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PLA

Polylactic Acid

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is one of the two most used 3D printing filaments, the other being ABS. PLA has gained its position because of two main factors: ease of use and price. It is one of the easiest materials to print because it prints at relatively low temperatures, usually does not require a heated bed, and doesn’t warp as it cools down. This means it has great bed adhesion and a lower failure rate than other materials. PLA is also very cheap. A 1kg spool usually goes for 15-30 USD depending on the brand, with prices on sale reaching as low as 10 USD. PLA is also non-toxic, odorless, and biodegradable as it is made from corn-starch.

Nozzle Temperature: 190-220 °C

Bed Temperature: 0-60 °C

 

Key Properties of PLA:

PROs

CONs

·       Stiff

·       Low warp

·       Low printing temperatures

·       Odorless

·       Non-toxic

·       Biodegradable

·       Brittle

·       Low Glass Transition Temperature (60°C)

 

 

PLA is best used for:

  • Props or cosmetic prints
  • Prints that don’t need to resist stress or impacts
  • Décor and toys

 

ABS

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is another widely used 3D printing filament. ABS is is able to withstand exposure to higher temperatures than PLA; about 100°C vs 60°C. It is also a more durable material, because it is less brittle, allowing it to flex a little bit without breaking. This is why ABS is also used a lot outside the 3D printing industry, from toys like Legos to car dashboards; ABS is everywhere. It is also very easy to post process. It can be sanded easily, and even vapor smoothed with acetone to give it a glossy finish. Unfortunately, ABS likes to shrink as it cools down. This means that it tends to warp or even break between layers if the printed object is big and the air around it is cool. Long prints can be a challenge if your heated bed is not able to reach at least 100°C. Enclosed 3D printers tend to increase the success rate when printing ABS, as they provide a more stable temperature around the object. It is also important to know that ABS emits toxic fumes while printing. Always print ABS in a well ventilated area.

Nozzle Temperature: 240-260 °C

Bed Temperature: 90-120 °C

 

Key Properties of ABS:

PROs

CONs

·       Strong

·       Ductile

·       High Temperature Resistance

·       Easily sanded

·       Acetone vapor smoothing

·       Good UV resistance

·       Toxic fumes while printing

·       Requires high bed and nozzle temps

·       Lots of warping

 

ABS is best used for:

  • Prints that require strength and durability
  • Prints that need to withstand temperatures of up to 100°C
  • Prints that require post-processing