 100% biodegradable. This biodegradability is because PLA, a cornstarch-based polymer, and wood are both considered biodegradable. It takes up to 2 years for the components to decompose. 

Is Wood Recyclable?

Yes, in most cases, wood filament is recyclable. Make sure to confirm with the manufacturer. Most indicate that both the filament and item printed with the filament can be melted and reused in another application.

Is Wood Filament Food-Safe?

No, wood filament is not food-safe. This property is because PLA is primarily used as a binding agent and the mix of heat and chemicals in its processing could pose health risks. An additional concern is the printed materials are porous, so harmful bacteria can accumulate in the microscopic cracks. 

What is the Difference Between Wood and PLA in 3D Printing?

A primary difference between wood and PLA filaments is in the surface finish of the final product. Wood-printed products have a wood-like finish, whereas PLA can have different types of surface finishes - matte, glossy, or even silky. Wood filaments and parts tend to break more easily than regular PLA. The extrusion temperature of both materials is also different. Compared to regular PLA, wood filament should be extruded at slightly higher temperatures. 

Summary

This article presented wood 3D printing filament, explained what it is, and discussed the different factors to consider when using it for 3D printed parts. To learn more about wood 3D printing filament, contact a Xometry representative.

Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities, including 3D printing and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.

Disclaimer

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Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.