3D Printing Material – ABS Specifications and Uses

ABS material has been used extensively as durable edge banding in furnitures, cabinets and tables. The thin strips of ABS is stiff but not brittle, and it can be bent under force without breaking. The fact that ABS is much less brittle than PLA also makes it a better choice than for prototypes especially when there are thin walls in the design.

In 3d printing, ABS is a low cost alternative to PLA for prototyping, and comes with better properties including rigidity, heat and impact resistant, and more chemical resistant as compared to PLA.

Common Issues

It is common to encounter issues such as warping, shrinkage and emission of toxic fumes during 3d printing.

Warping normally happens due to uneven cooling and shrinkage at different areas of the same component. This is also a common issue in welding or mold making.

How To Prevent ABS From Warping

There are three ways to prevent the ABS from warping during 3d printing.

  • Use a heated bed

    As the printing builds up and moves further away from the bed, the bottom part will start to cool down, while the top part that is newly formed by the molten ABS will remain hot.

    This steep temperature gradient can be avoided by using a heated bed to keep the bottom part warm. However, this is method may not work well with large prints.

  • Use an enclosure

    For large prints, using an enclosure may help to maintain a more stable temperature profile in the work area. This will help to reduce the heat loss around the bed, and achieve a more gradual temperature gradient between areas of the same 3d print.

  • Varying Extruder Tempeture

    Some 3d printers designed the extruder with a higher temperature for the first few layers, and gradually lower temperature as it builds upwards.

Below is a comparison between generic PLA and ABS filament material for reference. However, they may not represent all available filament in the market as each manufacturer’s design may be different. For example, some manufacturers may have special additives or treatment which cause the material to have different or better properties.

Comparison between PLA and ABS Material for 3D Printing

Tech SpecsPLAABS
Chemical NamePolylactic AcidAcrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene
AdvantagesBiodegradable
Low cost
Stiff
No toxic fumes (Lactide)
Low cost.
Heat and impact resistant.
More chemical resistant than PLA.
DisadvantagesLow heat resistance.
Stringing and oozing.
Brittle when harden.
Poor chemical resistant.
Prone to warping.
May shrink when cool.
Emit toxic fumes (Styrene).
AppearanceTranslucent, matte.Opaque, matte.
Chemical ResistanceSalt, oil, UVSome acids and alcohols, UV, Salt
Fumes EmissionNon-toxic lactideToxic styrene
Food SafeYes, if certified.No
Water Absorption0.7~1.0%0.20%
UsesNon-functional prototype
Indoor used products
Cheap, low strength functional parts.
Prototyping.
StrengthMediumMedium
Density kg/m312401010
Melting Point150-160°C200°C
Glass Transition60°C105°C
FlexibilityLowMedium
DurabilityMediumHigh
Ease of PrintingHighMedium
Typical Print Speed Range
(machine dependent)
30-90mm/s30-90mm/s
Heated BedNo50-110 oC
Extruder Temperature180-230 oC210-250 oC
Cooling MethodCooling fanNot required
Enclosure RequiredNoRecommended
Ventilation RequiredNoYes
Build SurfacePEI sheet.
Glass plate.
Glue Stick.
Masking tape.
ABS Slurry.
Kapton tape.
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