Consumers have a few different options for filaments to use in the printing process, but many choose between ABS vs. PLA for a 3D printer model for the best printers. Many people in the 3D printing industry list the differences between ABS and PLA, but users may not understand the full extent of the materials for 3D printing. These materials allow users to print 3D products that are lightweight and durable. For resin printers, you should consider DLP vs. SLA 3D printer resins.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Many consumers utilize ABS and PLA filaments when 3D printing, which happens by heating the compound, shaping it, and cooling it.
  • ABS filament printers offer greater durability and post-processing options, but they have sensitivity to temperature changes.
  • When PLA is used in the 3D printing process, the product can hold more and has a glossy finish, but it is more likely to break under stress.

3D Printing with ABS vs. PLA

Among various 3D printing filaments, ABS and PLA continue to be two of the more popular choices. These filaments are ideal due to the shift to a soft, moldable state when exposed to heat that becomes solid again once they’ve cooled. However, there are differences between the tensile strength, density, melting point, glass transition temperature, and biodegradability of the two. Although many differences exist, the two cost roughly the same amount. If you want more information about different resolutions, check out 50 micron vs. 100 micron for a 3D printer.

Insider Tip

PLA prints faster than ABS, and it provides a glossy finish on its products.

PLA for 3D Printing

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a thermoplastic polyester 3D printing material created by the condensation of lactic acid with water loss. Companies manufacture this common filament for use in renewable resources. When used in 3D printers, PLA acts as a fused filament fabricant that can be smoothed using ethyl acetate in a vapor chamber. Other uses for PLA include casting, injection molding, extrusion, machining, and solvent welding.

Benefits of PLA Filaments

PLA filament for 3D prints has a higher temperature resistance than ABS, making for improved ease of printing. PLA has a melting point of 343.4° F but a lower glass transition temperature of 140° F. Under stress, PLA can hold more weight, but it is overall not as durable. Additionally, when the PLA product does reach the point of warping or breaking, it will break because it is not flexible enough to withstand this process. Finally, products made with hot plastic PLA have a glossy finish, which ABS does not offer.

ABS for 3D Printing

Users print using the thermoplastic polymer acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) throughout the 3D printing experience. ABS filament features the same material as Lego bricks, but the percentage of each element varies. ABS works in fused deposition modeling with high stability and post-processing options during the printing process, including sanding, painting, gluing, and filling. However, if decomposed at temperatures over 750° F, each component separates, but butadiene is carcinogenic, and acrylonitrile and styrene are possibly carcinogenic.

Benefits of ABS Filament for 3D Printing

ABS does not have a melting point, making it amorphous, but it does need higher printing temperatures than PLA. However, the sensitivity to temperature changes is higher than PLA. Because of these properties, 3D printers with ABS filament should have a closed printing space with a full enclosure and heated plate or printing surface. An ABS finished product will need to cool slowly to avoid cracking, but it will have higher ABS strength and impact resistance. Finally, ABS can be chemically smoothed after undergoing its lower printing speed process.

Warning

ABS printing is sensitive to temperature changes, but you can use a closed printing space to negate this.

F.A.Q.S

What’s the best plastic for 3D printing?

If you are looking for a plastic filament that can undergo post-processing, you will likely want ABS, smoothed with acetone. However, PLA offers greater strength and a glossy finish.


What’s the Difference Between PLA and PETG?

PETG is more flexible than either PLA or ABS and has a wider variety of uses. PLA, on the other hand, provides ease of printing and is biodegradable.


What is the difference between PLA and ABS?

The main difference between the two filaments is the components used in creating 3D products, but there are also differences in strength, durability, finish, and printing temperatures. To find out more, check out our article above.



STAT: The [3D printing] industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of some 17 percent between 2020 and 2023. (source)

Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."

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