Should I Use PLA or ABS Filament

12/04/2014 16:38

Known as the lifeblood of your 3D printer, there are two kinds of plastic filaments: PLA and ABS. It is an essential component that the quality of printing depends on the 3D printer filament.

What are the differences of PLA from ABS?

PLA and ABS are both good choices since both have splendid results. It is a good idea to try both and then choose what best suits you.


PLA is short for polylactic acid and is manufactured from sugarcane and corn. Being made from these, it is totally biodegradable, and no ultra-fine particles (UFCs) are emitted. PLAs smell nice too! They smell like caramel when they are extruding.


The extrusion temperature is variable between 160 and 220 degrees celsius depending on color and specifications. It also wraps less and is stickier than the ABS, and more rigid. The print is slightly glossy, as well. Extruding PLA requires more force and its malleability starts at 60 degrees.


ABS or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a thermoplastic that is quite common in the market and is manufactured based on petroleum. Extrusion temperature varies from between 220 and 260 degrees celsius. It resists heat more than PLA, and its malleability starts at 100 degrees celsius. It also has a lower coefficient ration than PLA that requires a little bit less in force to be extruded. It is also called the legacy filament since it came before PLA.


Filament diameter is another key indicator to getting your 3D printer to do quality prints. Understand that the driver for your printer calculates extrusion based on filament diameter. The printer controls the plastic’s volume. If incorrectly calculated, meaning there is a difference in the filament diameter. The printer and the driver would not be able to adjust the settings by itself. This is called ‘inconsistent extrusion.’


There is a growing awareness about the world’s ecology, and this is due to the use of plastics. Filaments are made of plastics: polylactic (PLA) and acrylonitrile (ABS). PLA is plant-based, therefore, a good choice in terms of ecology, while ABS Filament is petroleum-based. Directly comparing them would give us specific differences and would definitely help in deciding which one to use.


ABS needs a heat bed that has the right temperature or else it might not work. PLA, on the other hand, benefits from cool air to have a constant low temperature, or else it would drop. Many people have good experiences using ABS, while PLA can write directly onto borosilicate glass. Some people prefer PLA as it works great even if unheated, directly on blue painter’s tape, although the tape needs frequent changing.


Thinking about the ecology and the state of the world we are in, PLA Filament is a good choice. With results almost the same as ABS, it is a better choice for most projects as it is fully biodegradable and will not pose any lasting damage to the environment.


When you choose, choose wisely. In the end, the outcome will still depend on you and decide whether to use PLA or ABS  3D printer filament .