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Not to be confused with high-quality office printers, many enthusiasts research and purchase the best 3D printers to help them create objects that perform various tasks. However, even though you bought a superb printer, many areas must be taken into account. 3D printing is a complex process, and users must select the suitable filament for the job they need to accomplish. Below we will compare two 3D printer filaments: PLA vs ABS. We’ll explain what each is used for and what their strengths are.
If you like this article and want to learn more, don’t stop expanding your 3D-printer knowledge. We have a comparison article on FDM vs DLP 3D printers. And for more filament-related material, we have one explaining the differences between PLA and PLA+ 3D printer filament.
Always use proper ventilation methods when 3D printing to avoid breathing in toxic vapors.
Knowing your equipment and its parts is crucial to proper maintenance and producing high-quality objects. And the filament is a vital part of every 3D printer, as its the substance used to create the final product.
So what is the difference between an ABS vs PLA 3D printer?
The first type is PLA, which is short for “polylactic acid.” This filament is noteworthy because its created from sustainable and organic resources, like cornstarch (maize) or sugarcane. On the other hand, ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a polymer, meaning it’s made from the cocktail of monomers listed in its name.
A significant difference between these two is the glass transition point, which is another way of describing the point at which the filament becomes malleable (or melts):
If you want to check out some 3D printers, we have a great buying guide that outlines the best ABS 3D printers on the market. And for more guides, check out our article comparing magnetic vs glass bed 3D printers.
PLA is known to be much easier to use than ABS. The reason is that it takes less heat to bring it to a melting point. Because of this, the printing process is more straightforward as opposed to ABS.
ABS filament requires that each printer has a full enclosure and heated bill plate because of the additional amount of heat needed to create an object. Thus, users must take more steps and precautions when using ABS filament.
Once-created ABS objects are much more durable, with a higher melting point than PLS. Additionally, ABS filament is more bendable and less likely to break.
PLA works perfectly fine for items that don’t require industrial-grade strength, but remember that, when cooled, the substance is much more brittle than ABS.
Only allow trained operators to use the printer when working with potentially harmful materials.
Ultimately, the prices for either type of filament are more straightforward. Some claim that ABS is slightly cheaper than PLA, but the difference is marginal.
STAT: ABS is around 25% lighter than PLA filament. (source)