Known for its great mechanical properties, ability to withstand high temperatures, and low cost, ABS filament is a favorite among makers and prototypers who want to create durable parts that hold up over time. It’s also probably the first commonly used filament, having been used in FDM 3D printing for decades, and is now one of the two most used filaments along with PLA.
- This article focuses exclusively on ABS. For an introduction to all filaments, check out our 3D printer filament guide.
- For an in-depth comparison of ABS with PLA, view our comparison of ABS vs PLA.
- We also have an in-depth guide to PLA filament.
ABS melting point & printing parameters
ABS, the shortened name for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is printed with an extruder temperature of around 230C, certainly within the 220-250C range. You also need to use a heated bed when printing ABS, at around 110C, as ABS has a glass transition temperature of around 105C. Some however choose slightly lower temperatures. Without a heated bed, ABS prints will warp heavily, rendering them unusable.
These temperatures can vary slightly however depending on the blend and type of ABS used. If you notice any oozing while printing, this is a sign that your extruder temperature is too high, and if layers look blotchy and rough, this is a sign that the extruder temperature is not high enough.
Generally, you should not use a cooling fan with ABS, unlike with PLA where a fan can be crucial. However, with miniature prints in ABS, and prints with delicate overhangs, a cooling fan is sometimes used.
You will almost certainly also need an enclosed chamber, as otherwise you will see far more warping and curving at the bottom of your part, and cracking in the midsection. Some believe that good results can still be gained with an open print area if you use a good build surface on a glass print bed, and you will generally be fine if you print small parts, though overall with ABS printing an enclosure is definitely your best bet and we highly recommend using one.
How much does ABS cost?
Good quality ABS filament usually starts at around $20 per kilo, though some variants can cost more. For everyday printing, standard $20 ABS spools are fine.
Some makers prefer to save money and increase color options by buying ABS pellets in bulk, and dying and extruding the pellets into filament themselves. The pellets cost less per kilo, around $10-12, and can be cheaply dyed into smaller sets of custom filament.
Best ABS Filament
Here are some good value ABS filaments with links to purchase them at the best price:
ABS Filament Benefits
- Low cost: one of the cheapest filaments around, along with PLA. It is also one of the strongest materials available for such a low price.
- Great mechanical properties: being so strong, durable, scratch-resistant, and resistant to high temperatures and electrics, ABS is perfect for industrial 3D printing. So many electrical parts are made with ABS casings, as well as plastic parts that need to be able to handle day-to-day wear without being ground down.
- Less printing errors: unlike PLA, ABS is less prone to oozing and stringing, making it easier to print parts with good surface finishes.
- Easy post-processing: ABS is commonly polished with acetone for a radiant finish, as well as filed or painted using acrylic paints.
- Many colors and blends: like PLA, ABS has a wide range of colors and variants that will suit any kind of 3D printing project you have.
Best ABS 3D Printers
Though many 3D printers say they are capable of printing ABS effectively, often open chamber 3D printers struggle with warping issues. Therefore, in recommending 3D printers capable of printing ABS, we have chosen a number of reliable, closed chamber 3D printers shown below:
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The Best ABS 3D Printers in each price range
|Name and brand||Build Volume (mm)||Price||Best price available at:|
|Monoprice Voxel||150 x 150 x 150||$399||Amazon here|
|Qidi Tech X-Pro||230 x 150 x 150||$600||Gearbest here|
|Up Mini 2 ES||120 x 120 x 120||$689||Amazon here|
|Qidi Tech X-Plus||270 x 200 x 200||$839||Gearbest here|
|Pulse XE||250 x 220 x 215||$999||Matterhackers here|
|Dremel 3D45||255 x 155 x 170||$1,899||Amazon here|
|Ultimaker 3||197 x 215 x 200||$3,499||Dynamism Store here|
Disadvantages of ABS filament
- Bad warping and curling: especially on long, thin parts. As a result, brims and rafts are commonly used, as well as a 3D printer with an enclosure to carefully regulate temperatures.
- Strong smell & fumes: Print with a window open or filtration system, though there is no evidence these fumes are harmful except at extremely high temperatures that you will never reach 3D printing.
- Not biodegradable or renewable: unlike PLA, ABS is made from petroleum-based compounds and cannot be reused, and does not degrade.
How to get the best results from ABS 3D printing:
- Control warping: use a proper build surface, such as PEI or PET sheets, or Kapton tape with ABS mix, and a heated bed at a hot enough temperature. Using a build surface transfers some heat to the first few layers of the part, helping the layers most likely to curl and warp. You can also change the settings in your 3D slicer to print the first few layers at a higher extruder temperature to ease them in, before turning it back down afterwards.
- Use brims and rafts: when printing large parts, or delicate parts, you may find that you will still have trouble getting these parts to properly adhere to the bed. Adding a brim or raft helps. Brims add several rings of ABS around your model on the first few layers to create extra surface area to hold down the edges of the part, and rafts are a separate plastic structure under your print which can be removed after the print has been completed.
- Print in well ventilated area: some printers have HEPA filters now, but still consider opening a window or fan when printing to direct fumes outside.
How to Store ABS
ABS is slightly hydroscopic, meaning it absorbs small amounts of moisture and water from the air. Over time, this gradually worsens the filament’s printing properties as it becomes more brittle and can bubble. The effects are not huge, and take a while to develop, but still lead to some degradation of filament.
Therefore, it is best to keep your ABS filament in a filament container to keep the air out. We recommend our choices for high quality filament containers below:
If your ABS filament has been left in the open for some time, you can dry it to regain optimum print characteristics and remove the excess moisture. We recommend the following filament dryer:
Outside of 3D printing, ABS is commonly used to create plastic toys and action figures, and is the plastic used in Lego. ABS is also used in the casings of electronics and other products like clocks, and in pipes. In fact, the timer I use to complete one-hour work sprints is made from ABS.
Within 3D printing, ABS is often used in rapid prototyping for parts or products that need to be able to withstand high heats, strong impacts and other forms of wear and tear. ABS parts are tougher than PLA, and tend to be used in more industrial settings.
If you want to find out more about 3D printing:
- View our complete guide to 3D printer filaments
- View our recommendations for the best FDM 3D printers
- Read our complete best 3D printer buyer’s guide
- View our feature story on how much a 3D printer costs to buy and maintain
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