Although the 3D printing market is still developing dynamically and the awareness of what additive technologies are is incomparably greater than 2-3 years ago, some things remain the same… One of them is e.g. knowledge of materials used for 3D printing in FDM / FFF technology – taking into account consumer preferences, it can be said that mainly there are only three plastics for 3D printing: PLA, ABS and “the others”…

The above information obviously concerns a broader time perspective – the last weeks and the nationwide campaign of printing protective face shields for hospitals and medical services have caused many people to open to PETG, which due to high chemical resistance and rigidity, was one of the materials recommended for the production of helmets. Thanks to this, there is a chance that some of the users of 3D printers will follow the blow and start experimenting with other materials that have incomparably greater application possibilities and, contrary to appearances, also print well – or even better, than the popular ABS…? It should be remembered that the plastics segment is currently largely responsible for the development of FDM / FFF technology and the premieres of new materials are significantly expanding the possibilities of using this type of 3D printers in various industries.

In this article I present two alternatives to pure ABS. In order for the possible jump from material to material not to be too large, the first will be simply ABS with better physical and strength properties, and the second with a material of a similar nature, but a much more interesting area of ​​application in the form of ASA. Both materials are manufactured by our partner company – Spectrum Filaments, currently one of the largest filament producers in Europe. Without further ado, I’m presenting the ABS GP450 and ASA 275…

ABS GP450

The manufacturer advertises this material in two ways – firstly as a very durable material, which can be 3D printed at dizzying speeds of 200 mm/sec., and secondly as an alternative to the popular Zortrax 3D printer filament – Z-ULTRAT. As I use many Zortrax 3D printers in my daily work, the second option seemed to me particularly worth testing.

The filament is available in 1.75 mm in diameter and in seven colors: black, white, natural (ivory), red, navy blue, green and gray. There is 1 kilogram of material on the spool. Its price is €33,90. I used the dye-free, natural color version for testing.

The material is packed in an aesthetic box – a colorful, slide-out case and a white cardboard. The spool is wrapped in foil – we do not tear it, just cut the strip at the very top, just above the stringed closure. Thanks to this, after finishing the work, the rest of the material can be put into the foil together with the moisture absorber and as close as possible, tightly closed and put back in the box.

Each spool has a sticker with unique codes: text and QR. On the Spectrum Filaments – Verify Your Spool website, we will receive a complete set of information on the production of this particular material. For example, if we go to this page and enter the code shown in the photo above (WlJovBYb) this will appear to us:

I will write more about this functionality in one of my upcoming articles.

In the case of Zortrax M200 (in both Plus and Classic models) ABS GP450, in the Z-SUITE software we choose Z-ULTRAT or Z-ABS as the material – it prints just as well. We can also optionally choose the EXTERNAL MATERIALS section and set the temperatures manually (240-260°C for the head and 80-85°C for the heating bed). Of course, the same will work for larger models of 3D printers – M300 Plus and M300 DUAL.

In the case of large geometries (over 15 cm in XY axes), it is worth covering the table with some adhesive for certainty, remembering not to cover the table fragments responsible for positioning the head (clean squares in the center and in the corners).

Work with the material goes without any problems. Below is a gallery of a series of 3D prints. Here and there some minor deformations appeared on the ground and one of the models cracked on the surface, but generally they came out correctly. There were no problems with tearing the detail off the raft or removing support structures.

ASA 275

ASA like ABS, it is based on styrene, however, it is less fragrant in 3D printing and has lower shrinkage (at least that produced by Spectrum Filaments). In addition, it is resistant to UV radiation and so-called “External weather conditions,” or moisture, and high and low temperatures.

In the Spectrum Filaments offer, ASA 275 like the ABS GP450, it is also available only in 1.75 mm diameter, but in nine colors: black, white, natural (ivory), red, navy blue, green, gray, silver and orange. 1 kilogram of material is also wound up on the spool. The cost is € 32,90. In the tests I used ASA in red, but every day I use natural / ivory, which in the last few weeks I have already 3D printed nearly 10 kilograms.

The packaging in terms of graphics does not differ from ABS GP450, but it is classic – without a case. It is packed in the same string bag, so we open it – we don’t tear it to serve us in the future. Each spool has a unique code – it is W4dqwQYW for the tested material.

We 3D print the material at low temperatures, typical for PLA rather than ABS:

  • 200-240°C for the head
  • 40-60°C for bed.

For Zortrax M200 Plus it is worth to set these parameters manually in EXTERNAL MATERIALS mode. We choose “ABS-based material” and enter the appropriate values in the temperature section. I achieve the best results for the 230°C range for the head and 60°C for the bed.

In the case of Zortrax M200 Classic I had some problems with this material – the above settings caused that the material got stuck in the head and the probability of completing a larger print lasting several hours was low. After many attempts, it turned out that setting the Z-ASA Pro profile solves the problem, although the temperatures are then higher than those recommended by Spectrum Filaments.

Another important information is that better prints come out on an open 3D printer than with the HEPA Cover attached.

At work ASA 275 is practically odorless and so far I have not had a problem with the contraction of this material, despite the fact that I have often managed to almost fill the entire 3D printer table with prints. From time to time I use an adhesive, but to a much lesser extent than with ABS.

ASA is a fantastic alternative to ABS and the fact that so few people use this filament combining the ease of 3D printing known from PLA with the durability typical of ABS is amazing. If it results only from the lack of awareness that such a filament exists and such are its properties – it is really worth changing it.

Paweł Ślusarczyk
CEO of 3D Printing Center. Has over 15 years' experience in buisiness, gained in IT, advertising and polygraphy. Part of 3D printing industry since 2013.

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