ABS is a popular 3D printing plastic material that’s known for its strength and durability, commonly referenced as the plastic used in modern LEGO bricks.
Petroleum-based ABS is a soft, milky beige material in its natural state. During printing ABS can give off a burnt plastic smell, and as such, we recommend having a ventilation system in place when using this filament. Objects printed with ABS are typically impact resistant and durable; they’re more impervious to chemicals too. However, they can occasionally warp during printing – so testing your print settings for optimization is important. Unlike PLA, ABS objects have a small amount of flex, so they’ll bend a little under stress.
Despite its higher melting point, ABS will still lose its shape when left in a hot enough environment. The best place to keep ABS filament is in an airtight container in a cool, dry environment. Like PLA, ABS will absorb moisture if left in an excessively humid place for too long. If the ABS filament does absorb moisture, it can cause bubbles in the filament and spurt from the nozzle during printing, causing poor print quality. Drying ABS after it’s been left in a humid environment is possible, but the heat needs to be dry; humid heat won’t help the problem.
Getting the most from ABS requires implementing techniques that work with the plastic’s properties. First, ABS must have a heated build platform. Unlike PLA, it doesn’t work well without one. The platform’s temperature should fall between 80 and 110 degrees Celsius – though as always, we recommend reviewing specific manufacturer recommendations for your filament before experimenting with the general recommendations. The nozzle settings between plastics will differ as well. For ABS, the nozzle temperature generally needs to be set within 225-250 degrees Celsius. To help ABS form a solid first layer adhesion, users can coat the build platform with polyimide tape, better known as Kapton tape or PET tape. Another option is spraying the platform with hairspray, but again – do consider that hairspray may leave an unwanted residue on your printer’s bed platform. One solution that’s unique to ABS is creating a mixture of ABS dissolved in acetone, and spreading it on the platform to create a more adhesive base for the first layer of printed filament.
What is ABS best used for? Because of its hardiness and resistance to most chemicals, ABS is a great choice for inventors, tinkerers, and DIY home improvement types. It’s easier to build durable interlocking pieces, intricate designs, and pin-joints with ABS. Additionally, inventors can test the sturdiness of their design under less than ideal conditions without worrying about the plastic melting or corroding. In short, DIY enthusiasts can make stronger parts and tools with ABS.
Here at 3D Supply Guys, we offer a number of different brands available in ABS. We have the universal BuMat ABS & Elite ABS, as well as filaments specific to your printer including 3Doodler ABS, Flashforge ABS, Leapfrog ABS, and Solidoodle ABS. To see our full line of filaments (including specialty materials), please click here.