PLA VS ABS, What is difference use in 3D Printing?


While using FDM to create 3D models, PLA and ABS are crucial materials. Nevertheless, picking the best one can be challenging. This is true of all 3D printing methods, but particularly for novice or enthusiast users of FDM/FFF 3D printing, for whom it may seem utterly bewildering to choose the best filament. This piece will contrast two of the most frequently used filament types, PLA and ABS. We compared PLA and ABS in terms of qualities, manufacturing demands, and more so that you can decide which one to employ.

What Is PLA Materials?

PLA Materials

The acronym PLA refers to polylactic acid. Unlike traditional polymers, PLA is created from sustainable, natural resources like sugar cane and corn. Manufacturing is produced considerably more cheaply since it does not need the use of fuels. As a result, consumers benefit from lower pricing and PLA’s reduced ecological effect. As compared to other polymers, PLA biodegrades far more quickly.

The temperature at which glass transitions of PLA are relatively low. When heated to this point, the filament can be shaped easily; for PLA, this is roughly 65 degrees Celsius. The excellent factor is that this substance can be printed on with significantly less effort and energy. Unfortunately, PLA can’t be used to print anything exposed to very high temperatures for a long time.

Since it is created from natural sugars, PLA becomes very viscous when heated. Your models will have less trouble staying put on the print bed and won’t become smaller as you print. Because of its relative fragility, PLA can’t entirely replace more versatile materials.

What Is ABS Materials?

ABS Materials

The acronym ABS stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and is the second most commonly utilized material for printing technology. ABS is not as biodegradable as PLA, but it is readily recyclable.

ABS isn’t admired for being eco-friendly or renewable. As already noted, it, like other plastics, is derived from petroleum, making its production less environmentally friendly than alternative materials. ABS, on the other hand, is recyclable. However, recycling facilities tend to reject it. This is a benefit, especially for newcomers, who could feel more confident that the plastic will be disposed of properly without contributing to trash accumulation, given that many people are unaware of how restricted the degradation rate of PLA is.

Compared to PLA, ABS has a more significant temperature at which glass transitions -about 105 degrees Celsius. This makes it a superior material for printing anything subjected to high temperatures. There is another reason why ABS is the material of choice for many printers. It can withstand much abuse and still look good. ABS is corrosion-resistant and may be stretched rather than shattered. Because of its extreme tensile strength, it is an excellent material to sand, polish, or fuse the final result.
When cooled, ABS shrinks rather noticeably. Given the potential for excessive shrinkage and subsequent cracking, it is essential that your printing area be adequately heated.

The Different Between PLA VS ABS

PLA VS ABS: Material Properties

PLA and ABS are two of the most commonly used materials in 3D printing. Here are some of their key material properties:

  1. Strength and Durability: ABS is generally considered to be stronger and more durable than PLA, making it a good choice for functional parts and prototypes. PLA, on the other hand, is more brittle and may not hold up as well under stress.

  2. Heat Resistance: ABS has a higher melting point than PLA, which makes it better suited for use in high-temperature applications. PLA can soften and deform at temperatures above about 60°C, while ABS can withstand temperatures up to around 100°C.

  3. Warping: ABS has a higher tendency to warp or curl during printing, especially if the printing conditions are not well-controlled. PLA, on the other hand, has a lower tendency to warp, which makes it a good choice for larger parts.

  4. Printing Ease: PLA is generally considered to be easier to print with than ABS. PLA has a lower melting point and does not require a heated bed, which makes it more forgiving of printing errors. ABS requires a heated bed and careful temperature control to prevent warping and ensure a successful print.

  5. Biodegradability: PLA is biodegradable and compostable, which makes it a more environmentally friendly choice than ABS. ABS is not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfill.

PLA VS ABS: Mechanical Properties

The mechanical properties of PLA and ABS are important considerations when choosing a material for 3D printing. Here are some of the key differences in their mechanical properties:

  1. Tensile Strength: ABS generally has a higher tensile strength than PLA, which means it is better able to withstand pulling or stretching forces without breaking. ABS can typically withstand tensile forces of around 41-44 MPa, while PLA can withstand around 37-39 MPa.

  2. Flexural Strength: Flexural strength refers to a material’s ability to withstand bending forces without breaking. ABS generally has a higher flexural strength than PLA, making it a better choice for parts that will be subjected to bending or twisting forces.

  3. Impact Resistance: ABS is generally more impact-resistant than PLA, meaning it can withstand sudden shocks or impacts without breaking or cracking. This makes it a better choice for parts that will be subjected to high impact loads.

  4. Elongation at Break: Elongation at break refers to a material’s ability to stretch before it breaks. ABS typically has a higher elongation at break than PLA, meaning it is more flexible and can bend without breaking.

  5. Hardness: ABS is generally considered to be a harder material than PLA, meaning it is more resistant to scratches and wear.

PLA VS ABS: Prices

In most cases, the cost of PLA vs ABS is the same. However, variables like producers affect pricing. Suppliers are essential in the case of closed-system 3D printers. Put another way, only filaments produced or sanctioned by the printer’s maker should be used in such machines. This choice is generally taken to guarantee quality, although it may affect cost. It’s worth noting that ABS and PLA filament will still cost around the same in a closed system.

PLA VS ABS: Surface Finishes


In terms of surface finish, PLA and ABS have some differences when used in 3D printing.

PLA has a smoother and shinier surface finish compared to ABS. It can produce a higher level of detail and sharper edges due to its lower printing temperature and less tendency to warp during printing. However, PLA is more brittle than ABS and may crack or break more easily, especially under stress or impact.

ABS, on the other hand, has a matte and slightly textured surface finish. It is more durable and impact-resistant than PLA, making it suitable for applications that require strength and toughness, such as automotive parts, toys, and electronic enclosures. However, ABS is more prone to warping and shrinkage during printing, which can affect the surface finish and dimensional accuracy of the final product.

PLA is better suited for applications where a smooth and detailed surface finish is desired, while ABS is more suitable for applications that require durability and strength, despite a slightly rougher surface finish. Ultimately, the choice between PLA and ABS for 3D printing will depend on the specific requirements of the application, as well as the printer settings and parameters used to achieve the desired surface finish.

PLA VS ABS: Environmental Conservation

PLA can withstand average air temperatures without degrading; however, it does break down easily in chemical materials recovery facilities in 50 days and water in 48 months. ABS is not disposable, although it may be reused and recycled. Because of this, PLA is often used in producing things for the food service industry. However, validating its safety with the filament maker before using it would be best.

Although printing with just any filament will produce an odor, some will make it more evident than others. Heating a thermoplastic releases fumes, which aren’t healthy since they might include hazardous particles.

The plant-based nature of PLA means that the little odor it does give off is not cause for alarm. In contrast, ABS is far more hazardous than PLA and has a foul odor.

PLA VS ABS: Ease of Printing

The printing processing will change firstly because the temperature at which glass transitions between the two thermoplastic materials varies. This is because it is necessary to think about the hottest possible temperature when a thermodynamic transformation in matter happens. PLA’s transition temperature to glass ranges from 60 to 100 degrees Celsius, whereas ABS’s range from 105 to 200 degrees Celsius. This establishes the substance’s melting temperature or the point at which it will become liquid and be prepared for printing. The time needed to warm up the 3D printer and achieve the necessary degree will change based on the slicer’s settings.

In this vein, it is crucial to properly calibrate the print bed and print head as part of the production process. When printing with ABS, you’ll need to heat the print bed to 80-110 degrees Celsius, much higher than the standard print bed temperature of 60 degrees Celsius, often used when printing with PLA. Compared to the 210-250°C required by ABS, the extruder may run at a lower temperature for processing PLA (about 180-230°C).

Compared to PLA, ABS is notoriously difficult to print with because of its brittleness. The temperature and qualities of each material contribute to the challenges experienced during printing. As PLA melts at a temperature lower than ABS, the mechanical change required for the sheets to harden once 3D printing is completed is also reduced. ABS, on the other hand, has a more excellent melting point. Therefore, cooling the components will result in a more dramatic shift. Caused by the material’s natural tendency to contract when heated, thermal shrinkage might render specific features unusable.

Applications of PlA & ABS Materials

PLA and ABS are both popular materials for 3D printing, and each has its own unique properties that make it suitable for 3D Printing and injection molding.

Application In Injection Molding

Plastic Molding

Both PLA and ABS can be used in injection molding, although they have different properties that make them better suited for different applications.

PLA has good flow properties and is biodegradable, making it a popular choice for injection molding applications where environmental concerns are important. It can also be easily colored or blended with other materials to create custom colors or properties. However, PLA has lower heat resistance than ABS, which limits its use in high-temperature applications.

ABS is a more versatile material for injection molding, as it has higher heat resistance, toughness, and chemical resistance compared to PLA. It can be used in a wide range of applications, including automotive parts, electronic housings, and consumer goods. ABS can also be easily colored or painted, and it has good dimensional stability.

When choosing between PLA and ABS for injection molding, it is important to consider the specific properties required for the application. PLA is a good choice for low-temperature, environmentally sensitive applications, while ABS is better suited for higher temperature and mechanically demanding applications. It is also important to consider the cost and availability of each material, as well as any regulatory requirements for the application.

Application In 3D Printing

3D printing parts

PLA and ABS are both commonly used materials in 3D printing, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses that make it suitable for different applications.

PLA is a popular choice for 3D printing because it is easy to print with and produces high-quality prints. It has good layer adhesion, which results in a smooth surface finish, and it can be printed at lower temperatures than ABS, which reduces the risk of warping and other printing issues. PLA is also biodegradable and made from renewable resources, which makes it an environmentally friendly choice for 3D printing.

ABS is a more versatile material for 3D printing, as it has higher strength and temperature resistance compared to PLA. It is a popular choice for printing parts that require toughness and durability, such as automotive parts, electronic enclosures, and toys. ABS can be printed at higher temperatures than PLA, which allows for faster print speeds and better inter-layer adhesion. However, ABS can be more difficult to print with than PLA and can require additional precautions to prevent warping and other printing issues.


Gavin Leo is a technical writer at Aria with 8 years of experience in Engineering, He proficient in machining characteristics and surface finish process of various materials. and participated in the development of more than 100complex injection molding and CNC machining projects. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experience.