ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is another very popular 3d printing material. It is one of the most popular plastics in the world and at the start of the 3d printing revolution ABS was widely used and still is. Like PLA, ABS is a thermoplastic. This means that when heated, it will change state and can be moulded into another shape. When it cools it returns to a solid state. The advantage of 3d printing in thermoplastics include having relatively low melting points and they can be reheated multiple times. This allows for recycling at the end of the products life. ABS plastic also has very good strength properties and it can also be ‘post processed’ using acetone to remove the appearance of the lines. Some of the best reviewed 3d printers in the world use ABS, one of these being the Zortrax M200 model. In the 2016 3Dhubs Best 3D Printer Guide this printer came out top for ‘plug n play’.
The main difference between ABS and PLA is the addition of oil to the plastic. This has huge consequences in terms of environmental impact. With ABS being a traditional widely used plastic, it can cause substantial environmental damage if not disposed of responsibly. As it cannot decompose, unlike PLA, we recommend that all models made from ABS are recycled at the end of their life.
ABS has good strength properties
This material prints at a higher temperature than PLA. The average temperature used for ABS can range between 230-260 degrees Celsius. There are benefits and draw backs of this. One benefit is that when 3D printing the layers adhere stronger to each other, therefore making a stronger part. A draw back being, as the material is printed at a higher temperature, therefor your 3d printer will use more energy. Another draw back is the smell given off by ABS. In the high school education sector, it is recommended that when printing in ABS there should be adequate extraction in the room, preferably above the 3d printer.
In terms of price, ABS and PLA are very similar priced and most suppliers stock both types of materials. One major difference between the two materials is ABS requires a heated print bed. It is very difficult to achieve a successful 3d print on a cold bed with ABS. Also, there needs to be some type of contact adhesive between the model and the printer bed. Many users have used various brands of hair spray on the print bed. This helps create a ‘tacky’ residue that helps the model stick. For more information on this we recommend checking out some of the many 3d printing forums.
As you can see from these photos, the outcomes from printing in ABS are very good. To download this model for free click here.
ABS can be a great material to 3d print with. Hints and tips for successful printing include, ensuring you have a heated bed. Make sure you have calibrated the 3d printer properly. Use a contact adhesive (hair spray or dedicated ABS adhesive) to ensure your prints stick to the bed. Control the temperature of the print chamber. Many users who 3d print with ABS do so in an enclosed printer. Temperature variations have been known to affect the quality of prints. If your nozzle gets blocked using ABS, then soaking it in acetone will help clean it.
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