PLA vs. ABS in 3D Printing: What Is the Difference?

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PLA vs. ABS in 3D Printing: What Is the Difference?

PLA and ABS filaments are two of the most popular materials in the 3D printing world. Not only do they both supply a reasonable amount of strength, but they’re also easy to print with and come in a wide range of color options. However, while many 3D printing beginners tend to find these filaments similar, it’s important to understand that they certainly aren’t the same. These are the differences between PLA and ABS in 3D printing and some traits to keep in mind when choosing between them.

Durability and Tensile Strength

First, it’s vital to acknowledge the differences in their overall strength and durability. While both materials are adequate for most prototyping and general design applications, ABS is slightly preferred over PLA for this purpose. This is because ABS has a higher amount of ductility, allowing it to elongate further when pulled before breaking. The increased flexibility this supplies also gives it a more diverse array of functional uses than PLA has.

Ease and Speed of Printability

How easily and quickly these materials print is also an important difference between PLA and ABS in 3D printing to remember. Both filaments are very beginner-friendly, meaning they’re compatible with most models of 3D printers and have a small margin for error during the printing process.

Biodegradability

Another characteristic to consider when choosing between PLA and ABS filaments is their degree of biodegradability. Some materials will degrade over time when exposed to general atmospheric conditions. PLA is one such filament that’ll break down within 50 days in industrial settings and slightly quicker in water. This is beneficial for the environment and makes PLA a great fit for temporary builds. ABS isn’t biodegradable, but it is recyclable under the right circumstances.

Post-Printing Surface Finish

One of the most noticeable differences of all is the finish that each filament provides to your print. With both materials, each print layer is clearly visible on the final product. However, ABS will often give the print an opaque, matte finish, whereas PLA looks semi-transparent and glossy. This makes PLA a better option for display models, while ABS serves a more functional purpose.

So, as you can see, PLA and ABS materials both have their uses when it comes to certain 3D printing projects. As such, it’s important that you find a supplier that can provide you with whichever one you need at the time. At Filamatrix, we make it a point to carry quality PLA filaments for 3D printing. Each of our materials goes through a rigorous testing process to ensure that they can create and sustain the polished results you’re after. Reach out to learn more about which of our products are right for your needs.

Ron Neurauter

Ron Neurauter

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