We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
This seems to be a question we are getting quite often from people. The ABS filament used for 3D printers has some advantages over PLA filament, however it also has some additional requirements from the 3D printer in order to get good and problem free results. The main problem that ABS has is that it does not stick well to cold build platforms and as a result the bottom of the 3D printed part gets warped, other than that a normal 3D printer designed for PLA materials could handle ABS as well. Printing on such 3D printer meant for PLA filament using ABS and including a Raft material can somewhat help in getting a better print, however the material will still warp if you do not have a heated build platform. So essentially what differentiates 3D printers designed for ABS from those meant for use with PLA filaments is the heated build platform – something that is needed by ABS, but not by PLA. Do note however that even with a 3D printer designed to support ABS filaments and with heated build platform you can still experience the printer 3D filament warping at the edges if the conditions are not right. This is precisely the reason why many people prefer the use of PLA filaments instead of ABS, even if their 3D printer does have support for ABS as well.
Using ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) filament gives you a harder and more durable object that is also more temperature resistant than PLA. With ABS you can usually go over 100 degrees Celsius before the 3D printer part starts to soften unlike 65-70 with PLA. The parts printed from ABS however are often harder to print with good results (not to have warping and curling) from the first try and the 3D printed object may not turn out to be as detailed as when using PLA filament. Another thing to be careful when using ABS filaments – make sure that the printer is in well ventilated area as the fumes produced when melting the filament are not so safe to breath whereas the ones form PLA should not be a problem. So there are some advantages and some disadvantages for both PLA and ABS filaments, and it really depends on what you are going to be using the 3D printer objects when deciding what material you should go for. If you are going to need to work with ABS materials however make sure you plan that before you decide on a 3D printer and go for a one that supports ABS and has a heated build platform as this could save you a lot of headaches, even though the device will be a bit more expensive. For some 3D printers there are also options to upgrade the build platform with a heated one if originally the device did not come with such and thus become able to support ABS as well.
There are two main types of 3D printer filament that are widely spread and used by Fused deposition modeling (FDM) based 3D printers such as the MakerBot Replicator series for example – these are ABS and PLA, though there are various other alternatives also available. Both ABS and PLA are thermoplastic materials that start to melt when they are heated up, so that they can be used to form another object and solidify when they cool down.
ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is a common thermoplastic often used in 3D printing, but it also has many more applications. 3D printing using ABS has some additional requirements from the printer such as a heated bed, so not all devices are capable of supporting ABS printing. The objects printed from ABS are generally harder and more durable, can be used with higher temperature before starting to soften (about 100 degrees Celsius or more), but are also harder to print and generally provide less detail to the printed parts. If printing with ABS you must be careful and have good ventilation as the fumes produced when ABS is melted for printing are not totally safe.
PLA (Polylactide) is a biodegradable thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch for example. PLA is probably the most widely used material for 3D printing as it is easy to handle and offers very good detail level. The only drawback that it has is the relatively low temperature that the material starts to soften – above about 65 degrees Celsius. It does not require the printer to have a heated bed like ABS for example, so it is more 3D printer friendly, especially to the lower cost models.
In general both ABS and PLA have their advantages and disadvantages compared to each other, so you should choose the material based on what you are planning to be using the 3D printed parts for. If you need to print in ABS you should be careful when choosing a 3D printer supporting ABS prints as not all do and it such cases it is better to go for a model that has support for both ABS and PLA. If you are new to 3D printing and are getting your first 3D printer to play with it at home, then it is better to go for a model supporting PLA as you probably will not need ABS printing capabilities. Both ABS and PLA filaments come in the form of thin round lines with specific diameter (1.75mm or 3mm are the most common) that are wrapped around a spool. The 3D printer filament is being sold in spools with the material calculated and priced based on its weight and not length of the line for example, there are already many available colors for both materials that you can find available from various manufacturers.
There are of course many other materials that can be used for 3D printing, though they are mostly experimental and you should be prepared to have some issues and tinker with your 3D printer’s settings should you decide to try them out. There are multiple alternatives for a flexible rubber type of filament available for 3D printers that will allow you to print rubber like flexible models on your device. You can also find filaments that contain carbon, wood and even small stone particles that when printed will create an effect making it like if the 3D printed object is made from carbon, wood or stone or at least looking a lot like that. There are also other kinds of interesting 3D filaments available, but again most of these are experimental and using them can cause some problems on your 3D printer such as jamming of the print head etc., so be careful when you decide to try these out.