Overview

Engineering plastics refer to industrial thermoplastics utilized as components or housings in various applications. They exhibit superior mechanical properties such as high strength, impact resistance, heat resistance, hardness and aging resistance. ABS plastic is currently one of the most widely adopted 3D printing materials for engineering plastics and has become the one of the materials of choice for FDM technology due to its exceptional performance and low cost. At present, ABS filament, which is extruded from ABS resin particles, is commonly used and its applications cover almost all daily commodities, engineering supplies, and mechanical parts like electronic enclosures, automotive components, and appliances. In this article, we will explore ABS material, including its properties, printability, and diverse applications in 3D printing or additive manufacturing.

 ABS material

What is ABS and ABS filament?

ABS, developed around 1990, was one of the first plastics to be used in industrial 3D printers and also the first material to be used in fused deposition modeling technology. ABS plastic is a terpolymer synthesized from three monomers of Acrylonitrile (A), Butadiene (B) and Styrene (S). It is a very common thermoplastic polymer in the industry. Among them, acrylonitrile accounts for 15%~35%, butadiene accounts for 5%~30%, styrene accounts for 40%~60%. The most common ratio of emulsion method ABS is A:B:S=22:17:61, the proportion of B in the ontology method is often lower, about 13%. ABS has common properties of the three components, and the relative content of them can be changed arbitrarily to change the properties of ABS material.

Acrylonitrile (A) is one of the constituents of ABS plastic. Acrylonitrilae contribute hardness and rigidity and fatigue resistance, while increasing the heat deflection temperature.. It also provides chemical resistance and surface gloss.

Butadiene (B) contributes ductility and impact strength to ABS, especially at low temperatures. However, excessive butadiene content diminishes hardness, gloss and melt flowability of the resin.

Styrene (S) is an important monomer used in the production of plastics, ion exchange resins and synthetic rubbers. In ABS, styrene imparts the melt processing characteristics of thermoplastics as well as enhanced electrical properties. It also gives ABS a shiny, impervious surface.

Therefore, ABS material is a type of material exhibiting toughness, hardness and rigidity, with raw materials that are readily available, well-balanced properties, low cost, and broad applications. It has been widely used in industries such as machinery, electrical and electronics, textile, automotive, aerospace, shipbuilding, as well as chemical engineering.

ABS filament is a common type of 3D printer filament made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. For easy to 3D print, manufactures add other material to change it properties. For example, SUNLU provide easy abs filament for 3D printing users without heated chamber 3D printer.

Properties of ABS Material

The versatility of ABS plastic properties has largely contributed to its popularity across several industry sectors. From computer keyboard keys to Lego bricks, products made of ABS can be found in many domestic, commercial and professional environments around the world.

  1. Impact Resistance: ABS plastic is renowned for its superior impact toughness. ABS contains a butadiene-styrene rubber copolymer as an elastomeric modifier, which is able to absorb impact energy and dissipate stress through molecular chain movements. Even at low temperatures, ABS plastic maintainssubstantial impact strength, being very tough without prone to cracking or breaking. This facilitates the extensive use of ABS plastic in applications that require withstanding impact loads, such as automotive bumpers and safety helmets.
  2. Strength and Stiffness: ABS exhibits high strength and rigidity, owing to the chemical structure of the butadiene-styrene copolymer in its matrix. The structure is interconnected by robust intermolecular forces, which strengthens the material. The strength of ABS resin can be adjusted by tailoring the copolymer ratio for different applications. ABS plasticdemonstrates high stiffness and belongs to the class of engineering plastics with medium hardness and strength. Its rigidity can be tuned by modifying the butadiene content and type as well as amount of polymerization inhibitor. This allows the production of parts with excellent shape stability that resist deformation and warpage.
  3. Heat Resistance: ABS plastic has good heat resistance, is more heat-resistant than other thermoplastics in its weight class and can withstand multiple cycles of heating/cooling, making it a fully recyclable plastic. The heat deflection temperature of ABS is 70~80°C, andthe product can be increased by about 10℃ with the addition of PC to produce ABS+. ABS can still perform well at -20°C, can be used in the temperature range of -20~80°C for majority applications, and can maintain its physical and mechanical properties at relatively high temperatures.
  4. Chemical Resistance: ABS plastic hasbroad chemical compatibility and resistance to a wide range of common inorganic and organic chemicals. It is not affected by water, inorganic salts, alkalis and various acids, and can withstand a certain range of chemicals, maintaining its stability and performance. Therefore, ABS plastic are widely used in chemical industries, laboratory equipment and piping systems where chemical resistance is required.
  5. Electrical insulation: ABS plastic is a good electrical insulating material that can effectively prevent the flow of electric current. Andit demonstrates stable electrical properties over a wide range of temperatures, humidity levels and frequencies, enabling use in diverse operating environments. This makes ABS widely used in insulating parts in electronic and electrical equipment, such as sockets, switches and insulating pads.
  6. Machinability: ABS has excellent melt processability, thermoformability and productivity, readily lending itself to the manufacture of parts in a wide range of geometries and sizes.  It can be processed into complex parts through injection molding, extruded into pipes and profiles, and thermoformed into films and containers using blow molding. This machinability makes ABS one of the materials of choice for manufacturers to meet various design requirements.
  7. Recyclable and reusable: As a thermoplastic, ABS can be repeatedly melted and remolded without degradation. Its material can be recycled through remelting and reforming processes to produce recycled ABS resin with properties comparable to the virgin material. High utilization rate, more environmentally friendly.The recyclability of ABS helps minimize waste and environmental impact, and provides cost savings through the use of recycled materials.

In addition to the above characteristics, it should be noted that ABS plastic also has some limitations:

  1. Weather resistance limitation:While ABS plasticdemonstrates weather resistance, prolonged exposure to high temperatures and ultraviolet radiation may cause color fading, surface deterioration or loss of physical properties over time. In this case, the weatherability of ABS can be enhanced through the use of stabilizers and protective coatings.
  2. Environmental protection: ABS plastic produces harmful compounds such as carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide and hydrogen cyanide upon combustion.During burning, ABS resin releases large amounts of toxic gases such as CO and styrene, posing hazards to health and the environment. For applications where flammability is a concern, flame retardants or intrinsically flame-resistant polymers are generally required as alternatives to ABS resin. While ABS demonstrates useful properties, its combustibility and release of toxic fumes upon burning limit applications without the use of flame retardants or other fire-resistant plastics.

To sum up, ABS plastic has a variety of properties that make it widely used in many industrial and consumer fields. However, when designing and using ABS products, it is necessary to consider the limitations of its weather resistance and combustion, and take corresponding improvement measures according to specific needs.

ABS vs PLA in 3D Printing

ABS plastic is one of the main materials for 3D printing, and it is also the most stable material among 3D printing materials. The reason why it can become a consumable for 3D printing is determined by its characteristics. As commonly used 3D printing materials, PLA and ABS have great differences in thermal properties, mechanical properties and chemical properties, while PLA is a biodegradable polymer, ABS is petroleum-based but recyclable. Both demonstrate eco-friendliness through recyclability and use of renewable resources. Despite being more difficult to print compared to PLA, ABS plastic remains popular for 3D printing due to its excellent impact resistance.

What is the difference between ABS and PLA in 3D printing?

Taking ABS and PLA of SUNLU as references, both materials are thermoplastics, and the polymers can be softened by heating before cooling and hardening, which is their similarity, but there are also big differences. In terms of raw materials, PLA is made from organic sources like corn or sugar cane, while ABS, like most standard plastics, is made from petroleum. More specifically, PLA is made from fermented vegetable starch from sources such as corn, cassava, maize, sugarcane or sugar beet pulp, from which sugars are converted to lactic acid, which is then polymerized into polylactic acid. In contrast, ABS is composed of three monomers: acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene. The composition of the two is very different, so the difference is obvious when 3D printing. For example, when printing PLA, it is basically odorless, while when printing ABS, a kind of volatile organic carbon is produced, which will have a slightly pungent bad smell.

 abs vs pla

SUNLU ABS vs PLA

Properties

PLA

ABS

Type

Thermoplastic

Thermoplastic

Chemical Name

Polylactic Acid

Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene Copolymer

Smell When Printing

Candy Smell

Strong Pungent Smell

Glass Transition Temperature(℃)

63

108.9

Heat Deflection Temperature(℃)

53

84

Tensile Strength(MPa)

61

42

Elongation at Break(%)

3.1

7.8

Bending Strength(MPa)

83

55

Izod Impact Strength(J/m)

32

126

 

Beyond their origins, SUNLU ABS and PLA differ significantly in properties that determine their 3D printability and applications. An important property differentiating SUNLU ABS and PLA is heat resistance. SUNLU ABS has a high glass transition temperature, while PLA melts at a much lower temperature and is therefore not considered heat resistant. Therefore, PLA printed products are only suitable for use at normal room temperature; while ABS printed products have better heat resistance and can be used in higher temperature environments.

Is ABS filament more better than PLA?

Generally speaking, if you are looking for a tougher material with better mechanical properties, SUNLU ABS is the smart choice than PLA. In addition to being heat resistant and having a higher heat deflection temperature, it is also more impact resistant, more durable and lighter than PLA. The two materials have similar tensile strengths, but ABS is slightly lower than PLA. ABS is generally more used in industry, thanks to its higher flexural strength and better elongation at break, which improves ductility to deform the material without breaking. In addition to ABS, nylon materials are more widely used in the industry. PA has good cohesiveness and is easy to preform into spherical fine powder with uniform particles, so it can even be used as metal and The binder of ceramic powder can also be directly used for SLS technology printing. Essentially, these performance comparisons mean that the SUNLU ABS material is more flexible than the more brittle PLA. These characteristics make SUNLU ABS widely acclaimed in 3D printing, injection molding and other industries.

3D printing parameter

The recommended printing parameters of ABS in 3D printing (take SUNLU ABS as an example)

  • Printing temperature: The suggested nozzle temperature of SUNLU ABS is generally between 250°C-260° If the temperature is too low, it will lead to insufficient melting of the 3D filament material and broken wires, and may also lead to poor adhesion between the printing layers. If the temperature is too high, it will accelerate the degradation and thermal oxidation of ABS, resulting in burrs and cracks in the printed product. Therefore, the printing temperature can be adjusted to an appropriate range according to the specific conditions of the 3D printer.
  • Heat bed temperature: In order to prevent warping of ABS plastic during 3D printing, the temperature of the heat bed needs to be set at 80°C-110° This helps to improve the adhesion between the printed layer and the heated bed, ensuring the flatness and stability of the printed product. If the temperature of the hot bed is too high, the ABS will be thermally deformed, which will affect the printing accuracy.
  • Printing speed: Appropriately reducing the printing speed can improve the adhesion between the printing layers and the surface quality of the product. Generally speaking, the printing speed of SUNLU ABS material can be set between 40mm/s-60mm/s. At the same time, the printing effect can be further optimized by adjusting the moving speed of the extrusion head and the contour speed.
  • Layer thickness and filling rate: The choice of printing layer thickness and filling rate will affect the strength, precision and surface quality of the printed product. Thinner layer thicknesses improve precision and surface finish, but may reduce print speed and strength. In general, the layer thickness can be set between 0.1mm-0.3mm. The selection of filling rate should be adjusted according to the actual demand and strength requirements of the product, and the common filling rate ranges from 20% to 100%.

Precautions for SUNLU ABS 3D Printing:

ABS has specific printing requirements due to its unique properties. Here are some important considerations when printing with SUNLU ABS filament:

  1. Enclosed printers: ABS, due to its high coefficient of thermal expansion, is prone to warping and cracking when exposed to large temperature fluctuations. An enclosed print chamber helps maintain a stable temperature, minimizing the risk of warping and improving print quality.
  2. Print surface preparation: In order to enhance the adhesion of the bed, it is recommended to use a heat bed with a suitable adhesive surface, or apply a layer of adhesive on the print heat bed, such as hairspray or special glue stick for ABS, which can enhance adhesion and reduce warping risks.
  3. Ventilation: ABS emits potentially harmful fumes when heated. When printing with ABS, it is crucial to ensure adequate ventilation or use a fume extraction system to ensure a safe working environment. Or consider a specialized enclosure with an activated carbon filter to minimize exposure to these fumes.
  4. Cooling: Unlike some other materials, the most common problem with ABS is that it is prone to bridge areas or faults. When the cooling is too fast, the ABS will shrink excessively, the bottom layer will warp, and the middle will break. Cooling fans can be used sparingly or turned off completely to reduce their risk.
  5. Filament drying: Since ABS plastic is easy to absorb moisture, it needs to be dried in a desiccator before use to avoid problems such as bubbles and cracks during printing. It is recommended to dry the ABS material at around 80°C for at least 2 hours.
  6. Support structures: For models with overhanging structures, large slopes, or complex geometries, temporary support structures can be added to ensure stability during the printing process. After printing, the support structure can be removed by hand or solvent.
  7. Post-processing: In order to improve the surface finish and appearance quality of ABS plastic 3D printed parts, post-processing operations such as sanding, solvent polishing, and painting can be performed. Additionally, crystallinity and dimensional stability of prints can be improved by secondary heat treatments such as hot melt baths or ovens.

Application of ABS in 3D printing:

ABS material is widely used in various industries and fields due to its excellent performance. Some notable applications include:

Prototyping:

ABS is often used for rapid prototyping because of its ability to mimic the properties of many engineering plastics. It allows for functional testing and verification of designs before they are put into expensive production runs.

Automotive parts:

ABS is widely used in the manufacture of automotive parts such as interior trim, dashboards, brackets, and housings because of its mechanical strength, impact resistance, and ability to withstand varying temperatures

abs auto parts

Electronic enclosures:

The electrical insulating properties of ABS, combined with its rigidity and impact resistance, make it ideal for electronic equipment enclosures.

Receptacle

Consumer Goods:

ABS is often used in the production of consumer goods such as toys, kitchenware and decorative items. Its versatility, durability and ease of reprocessing make it a popular choice for these applications.

homeware

Functional parts:

Because of its excellent mechanical properties and ability to withstand repeated stress, ABS can be used to manufacture functional parts such as gears, bearings and fixtures.

Education and Art:

Due to the versatility and post-processing capabilities of ABS, artists and designers utilize ABS to create sculptures, art installations and unique works of art.

Industrial manufacturing:

ABS can be used in the industrial manufacturing process of producing functional parts, jigs, jigs and tools. Its strength, durability, and ability to withstand moderate heat make it suitable for a variety of industrial applications.

Medical and Healthcare:

ABS is used in the medical field to produce custom prosthetics, orthotics and medical device prototypes. Its durability and ability to sterilize make it a viable material for certain medical applications.

Aerospace:

ABS is used in the aerospace industry for prototyping and manufacturing lightweight components, cabin interiors, and UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) components.

Conclusion:

ABS material is currently the polymer with the largest output and the most widely used. ABS integrates the mechanical properties of polystyrene (PS), acrylonitrile-styrene copolymer (SAN) and polybutadiene rubber (BR) to achieve an optimal balance of toughness, hardness and rigidity. Its unique combination of strength, durability, heat resistance and recyclability makes ABS suitable for a wide range of applications. In 3D printing, ABS material fully demonstrates its advantages to achieve high-quality, high-performance printed parts. At the same time, with the continuous development and innovation of 3D printing technology, excellent 3D printing materials such as SUNLU ABS filament will have wider application prospects in this field in the future and become an indispensable material in the industry.

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