ABS vs. PLA vs. Carbon Materials

What Are PLA Filaments and ABS Filaments?

From high strength to heat resistance and from functional toughness to high ductility, there is a wide variety of 3D printing materials depending on their mechanical properties. PLA (Polylactic acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) are two of the most popular filaments used for 3D printing.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the advantages and limitations of PLA and ABS filaments and compare them with Carbon materials to help you decide which material is right for your 3D printing needs.

Advantages of 3D Printing With PLA

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a popular FFF (fused filament fabrication) 3D printing filament widely used in food packaging, household appliances, and automotive industries. It is a biodegradable thermoplastic produced from natural raw materials like sugarcane and corn starch.

  • PLA is among the easiest to use 3D printing material filaments because it doesn’t require a heated print bed.
  • It easily sticks to various surfaces without the need for a bed adhesive.
  • PLA is a great prototyping material, particularly when you want to quickly prototype your ideas.
  • Materials with high print temperatures typically experience warping. In contrast, PLA has a low printing temperature, which means there’s a smaller chance of warping, making it one of the easiest materials to 3D print with.
  • PLA produces parts with a glossy finish and can be easily sanded or machined.
  • It doesn’t produce bad fumes or smells, unlike ABS and Nylon filaments.
  • PLA material is a great option for producing dimensionally accurate parts, meaning the size and details of the original design match the printed parts to a high degree.

Disadvantages of PLA Filament

  • Low ductility makes PLA a poor candidate for engineering applications that require high damage tolerance. This means high heat and stress may cause models to deform.
  • PLA shows excellent mechanical properties such as strength and stiffness but offers low heat resistance. This is why PLA is considered ideal for beginners and hobbyists.
  • PLA requires being printed on a Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) machine, which is one of the slowest 3D printing processes and will result in parts with anisotropic properties.

Advantages of 3D Printing With ABS

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is a petrochemical-based plastic that is widely used in 3D printing because of its favorable mechanical properties such as high strength and flexibility. Industrial uses of ABS filaments include household appliances, LEGO bricks, and pipes and fittings.

  • ABS is ideal for printing parts that require a high level of tensile strength, durability, and ductility. This allows your models to withstand high temperature and stress without deforming.
  • ABS has a glass transition temperature of 105°C, meaning the temperature at which it becomes rubbery. This makes it a favorable material for applications that require high heat resistance.
  • During post-processing, ABS plastics are often smoothened using acetone vapor, giving them a mirror-like finish.
  • 3D printing with ABS filament gives high dimensional accuracy to printed parts.

The Verdict on PLA vs. ABS

During ABS printing, factors such as the thermal environment and heated bed should be taken into consideration for high-quality printing. In contrast, PLA filament can be printed under lower temperatures, however, it has lower thermal stability than ABS.

Similarly, PLA offers ease to use and prints sharper corners and details compared to ABS filament. On the other hand, ABS creations can withstand high temperatures without deforming, whereas PLA printed parts tend to warp, deform, and bend at 60°C to 65°C.

Both 3D printer filaments, PLA and ABS, have their strengths and weaknesses. For instance,
FFF 3D printing with both thermoplastics gives good surface behavior and results in dimensionally accurate parts.

Using Carbon Materials For Your 3D Printer?

Carbon DLS™ provides production part attributes not available from competing ploymer technologies.

Do you need a strong and temperature-resistant material to produce engineering parts? Carbon 3D printing materials are well suited for applications requiring high tensile strength and resistance to high temperatures.

Consistent, predictable material properties enable you to produce first-time-right parts regardless of built orientation. Best-in-class materials specially formulated for prototyping and manufacturing functional models and parts.

Build highly accurate parts in less time. Carbon materials allow you to engineer small, technical features with precision and reliability.

Combine useful material properties to serve specific purposes, for instance, you can make your prints flame retardant, stronger, or functionally tough. Carbon materials help you produce parts that match real-world requirements across industries. Make them biocompatible, and tear and impact resistant.

Carbon Materials vs. PLA Filament

Carbon materials have outstanding material properties over traditional 3D printed filaments.

For example, materials like RPU 130 (heat deflection temperature of 120°C) and CE 221 (heat deflection temperature of 230°C) are highly heat resistant, making them perfect for building automotive parts, and other engineering components.

In contrast, PLA (heat deflection temperature of 55°C) exhibits little heat resistance, excluding its use in high temperature applications.

3D printing with Carbon materials preserves fine structure details during the printing process making them ideal for high-resolution prototyping with exceptional surface finish.

On the other hand, PLA plastics need to undergo post-processing to completely eliminate layer lines. Remember sanding and smoothing 3D prints creates flawless prints, however, these are time-consuming steps and may require separate attention for each part.

Carbon Materials vs. ABS Filament

Carbon materials are suitable for outdoor environments due to their excellent long-term durability, flame retardance, and chemically resistant properties.

Materials such as EPX 86FR (ultimate tensile strength of 90MPa) have superior tensile strength than ABS plastics (29.8 – 43 MPa).

Similar to another Carbon material, SIL 30 (elongation at break of 350%) offers significantly greater stretchability than ABS (elongation at break of 10-50%).

Upgrade Your 3D Printing Materials With Carbon

Choosing the right material is crucial to getting the right results for your manufacturing efforts.

Compare and contrast ABS and PLA with Carbon materials to identify the materials that offer mechanical properties you need such as flexural strength or high temperature resistance.

Need functional parts and prototypes that can meet your industry-specific criteria? Check out industrial 3D printing with Carbon to see how you can enhance your parts’ quality and costs.

3D as It’s Meant to Be

Interested in utilizing Carbon to accelerate product development? Reach out to us at sales@carbon3d.com to learn more!