Top 10 Differences: PLA vs ABS Filament: 3D Printing
3D Printing is one of the leading technologies of future. A 3D Printer or 3D Pen requires filament as the raw material to create 3D product models. It is quite similar to the way we use cartridges or toners for paper printing. Two most common thermoplastic materials named ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PLA (PolyLactic Acid) are used in 3D Printers working under FDM (Fused Deposition modelling) technology. Both PLA and ABS are quite similar to each other, but still there are some prominent differences between the two making them stand apart from each other.
Choice between ABS filament vs PLA filament is grounded on numerous factors such as flexibility, quality, application, strength, accuracy to name a few. In general, PLA filament is best suited when you want your 3D prints to have fine details, crystal clear sharp edges and low printing temperature. On the other hand, ABS filament is best suited for 3D prints where thermal stability, strength and ductile nature of the printed objects are prominent. Moreover, your 3D Pen or 3D Printer is specifically designed to print either of the ABS filament or PLA filament, both the materials are also compatible with certain printing devices.1
3D Print Objects’ Strength
ABS filament has better ductility as compared to PLA filament. Considering the lower ductility property of PLA vs ABS, PLA is considered a good raw material for printing 3D objects where form is important over function. On the contrary, ABS is better suited to prototype models where a higher flexural strength is required for increased elongation. ABS is durable, strong and difficult to break while in contrast to PLA.2
3D Prototype Surface Finish
3D Prototypes printed with ABS filament comes with a matte finish, while the ones printed with PLA filament are a bit glossy because of its semi transparent appearance. Acetone post processing treatment works very well with ABS prototypes.3
Bonding and Solubility
ABS plastic can be glued easily to bond different parts to each other. It can also be sanded easily as compared to PLA plastic. ABS filament dissolved easily in acetone solution, while PLA filament dissolved easily in sodium hydroxide solution.4
Thermal Capacity (Heat Resistance)
ABS filament is best suited for high temperature 3D printing applications because of its higher glass transition temperature of 105°C. PLA filament on the contrary is best for low temperature printing applications because of its lower glass transition temperature of 60°C. PLA printed prototypes tend to lose their firmness beyond a temperature of 60°C, while for ABS printed prototypes, the temperature limit is 105°C.5
Environment Friendly 3D Printing Material
PLA filament are based on plant starch, a biodegradable material which causes no harm to our environment. ABS filament is based on petroleum, a non-biodegradable material. It harms our environment when left exposed to the nature for long durations, although it can be recycled easily. PLA is an environmental friendly material, while ABS is non-friendly to environment.6
3D Thermoplastic Odour
ABS plastic fumes while printing prototypes, giving out a bad smell of hot plastic. Since PLA plastic is made from sugar rich materials, it gives out a sweet smell like of a wafer. ABS printing requires good ventilation in the room to avoid any kind of nausea/headache.7
ABS vs PLA Warping
Warping is common 3D printing problem whereby a printed layer cools down faster than the other printed layers, thus shrinking, cracking and/or breaking; which in turn bends the model at the edges. PLA plastic is less susceptible to such shrinking and warping problems as compared to ABS plastic.8
3D Heated Printbed
ABS thermoplastic material can only be used with 3D printers based on heated printbed technology, while it is not mandatory for PLA thermoplastic material. The requirement of heated printbed for ABS filament printing owes to its warping property.9
ABS vs PLA Storage
ABS as well as PLA absorbs moisture from the air due to which they should be kept in sealed container when not in use. 3D Prints done with moisture carrying ABS causes clogging the nozzle tip because of bubble formation. Moisture carrying PLA exhibits discolouration as well as distorting the material quality in addition to the bubble and clogging issues of the nozzle. De-polymerization occurs in PLA as it reacts with water at high temperature.10
Applications of PLA vs ABS Filaments
PLA and ABS materials have different applications based on their physical and chemical properties. PLA filament is best suited to 3D print food packaging, disposal tableware, disposal garments, diapers, upholstery and in many other hygienic products. On the contrary, ABS filament is best suited to 3D print waste pipes, drain pipes, vent pipes, electronic assemblies, kitchen appliances, headgear, music instruments, toys and many automotive products.
ABS Filament is quite similar, although much different from PLA Filament simultaneously. Both thermoplastic materials have different sets of physical and chemical properties. They have different sets of usage based on their specific features and properties. Above all, the decision to buy PLA filament or ABS filament is entirely dependent on your 3D Pen or 3D Printer.