PLA vs ABS
The two most popular 3D printing filaments are PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). Both are thermoplastics capable of creating an array of printed objects. As filaments they look very similar, and both are used in conjunction with the fused deposition modeling (FDM) method of 3D printing.
They differ in terms of their chemical composition, best applications, and optimized print settings. Though many people simply want to know which one is better, when it comes to PLA vs ABS the answer isn’t as simple as designating a winner and a loser. Both filaments are quality materials, each best suited for different projects.
|Comparison||PLA Filament||ABS Filament|
|Material Base||Plant Based||Petroleum Based|
|Odor During Printing||Slightly Sweet Scent||Burning Plastic Scent|
|Warping||Less Prone to Warping||More Prone to Warping|
|Flexibility||Lower Flexibility Tolerance – May Snap When Bent||Some Flexibility, May Tolerate Minor Bending|
|Strength||Generally Less Durable||Generally More Durable|
|Melt Risk||May Melt in Warmer Environments||Relatively Stable After Printing|
|Chemical Resistance||May Not Withstand Chemical Contact||Generally More Chemical Resistant|
|Filament Storage||Airtight Storage Preferred – May Otherwise Absorb Damaging Moisture||Airtight Storage Preferred – May Otherwise Absorb Damaging Moisture|
|Printing Temperature||Lower Melting Point||Higher Melting Point|
|Heated Build Platform||Not Required, May be Helpful||Always Required|
|Platform Adhesion||Hairspray or Blue Painter’s Tape Can Help||Hairspray or Kapton Tape Can Help|
|Comprehensive Information||Click Here to Learn All About PLA||Click Here to Learn All About ABS|
PLA vs ABS: The Verdict
In the PLA vs. ABS arena, there’s really no clear “winner” in the traditional sense. Each plastic has its strengths and weaknesses, but overall, they’re great materials to work with. To get the most from the plastics, users should follow each material’s best practices, paying careful attention to nozzle and build platform temperature. Furthermore, using ABS and PLA for the appropriate projects will help ensure that you maximize your use of the filament. Projects that require strenuous testing or special mechanical considerations call for ABS, while educational and artistic purposes often benefit more from PLA.
Our PLA & ABS
To see our full line of filaments (including specialty materials), please click here.