3D Printer Filament Spotlight: The Quick Guide to ABS

For every 3D printing project, there's the perfect 3D filament - but with all the different materials and filament types on the market today, how can you select the right material for the job? Sorting through the pros and cons of each filament can be complicated, so we've put together a handy reference guide to help you analyze one of the most commonly used filaments on the market today: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, better known as ABS filament. We analyzed strength, flexibility, durability, ease of printing, and other features help you decide whether ABS filament is right for you.

ABS Strength: Medium-High

The last thing you need in your printed prototype, design or product is an unexpected break, and ABS offers a step higher than standard PLA filament in strength. The print can take a higher stress level than PLA, and although it is not as tough as a higher-end material like nylon, ABS filament results in a respectably strong print at more affordable cost than most hyper-strong filaments. Another plus is the easy adaptability of ABS to a wide variety of 3D printers, and you get to benefit from its strength without requiring purchase of an expensive high-end machine.

ABS Flexibility: Medium-High

ABS does have enough rigidity to serve as a mechanical part of a variety of objects, but the print's stiffness is a quality of tensile strength, rather than brittleness. As with any plastic-like material, enough brute force can snap the piece, but ABS has a built in flexibility that can help avoid those problems through a little "give." Again, ABS offers a step up from PLA filament in its flexibility, making it an excellent choice for a cost-efficient project.

ABS Durability: Medium-High

According to Simplify3D, this filament is used to make Lego blocks because of its outstanding impact resistance, so take note: this is a material tough enough to withstand abuse from toddlers! Heat resistance is one of the materials' signature features, as is long-term resistance to wear and tear. Particularly if you are planning to print mechanical parts, this is important for long-lasting usability of your printed design.
 

ABS Ease of Printing: Very High

ABS filament has a long history in 3D printing, and was one of the first materials used for the additive manufacturing industry. It's a great filament for newcomers to the 3D printing world, but there's a few things to take note of. The material's inherent properties can cause some warping, because raising the temperature of the material to print-heat causes significant expansion in size. Cooling the material causes natural shrinkage back to "normal" size, which can damage the print if not managed correctly.

When working with ABS, use a printer like the Dremel DigiLab 3D45; this printer uses a removable glass build plate as a heated build surface. This maintains the correct temperature throughout the build process and allows the filament to print and perform the way it was designed to. Simplify3D recommends printing with a bed heat of 95-110 degrees Celsius, and the DigiLab 3D45 falls squarely within that range.

Special Considerations of ABS

When you are selecting ABS, keep safety in mind. The material is known to give off fumes and strong odors as it is extruded, and those Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are potentially harmful to your health. When purchasing this filament, consider safer options. The ABS filament offered by Dremel is eco-ABS, which is a modified version that mimics the properties of the original filament, but without the VOC dangers. Eco-ABS is actually a more robust filament, offering offers the same high detail finish as ABS, but with added strength and durability

Best Applications for ABS

After considering all the properties outlined above, what applications are most suited for this filament? One of the best qualities of ABS is its inexpensive durability. Think protective applications, especially for technology; Raspberry Pi cases, cell phone cases, protective housings for robotic or drone electronics, and similar safeguards for delicate mechanisms. The material is also able to take a high level of stress, so it's great for items handled regularly (board game pieces, desk knick-knacks, toys) or that may come in contact with higher than normal temperatures (vehicle parts that may be exposed to moderate engine heat, aquaponic system components for a greenhouse, or phone accessories left in a hot car all day). Don't feel limited by these suggestions; ABS is very versatile, and it performs well under many environmental conditions.

There are so many 3D printer filament types available it can be hard to narrow down which is the best type for you, your printer, and your project. Are you unsure if ABS is right for you? Are you considering buying a 3D printer, but don't know where to start? We know it can be overwhelming, and we're here to help! Whether you are an educator, a small business owner, or a tech enthusiast, Dremel exists to help & support you as you design and create your inspiring and fulfilling projects. Contact us, and let us help you select the printer and filament that is the perfect fit for your needs.

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