3D PRINTING INFO

3D Printing Filament Guide: ABS Filament

3D printing filament guide

As the manufacturing industry is being democratized by 3D printing, the technology is also being studied, researched, tested and used by people from across sectors. The technology is not restricted to engineers but even designers, hobbyists, and enthusiasts are using technology and building products.

Since this technology is also used by numerous non-technical users, we observe a high failure rate and this creates a wrong impression of the 3D printing technology.

So through this 3D printing filament guide, we will explain how to succeed while 3D printing with the dreaded ABS Filament. This will help users to 3D print by taking the necessary precautions and will help in achieving higher 3D printing success.

What is ABS Filament?

ABS 3D Printing Filament
Above: ABS 3D printing filament/Image Credit: Matterhackers

ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, a thermoplastic polymer. Being thermoplastic, it can be heated to their melting point, cooled, and re-heated again without significant degradation. As a result, these are widely popular and extensively used in the plastic industry mostly through injection moulding.

ABS is not a naturally occurring material. It is manufactured through an emulsion process. It is also produced by a patented process called continuous mass polymerization.

Why ABS is so popular?

ABS 3D Printing Filament
Above: Lego bricks are made from ABS plastic/Image Credit: Lego

ABS is widely used in a lot of plastic applications like car dashboards, LEGO pieces, computer keyboards, casings & housings, etc. The reason for such a wide application is due to the fact that it has great mechanical properties. It is easy to machine and has a low melting point which helps in injection moulding it into various products. Moreover, it is relatively inexpensive.

3D Printing Filament Guide: Properties of ABS Filament

In this 3D printing filament guide, we now will list down the properties of the ABS filament.

Superior Mechanical Properties: The ABS material is known for its high impact resistance. It is significantly tough and durable. Additionally, it exhibits great heat and chemical resistance which makes it ideal for many industrial settings.

Easy to Machine: ABS filament is quite easy to post-process. In fact, this is also one of the main reasons why ABS filament is preferred over other materials. It can be easily glued, painted and sanded. Acetone vapours can be used to give the parts a glossy surface finish.

Inexpensive: ABS material is relatively inexpensive and is readily available in almost all major regions of the world. The price is comparable to Polypropylene (PP) and/or Polycarbonate (PC).

3D Printing Filament Guide: Understanding ABS Filament

Owing to its inherent properties and existing applications in various industries, ABS is a natural choice of part manufacturers. ABS is therefore extensively used in 3D printing as well. Additionally, ABS can be easily post-processed as per requirement makes it an optimum material for prototyping and even end-use application through 3D printing.

By carefully post-processing the ABS part, even glossy finish can be achieved and this makes it an ideal choice for prototyping of all sorts. One of the widely known use of 3D printed ABS is enclosures for IoT devices.

ABS is a non-biodegradable filament which cannot be fully recycled. ABS filament is toxic but not when 3D printed. The material disintegrate above 400oC into acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene, all of which can have carcinogenic effects on humans. So, as a precautionary measure, it is always recommended to wear proper masks while printing with ABS

A lot of 3D printing filament manufacturing companies supply ABS filaments. In India, companies like Rever Industries, Solidspace Technologies are some of the providers.

Price for ABS Filament

ABS filament generally costs anywhere between $15 to $70 per kilogram

In India, ABS filament would cost around Rs. 1000-1200 per kilogram

3D Printing with ABS Filament

ABS 3D Printing Filament
Above: A cracked part printed in ABS filament/Image Credit: Rigid.ink

While all may seem great about the ABS filament, when it comes to 3D printing, the material exhibits some level of difficulty in printing. A lot of users experience warping, cracking and inaccuracy issues. This results in a negative perception of people regarding the material.

Firstly, it is important to understand that there is no ‘One’ common setting for all of the 3D printing filaments. Once we fathom this reality, we can work with different settings for different filaments and achieve great printing results.

ABS does not print like PLA. It is far more complex than a regular PLA material. A lot of settings come into play when 3D printing with ABS filament. It is recommended that users understand the possible causes of failure before jumping onto 3D printing ABS.

We first take a look at the general print settings for ABS filament.

General Printing Settings
Printing Temperature: 200oC to 250oC

Bed Temperature: 90oC to 110oC
Print Speed: 20-30mm/sec
Enclosure: Recommended

ABS Filament 3D Printing Tips

In this 3D printing filament guide, we will share some tips while 3D printing with ABS filament.

First Layer Adhesion: It is important to get the first layer to stick to the bed. For this, the bed can be heated to around 100oC. Additionally, kapton tape, glue or ABS slurry can be applied on the bed surface to increase adhesion of the print.

Use Bed Adhesion Tools: Always use bed adhesion tools like brim and rafts from the slicer settings so that it can help assure the bed adhesion for the entire duration of the printing.

Use within Manufacturer Temperature Range: Always use the ABS filament within the temperature range as specified by the filament manufacturer. Different manufacturers have a slightly different ideal temperature setting and so it is always recommended to follow that reference.

Closed Enclosure: A closed enclosure will ensure that the bed temperature is not affected and the printing occurs in a controlled environment. This will help in avoiding layer cracking.

Switch-Off Fan: Switch off the fan while printing with ABS filament. This will also help in ensuring a successful print.

Slow Initial Layer Speed: Use advanced slicer settings to set slow initial layer speeds to ensure better first layer adhesion.

Keep the Filament Dry: Always store ABS filament in a dry place so that it does not absorb moisture from the air. Moisture can significantly affect the 3D printing process.

It is important to understand that FDM 3D printing involves a fair amount of trial & error and it is always great to experiment and tweak print settings to achieve better print results. This 3D printing filament guide will serve as a resource for every new learner so that he is able to achieve a successful print, every time.


About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Read more such informative articles on our 3D Printing Info page.

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