PLA vs ABS Filament: Understanding ABS vs PLA Filament Performance

In the field of 3D printing, the choice of material is crucial. Different filaments possess different characteristics and have their own advantages in terms of strength, toughness and application. Among the many options, PLA and ABS always stand out. The former is affordable and easy to use, while the latter has good material properties. How should we choose the right materials for our 3D printing projects? To address this question, we will delve into the properties, advantages and disadvantages of the two filaments, PLA vs ABS, and compare their performance and applications in 3D printing.

ABS vs PLA Filament: Material Components and Properties

PLA and ABS filament are two of the most popular 3D printing materials. They are easy to use and easy to obtain, and can fulfill a variety of printing needs. By understanding their composition and properties, it will be possible to initially match our 3D printing projects. Here is a comparison between PLA and ABS filament.

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Material Components:

  • PLA, or polylactic acid, is a thermoplastic with components usually derived from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane.
  • ABS filament, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, is a thermoplastic polymer composed of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene.

Material Properties:

PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic that is environmentally friendly. PLA filament is easy to use and compatible with most FDM 3D printers. PLA filament has lower printing temperature requirements, is not easy to warp, and is friendly to beginners. PLA is usually available in a wide range of colors and finishes, it can be used for prototyping, decorative items, and more.

ABS has good material properties. Its three components provide rigidity, impact resistance and toughness, as well as chemical and thermal stability. ABS filament requires high printing temperatures and needs a heated bed, otherwise it will easily warp. ABS filament has very good durability and can be used for prototyping, functional parts, impact-resistant parts, etc.

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ABS vs PLA Filament: Compared in 3D Printing

How to make satisfying 3D prints with PLA or ABS filament? In addition to the composition and properties of the material, when selecting filament, it is important to consider the 3D printing settings and parameters it requires. Including 3D printers compatible with materials, correct printing temperature settings, post-processing methods for 3D prints, etc.

Printing Temperature and Difficulty

PLA is friendly to beginners, does not require strict temperature control, and is easier to use than other filaments such as ABS, PETG, etc. The printing temperature of PLA is usually between 180 and 220 °C. When using PLA filament, the heated bed can be set to 50-70 °C to improve bed adhesion, but it is not required.

ABS is temperature sensitive and more difficult to use than PLA filament. With ABS filament, higher print temperatures are required, between 220 and 250 °C. A heated bed is a must, usually set to 80-100 °C to improve adhesion and prevent shrinkage from cooling too quickly.

Post Processing

PLA prints usually have a smooth surface and are available in a variety of finishes, such as silk PLA and matte PLA. It requires relatively little post-processing, and the surface finish can usually be improved by sanding and polishing.

A common post-processing method for ABS prints is acetone smoothing, which can react with acetone solution or steam. Acetone smoothing can greatly improve the surface finish of 3D prints, but is only effective on ABS filaments.

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ABS vs PLA Filament: Pros and Cons

PLA is considered the best choice for hobbyists when there are no requirements for special mechanical strength. Because it is easy to be mastered, it is more efficient in producing the idea 3D models. ABS is more durable and stronger than PLA filament, but requires more time to master and use. Constantly test and adjust printing parameters to maximize the unique advantages of ABS filament. Below, we will list the advantages and disadvantages of PLA and ABS in the field of 3D printing to help users choose the most suitable material.

PLA VS ABS Filament Pros Cons
PLA Filament
  • Easy to Use, beginner friendly
  • Environmentally friendly and biodegradable
  • Affordable
  • Multiple colors, multiple finishes
  • Not as strong and durable as ABS
  • Lower temperature resistance
ABS Filament
  • High strength and durability
  • High temperature resistance
  • Versatile and can be used for functional components
  • Temperature sensitive, prone to warping
  • Not environmentally friendly, harmful smoke

ABS vs PLA Filament: Choose the Right One

Both PLA and ABS filaments have unique highlights, and their respective advantages and disadvantages determine their different applications. PLA filament is suitable for beginners and is mostly used for 3D printing projects that consider convenience and beauty. ABS filament has better material properties than PLA, requires more time to master, and is mostly used to make durable parts. Both of these filaments are very attractive options, make your decision based on the above comparisons and your specific printing needs. Try using them and look forward to your smooth and enjoyable printing experience.