For beginners, PLA is often the go-to filament for its ease of use. But if you’re in the market for stronger alternatives to PLA, you may be considering going with ABS or PETG for your next project. Here we’ll beak down some of the differences between ABS and PETG to help you figure out which is right for your next project.

Differences Between ABS and PETG

Extrude Temp.220°C – 250°C210°C – 240°C
Easier to Print With
Better For Transparent Prints
Stronger Prints
Better for Outdoor Use
Easier to Glue Together
Wider Variety of Filaments
Comparison of the benefits of ABS and PETG

What is ABS?

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is one of the first filaments widely used in FDM 3D printing. It was once the go-to filament for beginners getting into 3D printing, but fell out of favor in this regard when PLA filament, with its ease of printing, became widely available. However, ABS is still widely used in both 3D printing and injection molding.

Colors and Varieties

ABS filament is available in many different colors and even some exotic variations like wood and marble. You won’t find as wide of a variety as you would with PLA filaments, but having been around for so long, ABS has more variations than you’ll be able to find with PETG.

Printing Challenges

ABS is notoriously difficult to start printing with.

ABS tends to have a tough time sticking to both the printing bed and itself. This is worsened by the fact that ABS contracts as it cools, meaning that printed objects can warp and deform.

When the first layer of a print begins to cool, it can shrink and cause the ABS to separate from the print surface. Aside from just the first layer though, warping artifacts can also show up in finished prints.

There are work around for the difficulties that ABS presents, but the challenges all add up to more time spent calibrating and perfecting your print settings before you’re ready to use ABS.

Painting & Gluing

ABS prints can be easily glued together and painted.

For gluing, there are quite a options. You can use more general adhesives (e.g. Gorilla Glue) for prints that are mainly decorative, or you can use strong adhesives like ABS cement for prints where strength is the priority.

As long as prep work such as sanding and priming is done properly, spray paints and acrylic paints can both work well on ABS prints.

Strength & Durability

ABS may have once been the strongest choice of filament for 3D printing, but that is no longer the case.
PETG will consistently provides stronger prints than ABS.

While ABS filaments have a high enough heat resistance for outdoor use, being exposed to UV rays for too long will cause discoloration and yellowing.

What is PETG?

You may have seen the material “PET” on a label somewhere before. PET stands for Polyethylene Terephthalate, and is a plastic commonly used to make water bottles. PETG is a modified version of this (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol). PETG filament came along later than ABS filament and overtook it as the go-to filament for high-strength prints. Still, there are some both advantages and drawbacks to take into account when considering using PETG over ABS:

Colors and Varieties

There are fewer varieties of PETG filaments than there are of ABS. Still, PETG has one important advantage over ABS: clearer transparent prints.

While you can find transparent ABS filaments, ABS is not transparent by itself and requires additives to become transparent. [1] The additives used to make ABS transparent also take away some of the strength of ABS, chipping away at one of the main reasons that people use ABS in the first place.

Transparent PETG filaments, on the other hand, offer clear transparent prints without compromising on strength.

Printing Challenges

PETG is more prone to stringing than other filaments are, so it may take some time to tune your printer settings to get high-quality prints with PETG. Of course once your settings are dialed in, printing with PETG shouldn’t be too challenging.

Even with its stringing, you won’t have as many difficulties with printing PETG as you would with ABS. Unlike ABS, PETG has good adhesion and doesn’t have the same tendency to contract and warp when cooling.

Painting & Gluing

If you’re looking to paint your prints or glue multiple prints together though, you should look elsewhere. While not impossible with PETG prints, getting paints or other printed parts to stick to the surface will be extremely challenging.

ABS is hands-down better for gluing and painting than PETG.

Strength & Durability

PETG is stronger than ABS in most cases. Though ABS was once the choice filament for strong prints, this role has been almost completely taken over by PETG.

PETG is also the better choice for outdoor use: it won’t fade much over time even when exposed to the sun’s UV rays.

So which should you go with?

You should usually go with PETG. PETG is both stronger than ABS and is easier to print with.

There aren’t many reasons to choose ABS over PETG nowadays.

PETG simply provides stronger prints that are:

  • Better For Outdoor Use
  • Can Be Transparent While Retaining Strength
  • Easier to Print

If you need to glue or paint your parts and are willing to compromise on some strength, consider using PLA as an alternative to ABS.

Check out our articles on PETG vs PLA and PLA vs PLA+ if you’re more concerned with ease-of-use than with the strength of your prints.