Is ABS really difficult to print? In this guide, we will go into the details on how to print with ABS filament. We will go through the requirements in printing ABS, its advantages, as well as its drawbacks. Is it worth using ABS? Let’s find out.
Contents of this Guide:
- What is ABS Filament?
- How to print ABS Filament?
- Why Print with ABS?
What is ABS Filament?
One of the earliest filaments used in 3D printing, ABS, or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is one of the most common 3D printer filaments until today, aside from PLA and PETG. ABS is a thermoplastic polymer that is composed of acrylonitrile, polybutadiene, and styrene, hence its name.
ABS plastic is a very common material among consumer products such as toys, plastic cases and enclosures, automotive parts, and other household goods. With its strength, lightweight properties, and cost, various manufacturing fields find ABS very useful.
In 3D printing, ABS carries the same advantages to 3D printed parts, however there are some pointers you should look out in printing ABS.
How to Print ABS Filament?
In 3D printing ABS, here are some requirements in order to print ABS. These are recommended hardware, but take note that other hobbyists were able to print without some of these, especially for the printer enclosure.
As for settings, there are major differences you have to change in your slicer if you are printing with other materials such as PLA or PETG. Basically 3D printing ABS will need a higher temperature and less cooling.
What Do You Need in Printing ABS?
|Heated Bed Temperature
|Textured PEI, Kapton Tape, Glass
|Part Cooling Fan Speed
|0% (Turn on for overhangs and bridges)
|3D printer Enclosure
Printing ABS requires an extrusion temperature of 230- 260°C. However, most 3D printers have hotend that are lined with PTFE, located inside the printer hotend. Depending on the quality of the PTFE tube, you may or may not reliably print with higher temperatures.
A good quality PTFE tube can have a working temperature of about 260º C, but cheap ones deteriorate at lower temperatures. You may print ABS with these PTFE lined 3D printers, but in the long run, the deterioration of the PTFE will cause clogging during printing.
If planning to 3D print with ABS constantly, you can opt for a replacement PTFE tube that has higher temperature rating, or you can go with an all-metal hotend.
In 3D printing ABS, a hot bed temperature is required to ensure that your print sticks well to the bed. For materials to stick to the bed, the temperature should be maintained just below the glass transition temperature of the material. In this case, temperatures close to 110 °C will be needed.
When selecting a 3D printer while planning to print in ABS, make sure to check the specifications and other users’ experience for the printer you have.
The most common recommendation of a bed surface for ABS is textured PEI sheet, Kapton tape, or glass. Moreover, the use of ABS juice can also help with bed adhesion. ABS juice, or slurry, is prepared by melting ABS filament to pure acetone and then placing it on the print area before beginning to print.
Since ABS requires a high bed temperature, it is also a good thing to consider the speed in heating the bed to 100 °C. Some printers are faster in heating the bed due to higher voltages or having a direct AC- powered bed. If you are to print ABS consistently for business, this may be a concern you should be knowing about.
3D Printer Enclosure
Another common upgrade recommended before 3D printing ABS is a 3D printer enclosure. The secret to printing ABS successfully is to keep the ambient temperature constant throughout the print.
Ideally, the temperature should be kept near the glass transition temperature of ABS ( about 100°C). However, industrial-grade printers maintain the printing space to about 70-90 °C. But should this be the case for you as well? Not really.
Many hobbyists have successful ABS prints by having a 3D printer simply enclosed. This is because the enclosure effectively blocks drafts that can drastically change the temperature around your print.
In fact, you can use something as simple as cardboard boxes for a temporary enclosure. Of course, be wary of the fire hazard this can cause, and this should not be a permanent enclosure.
For a long term solution, you can create an enclosure following many design ideas online, using different materials from wood, acrylic sheets, aluminum extrusions, metal and others.
Another benefit in using enclosures while printing ABS is that it traps the fumes, eliminating the strong odor while printing
3D printing ABS without an enclosure?
You can also print ABS without an enclosure. The only thing to remember is to avoid drafts to keep the ambient temperature constant. To be able to achieve this, place your 3d printer in an undisturbed area to avoid draft. Moreover, you should also keep the 3D printer away from human activity because of the fumes emitted.
You can also activate the’ draft shield’ setting in your slicer. This will print a wall surrounding your print, to serve as a protection against draft.
Moreover, printing successfully without an enclosure will depend on your 3D printed part. A model with a small footprint will be likely to print well with minimal warping. Also, quicker prints, like vase mode prints, can be printed with more success even without an enclosure.
ABS Filament Print Settings
Take note of necessary changes in your slicer settings when you switch to ABS. Here are settings you should take note of:
|Extruder Temperature: 230-260 °C
|Bed Temperature: 100 °C
|Cooling Fan Speed: 0%
No Need for Cooling
Make sure that you turn off your part cooling fan as ABS tends to shrink as they cool. Turning on your cooling fan will cause the printed part to cool faster. That can make a portion of the model to shrink, which can then pull away from the print bed, or split in between the layers.
Cooling may be needed in overhangs or bridges, but you can go through overhang/ bridge test prints first before using cooling in your print settings.
ABS Printing Temperature
Always make sure to change your bed and extruder temperature when changing from one material to the other. Better yet, you can save a profile for a material so you can easily switch a bunch of slicer settings when using other filaments.
For ABS, extruder temperature is recommended to be at 230-260 °C, depending on your printer calibration, and about 100°C for the bed temperature.
ABS Print Speed
There is not much difference with printing ABS and PLA with regards to speed, but having an average speed of 60 mm/s is mostly best practice when printing ABS.
Slicers like Cura have a setting for a draft shield option. This works by creating a wall around your print to prevent drafts on your print.
In Cura version 4.8, you can find this setting under ‘Experimental’ Tab. Check the box and then you can set the Draft Shield X/Y distance. Also, you can select either ‘Full,’ meaning you can have the shield printed at its full height, or ‘Limited,’ where you can set the shield height.
Brim or Raft
If you are having consistent issues with first layer adhesion and warping, turning on your brim or raft can help your issues. These are normally used for printing small parts, or prints that have a small first layer.
A brim is a flat area that is printed around the print’s first layer. This improves the surface area for the first layer, thus improving adhesion.
On the other hand, a raft is a flat area that is printed below your part. Unlike brim, the raft is printed in multiple layers before it starts with your 3d printed part.
Common issues with 3D Printing ABS
ABS Not Sticking to Bed/ Warping
This is the most common issue that discourages most people in using ABS. To make sure you overcome this issue, keep your bed temperature at 100-110°C and use a printer enclosure to avoid drafts.
Splitting Along Layers
A similar issue to warping, ABS prints, especially large ones are prone to splitting among layers. If the print does not cool slowly, the part can shrink non-uniformly, causing a pulling force along layers, thus separating in between layers.
The most ideal solution for this is to increase and keep the ambient temperature constant, which can be done by using an enclosure. Moreover, since this happens with large prints most often, splitting the print into parts can be a workaround into printing these parts.
ABS filament Popping
ABS, like all filaments, is also a hygroscopic material that absorbs moisture from the air. Although not as sensitive as other filaments, having your ABS filament exposed to humidity to greater than 50% will cause it to absorb water from the air. Having a wet filament can cause popping during prints, and can also make your filament more brittle.
If you have this problem, make sure to have your ABS filament stored when not in use. You can also opt for a filament dry box, which serves as a dry storage for your filaments while you are using them for your print.
You can also salvage a popping ABS filament by drying it. You can place your spool in an oven or food dehydrator around 80° for 4- 6 hours to dry.
Why Print with ABS?
Despite the difficulty in printing ABS, there are benefits in using this material for 3D printing. Let’s look at the properties of ABS Filament.
ABS Filament Properties
|Izod Impact Strength
|Max. Working Temperature
|Glass Transition Temperature
ABS Filament Density
ABS is on the lighter side as compared to other 3D printer filaments, with a density of 1.04 g/cm3. With less density, printed parts will be lighter when printed with ABS as compared to other materials. Moreover, having lighter density means that a kilogram of ABS will be able to print more than other materials with larger density.
How strong is ABS Filament?
ABS is a better material for practical applications for its mechanical properties. You may see that from hard specs, the ultimate strength of ABS is lower at 40 MPa, as compared to PLA which can withstand about 65 MPa before breaking.
However, ABS can endure much better in terms of impact and shock. This means that an ABS part can be stronger against breaking as it tends to bend and absorb the force.
Also, ABS has higher temperature resistance, making it better in outdoor applications. As compared to PLA, PLA is very susceptible to deformation and melting at around 60 °C, while ABS can be used up to environments with up to 98 °C.
One popular advantage of ABS is the ease of post-processing of this material. It is easier to machine as there is less risk in melting the part, as contrasted to PLA. Moreover, you can use the technique “Acetone Vapor Smoothing” to be able to remove the layer lines and smoothen the print.
The principle of acetone vapor smoothing is to dissolve only the surface of the ABS print which will eliminate layer lines.
To vapor smooth ABS, you need acetone, a metal or glass container for cover, a dish to place the acetone, tissue or paper towels, and fasteners (clips, magnets, clamps, etc.) to hold the tissue paper.
First, prepare your container where you will be placing your print. A glass or metal container is recommended since acetone does not damage glass or metal. You will also need a metal base, where you can place your 3D print (aluminum foil also works well).
For containing the acetone, select a shallow metal container or small dish that can be covered by your container. Select a material that can be a base to mount your 3D printed part. A folded aluminum foil can work since it does not melt when directly exposed to acetone, and is easily moldable to desired shapes.
Is ABS Filament Toxic?
Another thing which makes other users hate printing with ABS is that it gives out fumes while printing, emitting the chemical Styrene. These fumes emit the odor burning plastic which can be irritating and may cause dizziness or headaches.
Ensure that your printer is enclosed, away from human activity, and your print environment is well-ventilated.
ABS may not be a beginner- friendly filament, but once you get your printer tuned-up for this material, you can be able to create prints that can endure more practical applications.