ABS Filaments: Everything you need to know

3D filaments

ABS filaments are highly used in FDM printing because of their mechanical strength, high heat, chemical, and UV resistance. In this article, we will describe everything you need to know about ABS filaments, the ways to optimise print quality and share tips to keep ABS nice and dry for glossy 3D prints each time. So, read this article if you want to get top-notch 3D prints the next time you print with ABS filament.

Introduction to ABS filaments

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene aka ABS was patented for the first time in 1940. As the name suggests, the filament is a mix of three monomers (acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene) responsible for its properties. ABS is one of the most preferred FDM 3D print filaments with diverse printing applications.

What are ABS filaments?

ABS is an industrial-grade thermoplastic polymer used mainly in Fused Deposition Modeling printing. The filament has good heat and UV resistance. Its chemical resistance and durability are also remarkable. ABS is a flexible filament able to take almost any shape and hardens evenly. With ABS you can print faster even in high temperatures.

ABS filaments are a combination of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene monomers. The Acrylonitrile monomer provides strength, rigidity, and chemical resistance to the filament. Butadiene, a rubbery element, on the other hand, makes the filament tough. And Styrene is the monomer responsible for the silky-smooth texture.

Applications

Because of their flexibility, strength, and durability, ABS filaments are used in different industries like the automotive, electronics, medical, aerospace, architectural and construction industries, and more. The applications of ABS filament include but are not limited to:

  • ABS is used in producing functional prototypes as it is strong and durable.
  • With this filament, you can make gears, bearings, enclosures, leavers, brackets, and more.
  • ABS filaments are great for making architectural and engineering models.
  • Manufacturers also use this filament to make storage containers, kitchen utensils, phone cases, and gadgets for household work.

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Pros and cons

Pros

  • ABS filaments have great strength & durability.
  • Because of its heat resistance, ABS is extensively used in making outdoor applications.
  • The impact resistance property makes ABS suitable for producing protective cases for electronic devices, automotive parts such as bumpers, and sports equipment.
  • It offers versatility in post-processing options compared to other filaments to improve the appearance of the 3D prints.

Cons

  • It releases strong odour and toxic fumes while printing.
  • Susceptible to warping and shrinkage.
  • ABS filaments need a heated bed & controlled print environment to get quality prints.
  • Compared to other printing with ABS is a bit difficult.

Print settings and tips

For printing high-quality 3D models, you need to know the right print settings which vary depending on your filament choice. The best print settings for ABS are as follows:

Temperature settings

Setting the right temperature ensures good-quality prints. For ABS filaments, the print temperature should be around 220°C to 250°C. This temperature also varies depending on the filament brand. So, it is best if you read the filament manual first. Run some experimental prints to find the temperature that works for you.

To reduce warping and ensure better adhesion a heated bed is a must for ABS. The bed temperature can range from 90°C to 110°C. You might have to adjust the temperature after checking your printer specifications.

Bed adhesion

The filament needs to stick to the build platform or else the print would come off right in the middle of the printing process. For better bed adhesion, it’s important to check if the temperature setting is right. Always clean the print bed before starting and level the bed carefully.

Use adhesive aids such as hairspray to improve adhesion. Using rafts or brims or ABS-compatible print beds like PEI sheets and glass beds also improves bed adhesion. Sometimes lowering the printing speed also improves adhesion. Maintaining a steady print environment is very important to print with ABS and to do so use an enclosure so the print temperature remains consistent.

Print speed

Keep the print speed near 30 and 60 mm/s. Start slow and you can increase the speed afterwards. The filament doesn’t get enough time to cool down when you are printing at a high speed, resulting in warping.

Print environment and ventilation

As mentioned, to print quality prints with ABS you have be keep the temperature steady else it would lead to poor later adhesion. Enclosed printers are the best to print with filaments such as ABS. If that’s not possible, use an enclosure to maintain a consistent temperature.

We recommend you use a secluded area to print since ABS produces fumes while printing which can be toxic. Select a room with big windows for better ventilation. You can also install an extra ventilation system in that room. Also, use safety gear before printing with ABS to protect against fumes.

Dealing with warping and shrinkage

For minimising warping and shrinkage try and adjust the retraction settings. Higher print speed also causes this issue thus lowering the speed often fixes the problem. Another reason for warping is a cold print bed. Preheat the bed at around 90 to 100°C and the nozzle temperature should be near 220°C to 250°C.

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Storage and handling

Importance of proper storage to prevent moisture absorption

ABS has good water resistance but if exposed to moisture for a while it will absorb water. And printing with moist ABS results in warping, poor layer adhesion, bubbling, and so on. Additional problems caused by moisture include

Dimensional inaccuracy: When you print with damp ABS, the water in the filament transforms into steam. This way the filament gets deformed and it can lead to dimensional inaccuracy. Thus, the final print doesn’t match your set dimensions.

Issues with extrusion: this steam not only ruins dimensional accuracy it also creates extrusion issues. The bubbles from the steam can clog the nozzle, interfere with printing and create irregular filament flow.

Reduces mechanical strength: Moist ABS lessens its properties such as impact resistance and its strength and durability making it unfit for producing functional prototypes.

To prevent these problems, you must always keep ABS dry. Otherwise, the prints would be of poor quality inapt for any use.

Tips for filament storage and moisture protection

  1. Store ABS filaments in a vacuum-sealed bag so they cannot come in contact with air.
  2. Drop some desiccant packs or silica get inside your ABS storage container so it can soak up residual moisture persisting in the filament and keep it dry.
  3. Keep ABS filament in a dry, cool, and low-humid environment
  4. You should never store them in basements or garages.
  5. Measure how much filament you will need for printing and keep the rest sealed in an airtight container.

How to dry and restore moisture-damaged ABS filaments

Drying is the only option if the ABS filament ends up coming in contact with moisture. Oven-baking is the most used method for filament drying and the ways to do that are as follows

  • Preheat your oven to 122°F or 50°C
  • To ensure proper drying, cut the filament at an even length so it’s easy to put them in the oven.
  • Place the filaments one after another maintaining enough distance on a baking sheet to allow airflow
  • Put the filaments in the oven and closely observe the whole process to prevent unwanted situations
  • It might take from 2 to 4 hours for ABS filament to dry but in case of too moist filament, it can take more than 4 hours.
  • When the time is up, take out the filaments and see whether it still feels damp.
  • Bake it for some more time if the filament still feels damp.

To make the entire process faster and easier use a filament dryer. The device is particularly designed to soak up the moisture in filaments. With filament dryers, you wouldn’t have to sit in front of the oven to avoid overheating. It works faster, smarter and easier.

Now that your filament is nice and dry, it’s time to restore them in an airtight container. Use silica gel to keep the filament dry.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are ABS filaments?

ABS is a thermoplastic polymer known for its mechanical strength and durability, heat and impact resistance, and shiny surface finish.

Is ABS filament better than PLA?

ABS and PLA are different filaments with different properties. PLA is eco-friendly and easy to print whereas ABS is flexible, strong, and durable.

Is ABS stronger than PETG?

As per strength, ABS is superior. Moreover, ABS is more heat and UV resistant than PETG. Though in terms of flexibility, PETG is better.

What is ABS vs ASA filament?

ABS and ASA are both industrial-grade filaments with many common properties. But ASA has better weather ability and high UV resistance than ABS.

ABS is a great filament to print with if you want your models to be strong, long-lasting, and look amazing. On top of that, ABS is affordable too. The filament might be a little difficult to handle at first but with the right print settings, you will get a hang of it. So, remember the crucial facts about ABS filaments the next time you print with them.

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