ABS is an acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymer obtained from petroleum. It is, next to PLA, one of the materials most frequently used in FFF technology. What is worth knowing about him?

Its mechanical properties have given it great popularity in industry and have been used in the production of all kinds of housings, buttons, handles and many, many others. We find it everywhere, from furniture and pipes, through elements in cars, electronics, washing machines and small kitchen appliances, to entire containers and toys – the crown and most often cited example of using ABS are LEGO blocks.

Among the properties behind this thermoplastic’s popularity are its hardness, impact and abrasion resistance as well as good high temperature tolerance. It maintains its properties in the temperature range from -20 to 80° C (and some filament manufacturers even write at 98°C). Therefore, unlike PLA, you can use it without fear inside the car, among others. However, it is not UV resistant, crumbling after long exposure to sunlight. It also has less rigidity than PLA.

3D printing with ABS can be a big challenge for novice users. Despite its popularity, it is quite demanding material. The source of problems in 3D printing is the high shrinkage of the material – several times larger than in the case of PLA. Fast cooling of the printout will cause it to crack and “curl up” on the table. Therefore, it is highly advisable to use a closed heating chamber and a heated work table.

Incorrectly selected 3D printing parameters can lead to material cracking and deformation, which disqualifies 3D printing in terms of quality

During 3D printing, the extruder temperature should be – depending on the filament manufacturer and the 3D printer itself – between 220 and 260°C, and the table temperature – in the range of 80-110°C. Good dimensional accuracy is more difficult than with PLA.

This material, so troublesome in 3D printing, is very grateful during processing. Supports come off relatively easily. It can be grinded and also smoothed with a solvent – thanks to the fact that ABS dissolves in acetone, leaving the print in acetone vapors allows it to smooth its surface.

The method, if properly used, allows for smooth walls without visible layers, but it is easy to destroy the details, and acetone itself is flammable and irritating. In properly made prints, you can drill without risk of deformation or cracks. It is a good material for making small models that must be durable – like various mechanical components.

As a plastic, formed from petroleum, ABS can emit fumes with potentially harmful effects when heated to high temperatures. Despite the fact that pyrolysis occurs at much higher temperatures (380-430°C) than those achieved in the extruder, during 3D printing harmful substances are released at a higher concentration than in the case of PLA. Hence, it is advisable not to stay in one room for a long time with a working 3D printer and despite the sensitivity of prints to sudden cooling, ventilation of the room.

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