PLA vs. ABS Material, What is the Difference?

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PLA

You’ve got a 3D Printer, or you’re looking to buy a 3D Printer and each one seems to indicate it prints in either ABS, PLA, or both. So you find yourself wanting to know, what is the difference between ABS and PLA.

Both ABS and PLA are known as thermoplastics; that is they become soft and moldable when heated and return to a solid when cooled. This process can be repeated again and again. Their ability to melt and be processed again is what has made them so prevalent in society and is why most of the plastics you interact with on a daily basis are thermoplastics.

  ABS PLA
Made from Petroleum based Bio-based plastic
Smell Some report a bad plastic smell, but it is less noxious than a permanent marker More of a com-like/sweet smell 
Hardness Hard, impact resistant and tough and has a decent flex or “bend” to it Hard, but more brittle than ABS when bent. More likely to snap when bent/flexed
Heat Settings 225-250℃
437-482℉
190-240℃
374-464℉
Vulnerabilities Vulnerable to moisture and sunlight, as well as over-heating in processing Vulnerable to moisture and sunlight, although PLA is more prone to overheating, which can cause dripping and degradation
Stickiness Sticks well Much sticker. Sticks very well to acrylic, not as well suited to peeling off paper as ABS.
Appearance Generally glossy, but very varied. Option for various translucencies.
Environment & recycling Although it can be recycled, many local recycling programs do not accept ABS.  PLA is a bio-plastic, which means it biodegrades, but very slowly. 

About Print 3D:

Print-3D is a 3D printing and rapid prototyping company servicing Sydney and Newcastle. We offer high quality model prototypes and small production runs from wide range of materials and designs.

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