It is important to determine the right material for obtaining the best 3D Printing results. So let’s say that you have selected a suitable 3D Printer, bought it at a reasonable price, and have also started creating comparatively simpler objects on it… But have you actually selected the right material for the given 3D Printing job? The strength, compliance, precision, aesthetics and various other factors come into the picture while selecting the perfect material for the job. In this article we will be discussing ABS vs PLA filament w.r.t FFF technology and analyzing which one is the right choice for your requirement.
While we are at it, we know that ABS and PLA are the most commonly used materials in thousands of desktop and Industrial grade 3D printers. But lets look at the benefits and disadvantages of these two materials.
Before digging deeper into the selection of a suitable material, one should firstly understand the use-cases of these two materials. PLA and ABS materials are both thermoplastics in nature. Being thermoplastic, these materials turn flexible on heating which makes the molding of these materials into different shapes, relatively easier. Although 3D printers make use of the same processes to build the objects, some may use both or one of these materials, i.e., ABS or PLA, which invariably depends on the machine in question.
So now one may wonder, despite the process being similar, why do PLA & ABS properties differ and how? To make you understand the importance of this distinction, we have listed below the properties of both PLA and ABS materials.
PLA stands for Poly Lactic Acid which is produced from organic material. Due to its natural composition, this material can be used with ease and within safety conditions. This thermoplastic material hence is susceptible to smell and is accompanied with comparatively smoother and sparkling appearance. Irrespective of these advantages, PLA materials have a lower melting point as compared to ABS material. As a result, the parts printed using PLA material when stored in higher temperature conditions will start warping and cracking. Although this is a major disadvantage associated with PLA materials, objects printed with PLA materials have high-quality printing features.
ABS i.e., Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is produced from a plastic which is oil-based. Various parts of a car, instruments, and similar other building blocks are made up of ABS because of its strong structure and stout constitution. However, due to its higher melting point, cooling during the printing process might lead to material warping. Due to this setback, objects to be printed using ABS materials should be printed on a hot surface. Due to the bad odour generated during the printing process, a proper exhaust system should be made available. These factors sometimes make it inappropriate for home applications, but a preferable choice for professional use.
Both the materials have some common characteristics too: To avoid cracking or warping of the printed materials, both need atmosphere free of moisture content. Both PLA and ABS materials, being thermoplastic in nature liberate fumes which might be harmful, thus the need of proper ventilation system arises while manufacturing.
Verdict: ABS vs PLA filament
Talking about ABS vs PLA filament, objects built with ABS material will have higher structural integrity than those with PLA materials. PLA produces more decisive prints with outstanding creative capabilities. While producing high-quality mechanical parts, ABS requires distinct 3D printers and printing surfaces whereas PLA can provide better resilience in the current printing situations.
Having scrupulously studied properties of ABS and PLA materials, we can thus conclude that PLA is best suited for those who love to 3D Print or have made this a hobby or are involved in the more personal use of 3D Printing while ABS materials are molded for professional applications which demand mechanical properties and ascetic stability.