3D Printing executes a digital prototype and turns it into a true-to-life object. Numerous materials are available for 3D printing, however, the two most commonly used plastics are Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Poly Lactic Acid (PLA). So we now ask these questions: What is the difference between ABS and PLA filament? ABS vs. PLA--what are its advantages and its shortcomings? Which is better?
What is ABS?
Used in creating the popular LEGO® toys, car bumpers, and motorcycle helmets, ABS 3d filaments are stronger and harder than PLA so ABS has a longer lifespan. While printing ABS, there is often a prominent smell of hot plastic because this plastic type is produced from fossil fuels, which makes it more harmful to the environment. It gives off hot plastic fumes when printing. It warps when not being printed on a heated surface. An ABS printed product cannot be used with food.
What is PLA?
Used in making food packaging and containers, PLA is the more environmentally friendly than petroleum based ABS since PLA is of plant based sources, such as sugar cane, corn, or potatoes, earning the nickname “the green plastic.” It decomposes in an active compost heap but not when buried in your backyard. It gives off a semi-sweet smell when printing, and its products are shinier and smoother in look and feel, and are more detailed in design. When cooled and set rapidly, PLA 3d filaments can create a variety of shapes that is hard to do with other plastics. But because of its low melting point, its product warps when heated, such as a food container spending the day in a hot car.
ABS vs. PLA
Even with their drawbacks, ABS vs. PLA can be beneficial to different organizations, depending on the products they manufacture. ABS is enormously advantageous to a machine parts manufacturer because of its strength and durability, its lifespan, and its higher melting temperature. But to a maker of home printers, PLA is heaven-sent because of its appearance and its flexibility.
However, to a manufacturer of dishes and cups, both ABS vs. PLA might not be of use. PLA-printed dishes will deform in the dishwater heat, and you can’t use ABS since it is made from petroleum resources so it can’t be used to stow food.
To wrap it up, these popular 3D printing plastics—ABS vs. PLA--have their pros and cons, depending on what and where you were intending to print. We just hope that an inventor will come up with a plastic that is inexpensive, eco-friendly, and for a general purpose.