If you’re new to the world of 3D printing or considering buying a 3D printer, one of the most pressing questions you likely have is, “How long will my 3D print last?” By the end of this article, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the factors that contribute to the lifespan of a 3D print.
How long do 3D Prints Last
The lifespan of a 3D print depends on the filament type, where it’s placed, and print quality. PLA lasts 4-5 years indoors, ABS up to 10 years, PETG 15 years, and Nylon up to 20 years. Environmental factors like moisture, UV rays, and temperature also play a big role.
Three main factors come into play here:
- The type of material you’re using for the print
- Where you’re using the print (Indoors? Outdoors? As a moving part?)
- The overall quality of the 3D print
How Does Filament Type Affect Lifespan?
Every material has its own set of properties—strength, durability, and temperature resistance. So, the lifespan of your printed part will depend on your filament choice. Let’s dive into some popular filaments like PLA, ABS, PETG, and Nylon.
|PLA (Polylactic Acid)
|Up to 8 years
|ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
|Over 10 years
|Up to 4 years
|PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol)
|Over 15 years
|Over 20 years
|Up to 10 years
PLA is a go-to for many, from beginners to advanced users, because it’s affordable, easy to print, and biodegradable.
Lifespan: Indoors, PLA 3D prints can last up to 8 years without significant degradation. Outdoors, you’re looking at around 1 – 1.5 years.
Durability: PLA is durable under normal indoor conditions.
Outdoor Use: PLA is good for printing indoor items but exposing PLA to UV rays will make it brittle and discolored over time.
- Hotend Temperature: 190-220°C
- Bed Temperature: 40-60°C
ABS is strong and affordable, making it suitable for engineering applications. But it can warp if the enclosure temperature isn’t maintained or print in non enclosed 3D printer.
Durability: ABS is strong and mainly used for engineering, outdoor, or functional parts.
Lifespan: ABS can last over 10 years indoors and outdoors. It can last up to 4 years without degrading due to its toughness
Outdoor Use: ABS is more UV-resistant than PLA and can last up to 4 years outdoors.After that, it will slowly start degrading as it’s exposed to UV rays.
- Hotend Temperature: 220-250°C
- Bed Temperature: 80-110°C
PETG is a modified version of PET plastic, which is commonly used to manufacture bottles. PETG is a balanced choice, offering the toughness of ABS and the ease of printing like PLA.
Durability: PETG is weather-resistant and can withstand harsh outdoor conditions and UV rays for decades.
Lifespan: Indoors, PETG can last more than 15 years. Outdoors, you’re looking at 5 to 7 years.
Outdoor Use: PETG is a solid choice for outdoor items. It can withstand harsh outdoor conditions and UV rays.
- Hotend Temperature: 230-250°C
- Bed Temperature: 70-90°C
Nylon is an extremely strong and durable 3D printing material, ideal for functional and mechanical parts. Nylon prints can last more than a decade without much wear and tear. But 3d printing with Nylon is a bit difficult due to its moisture-absorbing properties.
Durability: Nylon is an extremely strong and flexible material, making it ideal for 3D printing functional and mechanical parts for both indoor and outdoor uses.
Lifespan: Nylon 3D prints can last for more than 20 years in indoor conditions and can last up to 10 years in outdoor conditions.
Outdoor Use: Nylon is more UV-resistant compared to PLA and ABS.. Its strength and flexibility make it a good material for 3D printing outdoor parts that need to handle various stresses.
- Hotend Temperature: 250-270°C
- Bed Temperature: 70-100°C
Environmental factors that affect the longevity of 3D Prints
UV radiation from the sun significantly impacts your 3D prints, especially those made of PLA. UV radiation mainly causes photodegradation, leading to color fading, brittleness, and surface cracking.
Solution: If you are printing something for outdoor use with a material like PLA, consider using UV-resistant coatings or paints. Alternatively, you can use UV-resistant filaments like Nylon or PETG.
Moisture is one of the biggest problems for 3D printing filaments. PLA can handle humid conditions better because it doesn’t absorb much moisture. However, materials like ABS and Nylon absorb moisture from the air, making the 3D print weaker, warped, and bubbly.
Solution: Before you start 3D printing with materials like ABS or Nylon, it’s a good idea to dry them out for 4 to 6 hours in a filament dryer. This helps get rid of any moisture. Afterward, you can keep your filaments in a dry box to ensure they stay moisture-free for your next print. Another option is to use moisture-resistant filaments like PETG.
Extreme temperatures can impact your 3D prints, whether hot or cold. In hot temperatures, prints might start warping or soften and lose their form. On the other hand, cold temperatures make your 3D print more brittle and prone to breaking.
Solution: Use a suitable material for suitable conditions. If you’re 3D printing items for outdoor use in scorching heat, consider using materials like Nylon, as it can handle high temperatures without deforming.
Does the Quality of a 3D Print Affect Its Lifespan?
Yes, the quality of your 3D print has a significant impact on its durability. Proper calibration, layer adhesion, and post-processing techniques such as sanding and coating can increase the durability and longevity of your 3D prints.
How long your 3D print will last depends on various factors such as the material you choose, the environmental conditions they’re in, and most importantly, the quality of your 3D printing process. PLA, a beginner-friendly option, can last around 5-10 years indoors but may only last up to 1 year outdoors. ABS, known for its durability, can last for 5-10 years indoors and about 2-4 years outdoors. PETG is a versatile choice and can last for 15 years or more in indoor conditions and around 4-7 years outdoors. Nylon is high in strength, flexibility, and weather resistance, and it can last for 10-20 years indoors and approximately 5-10 years outdoors.
1. How long can PLA 3D prints last?
- In an indoor environment, PLA 3D prints can last for up to 8 years without significant degradation but in outdoor conditions, they may only last up to 1 – 1.5 years.
2. How does UV radiation affect 3D prints, and what’s the solution for UV-sensitive materials?
- UV radiation, especially affecting materials like PLA, can cause color fading, brittleness, and surface cracking. To protect your UV-sensitive prints, consider using UV-resistant coatings, paints, or UV-resistant filaments like Nylon or PETG.