the difference between ABS and PLA filament types for 3D pens

Likechoosing Trump or Biden, multitudes of people are still divided on which filament is best for the job. And the push and pull is not yet about to end. That is because of the different personalities of different people. 

For instance, my sole preference is the PLA filament. ABS could still serve well in my art endeavours, but I never use it. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that you only use ABS – nothing wrong about that. But in case you’re still hanging on the fence, I hope this brief discussion will open your eyes.

For a detailed sight into the best 3D pens in the market, read this piece on Reviews Rabbit.  

What’s the difference between ABS and PLA filament types for 3D pens

The ABS and PLA are the two most popular filaments for use with 3d pens. Of course, there are other filament materials – but we can reserve that for another day.

ABS is an abbreviation for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene – you don’t have to remember that at all. What you need to understand is that it is an oil-based thermoplastic. This is the same material used in vehicles, and toys such as the popular LEGO. 

One distinct feature with ABS is the odour it lets off as it melts. It melts at around 225 – 2500 C. You therefore want to avoid it if you are allergic to such smells. On the positive side, ABS filaments yield objects with higher strength, durability, and flexibility than those created using PLA filaments. 

PLA is the short for Polylactic Acid. This is a biodegradable thermoplastic. It is largely plant based, with the chief ingredients coming from sugarcane, soy beans, and cornstarch. You will mostly find it in plastic cups and food packaging. 

PLA requires a slightly lower temperature to melt than the ABS – i.e about 180 – 2200 C. And its melting does not release unpleasant smells. Indeed, if you are sensitive enough, you can recognize some trace smell of honey.

What is better for 3D printing, PLA or ABS?

In regards to printing, the odorless nature of PLA makes it more child-friendly. Additionally, it is highly cohesive and thus can be used on surfaces such as metal, glass, and ceramic. Its low melting temperature supports a smooth flow of the molten plastic out of the nozzle. In other words, it becomes easy to draw with PLA filaments.

On the negative side, the low melting point of PLA makes the created objects vulnerable to heat degradation. Worse still, the objects start biodegrading within a year. It is therefore not suitable for objects set to last several years. 

ABS objects are harder than PLA objects. Also, they feature a somewhat glossy surface. ABS is resistant to several harsh chemicals. However, it easily dissolves in acetone – a property which can be advantageously used to glue different ABS parts together. 

Does PLA stick to ABS?

Sure, it does. As discussed above, PLA sticks to pretty any material. You can comfortably glue together PLA and ABS objects.

How strong is 3D pen filament?

To be exact, the tensile strength of ABS filament is around 47.7 MPa, while that of PLA is about 64.4 MPa. This implies that PLA has higher tensile strength than ABS – meaning you can considerably stretch PLA objects before snapping them. 

What is the strongest 3D filament?

Aside from ABS and PLA, the strongest 3D filament is the polycarbonate – not very popular but it is the king. Polycarbonate melts at 2900 C. this is way higher than the melting points of both ABS and PLA.

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