The Difference Between ABS and PLA 3D Printer Filaments


If you are about to use your new 3D printer to 3D print something, it might be a good idea to learn something about the plastic materials, the 3D Printer Filament, that you'll be using in your 3D printing applications. Currently there are many materials that can be used for 3D printing applications, but for desktop FDM 3D printers, the most commonly used materials are ABS and PLA plastic materials.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a petroleum based plastic material and is a common thermoplastic polymer. The most important mechanical properties of ABS are impact resistance and toughness. Even though ABS plastics are used largely for mechanical purposes, they also have electrical properties that are fairly constant over a wide range of frequencies. These properties are little affected by temperature and atmospheric humidity in the acceptable operating range of temperatures. ABS's light weight and ability to be injection molded and extruded make it useful in various manufacturing products. Household and consumer goods are the major applications of ABS.

PLA(Polylactic acid) is a biodegradable thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch, tapioca roots, chips or starch, or sugarcane. PLA has similar mechanical properties to PETE polymer, but has a significantly lower maximum continuous use temperature. Polylactic acid can be processed like most thermoplastics into fiber and film.

Both PLA and ABS 3D Printer Filaments have pros and cons. For example, ABS requires higher temperatures to extrude than PLA. That often requires that you use a hot plate to print on so the part does not cool too fast as it is being printed. PLA, on the other hand, frequently prints better if there is a fan blowing on the part to cool it down before it can droop.

The advantages of using ABS 3D Printer Filament is that ABS plastic is durable yet flexible meaning items printed can withstand impact without cracking and breaking. This flexibility also means interlocking parts and connected pieces are much easier to design, create, and work with.

Although similar in form, PLA 3D Printer Filament separates itself in a number of ways in its quest to become the go to source for objects 3D printed in plastic. The advantages to print with PLA filament goes much further than the benefits to the environment:

Lack of Smell. Polyactic acid is derived from sugar and therefore gives off a light smell when printing. The aroma is more like that of a cooking oil whereas ABS and similar materials have a much more distinct hot plastic smell which is more like that of a factory than a kitchen.

Less Warping. PLA is more efficient (melts at a cooler temperature, prints faster, cools quicker) and therefore does not require a heated bed surface as other plastic 3D printer filaments do. The polyactic acid takes on more of a liquid form when printed, which is actually a good thing since it enables more sharper detail on the printed products.

More Options. PLA 3D printer filament options are farther ahead in the overall 3D printing industry, therefore many more colors are available in the markets.



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