Materials for 3D printing planes

Choice of material is very crucial for a successful result. We tried many different materials and here’s our experience.

Recommended materials are:

Materials tested, not recommended:

PolyAir 1.0 (highly recommended)


  • More resistant to impact!
  • Improved layer adhesion
  • Easier to cut with a knife – doesn’t break that easily
  • Easy to print – prints even better than regular PLA
  • Stiff – as stiff as regular PLA to handle high G forces


  • Lower glass transition temperature

Our new in-house PLA based four compound material, developed specifically for printing thin-wall planes. Improved impact resistance and layer adhesion are crucial for a longer lifespan of 3D printed RC planes. It prints as easy as a regular PLA, so you can use your trusted print profiles or our pre-compiled gcodes on compatible printers. A sophisticated production line ensures a constant diameter with tight tolerance.

The printing temperature remains at 230°C without cooling.

As with the regular PLA, the glass transition temperature remains around 50°C, so avoid exposing the model to higher temperatures on direct sunlight or leaving the model in a car.

PolyLight 1.0 (highly recommended)

Active foaming lightweight LW-PLA material. Depending on hotend temperature, the material increases its volume more than twice during extrusion resulting in very lightweight parts. Suitable especially for smaller models and parts where strength is not so critical.


  • Less than half the weight of standard PLA
  • More than double the print volume from a single spool
  • Strong inter-layer adhesion
  • Controllable active foaming
  • Easy to clean and sand any imperfections
  • Easy to glue with CA
  • Less visible layers
  • Not translucent


  • Less stiff than PLA – can be controlled by extrusion multiplier and temperature
  • Lower glass transition temperature, but with lower volumetric density, less prone to warping on a Sun
  • Foaming during travel moves means more stringing, however, easily removable

Great for LW Planes or weight reduction of any model

PolyLight 1.0 is recommended especially for our LW Planes models designed to be printed in single-pass (vase) mode with reduced travel moves but used wisely it can also be used as a complement to the PolyAir to improve the wing loading of any of our models. For example, every gram saved on tail parts counts more than twice in the need to balance the model improving weight distribution.


Printing recommendations

A basic Simplify3D FFF profile for printing LW-PLA on Prusa MK3 and compatible printers: 3dlabprint_LW_1per

Recommended hotend temperature is around 230-240°C, Bed temperature 50-60°C, Set multiplier in a range of 0.4 – 0.5 to achieve a wall width around 0.6 mm. If you find the parts are hard to fit into each other, slightly lower the flow or multiplier.

Set retractions to 0 mm distance, but keep the extra restart distance to compensate for oozed material on travel moves. Where possible, we’re trying to minimize the number of travel moves in geometry, but stringing can be quite easily removed with a snap knife, scalpel or sanded down. Don’t expect the print to be perfectly clean.


Since the filament foams up when being printed, a single spool lasts for more than twice the amount of parts in volume, compared to non-foaming filaments. Lowered wing loading results in lower stall speed and impact energy when things go sideways. That means the model is less prone to damage and it actually saves costs.

Suitable for painting

We chose to make the material in light grey colour, that’s the most universal base colour for painting. Models printed in light grey are not translucent and therefore it’s easier to create a good-looking scale paint job. Parts can be easily sanded to make a nice surface finish.

PLA (recommended)


  • Stiff (wing can handle higher Gs)
  • Low shrinking
  • Easy to print
  • Easy to glue with CA


  • Lower glass transition temperature

Standard PLA is our most commonly used and recommended material to print 3DLabPrint planes. If not specified otherwise, the planes are designed and tested with standard PLA filament. If you’re new to 3D printing RC planes, please always start with a standard PLA with a consistent diameter. At least you’ll have something to compare to while experimenting with others.

We’re using higher than usual temperature (by default 230°C) and no cooling to achieve good inter-layer adhesion. The PLA softens at temperatures higher than 50°C, that is its glass transition temperature. To achieve sufficient heatbed adhesion, we use temperature 50-60°C any higher will result in warped bottom part caused by the weight of the part.

Darker colours warp on direct sunlight as the temperature of the surface builds up fast. To avoid this, use bright, single-wavelength colours like yellow, orange, lime-green, etc…

Don’t leave printed planes in a car on hot summer days, as the temperature can easily rise above 50°C

LW-PLA (recommended)


  • half the weight of standard PLA
  • Low shrinking
  • Easy to print
  • Controllable foaming
  • Easy to clean and sand any imperfections
  • Easy to glue with CA
  • Less visible layers


  • Less stiff than PLA – can be controlled by extrusion multiplier and temperature
  • Lower glass transition temperature, but with lower volumetric density, less prone to warping on a Sun
  • No use of retractions on travel moves causing cosmetic imperfections

A basic FFF profile for printing LW-PLA on Prusa MK3 and compatible printers: 3dlabprint_LW_1per

This revolutionary material is using active foaming technology. I.e. it’s gaining volume when being printed. The higher the temperature, the more it foams. With this feature we can use half extrusion multiplier to get the same wall width, reducing the overall weight to half. Can be used to lighten any of our planes, LW-Planes are designed to be printed from this material explicitly.


With extrusion multiplier and temperature we can control how stiff the resulting part will be. Leaving extrusion multiplier at 1 will result in strong walls, but the internals could pronounce to the outer shell. Normally we are using 0,5 multiplier at 230°C making the walls same thickness as standard PLA parts to reduce weight.

Since the material foams inside the nozzle, it’s oozing faster than standard PLA. Increasing retractions may cause clogs, so we decided to turn off the retractions at all. This results in hairy internal trussing, but it’s very lightweight and it’s just a cosmetic issue.

The resulting parts are less stiff, so it’s not recommended to use this material for the whole plane. It is very suitable for printing less stressed parts to reduce all-up-weight of the plane though. Tail parts, wing-tips, control surfaces, hatches, scale accessories, etc…

The material is distributed directly by ColorFabb. At first glance higher price tag is reduced by the fact, we need just a half of it compared to any other material, making it no more expensive than any other premium filament.

A comprehensive LW-PLA review by CNC Kitchen

LW-TPU (recommended for printing tires)


  • Active foaming
  • Higher flexibility
  • Reduced density (Lightweight)
  • Faster printing


  • Can stick to PEI sheet too much

Tires are to be printed from a flexible material. Printing highly flexible materials can be challenging because the filament is naturally soft which is causing various feeding problems. We need to print very slowly, otherwise, the filament can tangle into the extruder causing damage. Also, the retractions are usually not effective due to the flexing of the filament.

A major advantage of active foaming LW-TPU, such as FlexiLight or VarioShore is, that the final flexibility is achieved after the extrusion process by increasing of the volume and reducing the density of the material. A secondary advantage is reduced weight which is suitable for printing model airplane wheels. The filament itself doesn’t need to be too flexible which allows much higher printing speeds than with general soft TPU that would result in the similar softness of printed tires.

Recommending to use a Powder-coated textured sheet or satin sheet on Prusa printers. A smooth PEI sheet can be damaged when removing the part from the bed.

LW-TPU Prusa Slicer profile is available in the original 3MF files for tires.



  • Active foaming, similar to LW-PLA
  • Higher temperature and UV resistance compared to LW-PLA


  • Shrinking
  • Worse inter-layer adhesion compared to LW-PLA
  • Possibly hazardous fumes when being printed

Another promising foaming filament by ColorFabb, however more tricky to print than LW-PLA. The only advantage for our purpose is higher temperature resistance. Contains styrene, so printing can produce toxic fumes. You’ll probably need a ventilated heated enclosure to print LW-ASA.



  • Higher glass transition temperature compared to PLA


  • Lower inter-layer adhesion – brittle
  • Some brands require to be annealed to gain the thermal resistance
  • Usually more expensive

Printing HT-PLA requires more precise tweaking of hotend temperature. The glass transition temperature is slightly higher depending on the brand used, but this is for a price of lower inter-layer adhesion, which means more brittle planes. This often ends with broken wing mid-flight and mishaps on landing.

It can be possibly used on motor mounts that are glued to the fuselage, but it’s not always necessary.



  • Higher glass transition temperature compared to PLA
  • Less brittle


  • Lower tensile strength (more flexible)
  • Harder to glue
  • Harder to print – oozing
  • Higher shrinking rate

The PETG printed planes may look less brittle in the beginning, but less strong glue joints and lower tensile strength (higher flexibility) makes the planes more prone to fail mid-flight due to higher G forces. Use this material only when you know what you’re doing. Not recommended for beginners.

It is a good material to print some motor mounts, wheel discs and even springs. Always watch for good layer adhesion when printing PETG. It’s not recommended for parts that require to be glued to hold together.



  • Lower density – lower overall weight
  • Higher glass transition temperature


  • Hard to print
  • High shrinking rate
  • Requires an enclosure with a controlled ambient temperature
  • Possibly hazardous fumes when being printed

Printing thin-wall from ABS is very tricky. It requires enclosed printing volume with precisely controlled ambient temperature. Any draft will cause the layers to separate and warp.

Printing ABS is recommended only for skilled and well-equipped modellers with enclosed and vented printers.

Carbon fibre filled filaments


  • Smooth surface


  • Abrasive
  • No real advantage in strength or thermal resistance

We tested several carbon fibre-filled filaments as well. They eat the standard brass nozzles alive and there’s no advantage in any of important parameters for our purpose.