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PLA vs ABS Filament: Which Is Better?

Stereolithography 3D printer showing 3D object emerging from vat of resin

PLA and ABS are two of the most commonly used 3D printing filaments, and the ABS vs. PLA discussion has been going on for quite some time, so we are going to weigh in on the topic.

PLA is also called polylactic acid and is a sustainable 3D printing filament that is made using organic sources. As one of the world’s most popular 3D printing materials, PLA filament is widely used due to its lower price point and ease of use. It’s a standard filament that has a glossy, opaque finish, and is generally used for detailed and complex prints. PLA is excellent for beginners but is most commonly used for architectural mockups and prototyping, thanks to its ability to print complex features.

On the other hand, ABS – or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene – is a thermoplastic filament. Unlike PLA, ABS is a more technical filament and might be more challenging to use for those who are new to the 3D printing world. It is a stiff printing material that is resistant to heat and impact. You’ll often find ABS being used for end-use tools, moving parts, and parts that need to be able to handle high mechanical stress.

PLA and ABS – The Uses of Each

While PLA and ABS are both plastics, they are generally used for vastly different applications.

ABS is generally used in a manufacturing and engineering environment since it is a durable material that is able to resist high impacts. This durability is what makes it favorable for end-use products, especially protective cases like phone cases or suitcases.

PLA is popularly used for prototypes. It is a great tool for understanding the aesthetic and visual properties of prototypes, particularly when it comes to details that are complex and small. It is also commonly used by beginners that are new to 3D printing.

So, Which Should You Choose?

The answer to this question largely depends on the kind of 3D printing projects you are performing. If you are looking for something that will show you the fine details of your prototypes that have complex features, you’d be better off using PLA filament.

On the other hand, if you are looking to print more robust items that can withstand heat and impacts, then you should choose ABS filaments. At the end of the day, you can be safe in the knowledge that, should you choose the correct filament, you won’t have any issues.

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