PLA vs ABS: What is best for 3D Printing?

PLA vs ABS: What is best for 3D Printing?

PLA vs ABS: What is best for 3D Printing? 

When discussing materials it is important to know the differences between them. PLA and ABS 3D Printing Filament both have their advantages, in this blog we will try and set out the differences between them. 


So what is PLA filament? Or to give it its full name - PolyLactic Acid?

Well PLA is the most commonly used material for 3D Printing due to it being the easiest filament to print with. PLA is different from most thermoplastic polymers because it sourced from renewables such as corn starch or sugar cane.

PLA is a biomass plastic and is catergorised under the term “bioplastics”. Polylactic acid is also biodegradable which gives you a clear conscience about using the material for your 3D Printing.

PLA is also considered a food safe material, however there can issues when 3D Printed due to the micro gaps in between layers than can harbour bacteria.

Polylactic Acid is best for 3D Printers who are just starting out as it is forgiving when printed. It is perfect for rapid prototyping and is normally the go to material if you want something done fast.


So what is ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene? It is a thermoplastic and amorphous polymer.

A fundamental property of ABS is mechanical strength of the 3D printed part along with good temperature resistance. If ABS is placed under a degree of stress, it will start by bending and deforming before breaking. It is therefore suitable for screws, bolts, gears and mechanical systems subjected to external forces.

ABS needs to be printed at a higher temperature than PLA and you will need a heated build plate. We would recommend you start with a temperature of 230C adjusting up or down to suit your particular printer. we would recommend heating the build plate to 110C but please do be careful using these higher temperatures as it is easy to burn yourself by accidentally touching the bed of the printer.

We would also recommend a spray adhesive to ensure your prints adhere well to the build plate and to minimise any chance of a failed print.

So! PLA vs ABS: The Pro's & Con's

If you are looking for the easiest filament to print with then it is a no brainer you have to use PLA. PLA is more environmentally friendly and is compostable. 

If you are printing prototypes or engineering parts that need heat resistance and to be strong then you need to use ABS. However ABS is difficult to print and in ideal world you need to print it in enclosure to reduce the risk of your print warping. 

ABS can be treated and smoothed with acetone, but with PLA you have to sand it, to get it smooth. 

In short: 

PLA is easier to print with, more environmentally friendly and is the go to material for beginners. 

ABS is stronger, UV resistant, will last longer but is notoriously difficult to print with unless you have a constant air temperature around the print.

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