PLA filament and ABS filament are the two most popular 3D printer filaments in the market. We will discuss differences between PLA and ABS in below properties.
PLA filament v.s ABS filament:Physical properties
Winner: ABS filament
PLA filament is more brittle and may get broken when bent than ABS filament. Printing objects made from PLA and ABS filament can be cut, filed, sanded and bonded using adhesives. When ABS filament is operated under recommended temperature range, ABS object will be strong enough for mechanical parts and weatherproof. ABS 3D printer filament is more flexible than PLA filament, ABS object bends instead of break when under pressure.
Moreover, due to ABS’s better melleability, postprocessing of ABS object is much easier. ABS printed object can be treated with acetone to get a smooth and shiny surface or weld two objects together, while PLA printed object can’t.
PLA v.s ABS: Printing difficulty
It is commonly suggested that 3D printing beginners start with PLA filament first, because problems like warping may arise when using ABS filament. Also because PLA filament is very little shrinkage when the PLA printed layers cool down, so it doesn’t result in warping or cracking layers, the PLA printed object can be removed more easily than ABS printed object. However, with Sun Top improved formulation ABS, the shrinkage and warpage are incredibly reduced.
One thing you need to notice when printing ABS filament is that heated bed and enclosed printer are necessarily required but not for PLA filament although they may help to improve print quality if used correctly.
Melting point of ABS is higher than PLA, which means ABS filament is printed at higher temperature than PLA filament. In this case, the possibility of clogging or jamming the printer's nozzle is reduced. However, Sun Top PLA filament has been improved to resolve nozzle clogs or filament jams.
Once more and more experiences are gained from 3D printing, you will find out the optimal settings for PLA and ABS filament.
PLA v.s ABS: Storage
It is important to keep PLA and ABS filaments away from moisture. Our filament rolls are sealed, we stronly recommend users use up opened filament rolls as soon as possible. Otherwise, the print quality may be affected.
Also, the filament should be stored in a dry place. Bubbles may occur when printing if PLA 3D printer filament is exposed to air for a long time, the bubbles may clog the printer nozzle and decrease the surface quality. Also, color of PLA 3D printer filament may change due to PLA’s long time exposure to the air.
Some will dry humid PLA 3D printer filament, this might work, but may change crystallinity ratio and thermal property of PLA and hence the original recommended printing temperature may not be applicable anymore. Same as ABS filament, there may be bubbles at the nozzle during printing if the ABS filament is humid. However, ABS’s color doesn’t get changed usually. Thermal property of ABS 3D printer filament is not changed if you try to dry it.
Therefore, storage of ABS 3D printer filament is easier than PLA 3D printer filament.
PLA v.s ABS: Smell
Winner: PLA filament
ABS and PLA filament have smells when printing, PLA smells slightly sweet due to its raw material to be cornstarch or sugarcane. However, ABS emits a plastic unpleasant smell during 3D printing. Hence, ventilated area is strongly recommended if you are using ABS 3D printer filament.
PLA v.s ABS: Applications
Winner: PLA Filament
PLA filament is the first choice for 3D printing for most people, it is widely used in 3D printing for household items, gadgets and toys. If flexibility is not your major requirement since it may break under pressure, it is suitable for your application. Also, it is human body-friendly and can be used for objects that touch skin.
When PLA object is exposed to 70 degree or more for some time, it may deform. Therefore, it is not suggested to use PLA for object that is exposed directly to sunlight or where the temperature may go up to 70 degree.
ABS object withstands rough usage and hot environment better than PLA object. If the object needs to be bent, it is better to use ABS filament. ABSfilament can be used for parts that are subject to mechanical stress, for interlocking parts or pin-joints. ABS filament is not considered to be food-safe. However, post-processing it using solvent polishing that is fool-safe is a way to seal ABS’s surface.