What Type of 3D Printing Plastic is Right for Your 3D Printer?

January 9, 2015 - Comment

Why PLA? PLA (short for polylactic acid) is a plastic made of renewable starches such as corn and sugarcane. It is biodegradable and does not emit a lot of ultra fines particles (UFCs). It produces a barely noticeable, but quite pleasant, sugary smell when extruding. Depending on the specifications and the color, extrusion temperature can

Why PLA?

  • PLA (short for polylactic acid) is a plastic made of renewable starches such as corn and sugarcane.
  • It is biodegradable and does not emit a lot of ultra fines particles (UFCs).
  • It produces a barely noticeable, but quite pleasant, sugary smell when extruding.
  • Depending on the specifications and the color, extrusion temperature can vary between 160 and 220 °C.
  • Parts printed using PLA are more rigid than ABS parts (ABS is more flexible).
  • In general, parts printed using PLA have a slightly glossy finish.
  • PLA is less prone to warping during print and is much more ‘stickier’ than ABS.
  • PLA starts to become malleable (heat deflection point) at around 60 °C.
  • PLA requires a bit more force to be extruded as it has a higher coefficient of friction than ABS.
  • PLA is a bit more recent in the history of FDM 3D printers and has a promising future.

Why ABS?

  • ABS (short for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is a common thermoplastic (LEGO blocks are made of ABS) that is essentially pretroleum based.
  • ABS is more prone to producing UFCs when compared to PLA. Good ventilation is recommended.
  • It produces a slight ‘burnt plastic’ smell when extruding.
  • Depending on the specifications and the color, extrusion temperature can vary between 220 and 260 degrees Celsius.
  • Parts printed using ABS have a “bend” to them and are less brittle than PLA.
  • In general, parts printed using ABS have a glossier finish than PLA parts.
  • ABS starts to become malleable (heat deflection point) at around 100 °C (which makes it more heat resistant than PLA).
  • ABS has a lower coefficient of friction than PLA and requires slightly less force to be extruded than PLA.
  • ABS can be considered the “legacy” type of filament since it was used for 3D printing before PLA.

Why 1.75 mm?

  • As the filament is lighter per unit of length, the extruder motor displaces less mass.
  • Filament with a smaller diameter can be heated faster (as it takes less time for the heat to reach the center) so you can print faster.
  • It allows for slightly more compact hot end designs.
  • The smaller nozzles allows for a more precise plastic flow control and reduces the risk of oozing.
  • Being smaller, it is also more flexible and can be coiled more tightly and turn sharper corners.
  • Force required by the extruder to push the plastic in the estruder is less because less pressure builds up in the nozzle.

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