3D printing has come a long way since its inception. With new technologies, advancements in materials, and tons of options to choose from, picking the right material for your 3D printing project can be overwhelming. Two of the most commonly used materials you’ll come across are PLA and ABS. Below we’ll compare the pros and cons of PLA and ABS, to help you decide which is the best material for your next 3D printing project.
Differences Between PLA and ABS
|Doesn’t Require Heated Bed||❌||✅|
|Easier to Get Started With||❌||✅|
|Easier to Get Cleaner Prints||❌||✅|
|Better for Painting||❌||✅|
|Easier to Glue Together||❌||✅|
|Wider Variety of Filaments||❌||✅|
|Can Be Re-Extruded for Reuse||✅||✅|
|Better for Outdoor Uses||✅||❌|
|Odorless When Printing||✅||❌|
Colors and Varieties
Both PLA and ABS are available in a wide range of colors, with many varieties of each material that offer different properties. PLA is generally available in more colors and finishes than ABS, including transparent, metallic, and glow-in-the-dark options. ABS is typically available in fewer colors but offers more options for matte or glossy finishes. Some manufacturers also produce specialty ABS filaments, such as carbon fiber or wood-filled ABS, which can add unique properties to your prints.
When it comes to 3D printing, both PLA and ABS have their own set of challenges. PLA is generally considered easier to print with than ABS because it has a lower printing temperature and is less prone to warping. PLA is also less likely to emit strong odors or release harmful fumes during printing. On the other hand, ABS requires a higher printing temperature and is more susceptible to warping, which can cause the printed object to detach from the print bed. ABS also emits fumes that can be irritating or harmful if inhaled, so it’s important to print in a well-ventilated area or with an enclosed printer.
Painting & Gluing
Both PLA and ABS can be painted and glued, but they require different techniques. PLA is generally easier to glue and paint than ABS because it has better adhesion properties and is less prone to warping. PLA can be painted with most types of paint, including spray paint, acrylic, and oil-based paints. It can also be glued with a variety of adhesives, including cyanoacrylate (super glue), epoxy, and PVA glue.
ABS, on the other hand, is more difficult to glue and paint because it has a smooth surface that doesn’t bond well with most adhesives or paints. For gluing, it’s recommended to use a specialized ABS adhesive or solvent-based adhesive, such as acetone or ABS cement. Painting ABS requires special preparation, such as sanding or priming, to improve adhesion. ABS can be painted with acrylic or enamel paints, but you’ll need to choose a paint that’s compatible with the material and to apply it in thin, even layers.
Strength & Durability
When it comes to strength and durability, ABS is generally considered stronger and more durable than PLA. ABS has a higher melting point and is more resistant to impact, heat, and chemicals, making it suitable for functional parts or objects that will be exposed to harsh conditions. PLA, on the other hand, is more brittle and can break more easily, especially in cold temperatures. If you’ll be printing decorative or objects that don’t require much strength though, this shouldn’t be much of an issue.
In terms of eco-friendliness, PLA is generally considered a more environmentally-friendly option than ABS. PLA is made from renewable resources, such as corn starch or sugar cane, and is biodegradable under certain conditions. ABS, on the other hand, is made from petrochemicals and is not biodegradable. ABS also emits more harmful fumes during printing, which can contribute to air pollution. If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly option, PLA may be a better choice.
Which material is best for you?
When it comes to choosing between PLA and ABS, it ultimately depends on the specific requirements of your project. If you’re just looking for a material that’s easy to use though and get started with, PLA is the best choice. However, if you need a material that’s a bit stronger and can withstand higher temperatures, ABS is the better option.
Overall, both PLA and ABS have their advantages and disadvantages. The key is to understand the properties of each material and choose the one that best fits your specific needs. With a little experimentation, you can find the perfect material for your 3D printing project.