Before I go into special filaments, let’s take a look at the two most-used ones: ABS and PLA. You’ve probably heard of both of them and you might also know that you printer is designed to print with both of them or just one of the two. What are the differences between these thermoplastics?
ABS is short for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. It’s is widely available and has been a very popular plastic in the development of prosumer 3D printing from the start. It melts consistently at around 225 degrees Celsius, which can easily be achieved with small and home-safe electronics. It is relatively strong, a little flexible and has a relatively high “glass transition temperature” of around 100 degrees. That’s the temperature above which a plastic goes from it’s solid state to a pliable state where it can loose it’s shape. These characteristics mean ABS is very suitable to 3D Print functional parts, like spare parts for machines or objects that are exposed to high temperatures like sunlight or hot water.
ABS is dissolvable in acetone and this characteristic is sometimes used to smooth the surface of a 3D Print. Sanding an ABS print and then wiping it with acetone will dissolve the outer layer, essentially smoothing it by reducing the visibility of layers in the print. To fully take advantage of this you smooth prints with acetone vapor—a technique deserves the “don’t try this at home” warning, but gives otherwise matte ABS prints a very glossy finish.
The downsides of ABS are the smell it produces while being heated—which is neither nice nor healthy to live or work around – and the fact that it expands and shrinks in the process of being heated and cooled down again. The shrinkage in particular is a problem for 3D printing, because it causes 3D prints to curl up while cooling too quickly, which is called warping. To counter this, ABS has to be printed on a heated build plate—and preferably in an enclosed, heated build chamber—so it stays warm during printing and can cool down slowly when printing is done.
A heated build plate and chamber usually increase the price of a 3D printer and it uses considerably more electricity. So while ABS also comes in green, most—but not all (see below)—kinds of ABS far from it in terms of health and climate awareness.
Enviro ABS was created to bridge the gap between the printing performance of ABS, and the environmental friendliness of PLA. As the first biodegradable ABS on the market, Enviro reduces the environmental impact of 3D printing with ABS, while providing the highest quality materials and extrusion processes available.