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PLA vs. ABS Filaments: What Is the Difference?

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PLA and ABS are two of the most popular filaments for 3D printing. Before you use either, it’s essential to learn the differences between them and what makes one better than the other. Here is a brief guide to the differences between PLA and ABS filaments.

What Are PLA and ABS Filaments?

PLA, or polylactic acid, is made from renewable recycling materials like sugar cane and corn starch. It’s classified as a biodegradable natural plastic. PLA is popular all around, especially in manufacturing and the healthcare industry.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is a thermoplastic filament. The three monomers used in the makeup of this filament are in the name. The filament does well under physical pressure, making it very popular in manufacturing.

Strength

PLA and ABS are similar in strength, but PLA is brittle, meaning it doesn’t have good ductility or elongation. ABS is stronger than PLA and does well for end-user parts. PLA is also available in impact-modified versions, like tough PLA, which can reduce the brittleness problem.

Temperature

ABS has a higher temperature resistance than PLA. At its melting point, PLA filament becomes sticky, resulting in pieces stuck together—if this is not your intention, you need to keep PLA at its recommended temperature setting. Stay under 55 degrees Celsius for tough PLA filament. ABS has outstanding heat resistance, meaning it’s better to use when working with high temperatures. Steer clear of going over the recommended temperature setting to avoid burning your fiber.

Location

The printing location is another thing that differentiates PLA from ABS filaments. The chemicals in ABS produce a pungent aroma that’s so strong that it could give the user a headache. PLA has a scent that’s not bothersome at all. In fact, PLA is perfectly fine to use in any location, but make sure the room has proper ventilation. Regardless of the filament you use, your 3D printer should be in a large enough space with adequate air circulation.

We recommend keeping the room organized and ventilated when printing. Ensure the area is always tidy before and after printing, and wear a ventilation mask and goggles while printing with ABS.

Should You Use ABS or PLA Filament?

Use the filament you think would work best for your project. If you want versatility and creative freedom, try out PLA. The fiber prints at low temperatures but is strong, biodegradable, and great for general use and aesthetic purposes.

Make sure you’re stocked up on PLA filaments for your next project. Filamatrix hosts a variety of filament choices for you to pick from, so you can find what you need to complete your project. Contact us for more information on 3D printing with ABS and PLA fibers.

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