ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene Styrene) 

Was a common thermoplastic in injection molding and the first material used in 3D Printing. It is amorphous (it does not melt it just softens). The formula can vary and the higher the styrene the shiner the surface will be. Acrylonitrile is a produced from propylene and ammonia. Butadiene is a petroleum hydrocarbon. Styrene monomer is made by dehydrogenation of ethyl benzene. These are all non renewable and will release fumes. 

BIGGEST ADVANTAGE: Water proof. Flexible. 

DISADVANTAGE: Up to 5% shrinkage rate (great for injection molding, terrible for 3D Printing). Warping and print splitting common. Requires chamber temperature control. 

BED SURFACE: Kapton tape or straight on glass with glue stick or ABS slurry (abs dissolved in acetone and painted on bed); or Buildtak 

SAFETY FACTORS: Gives off fumes. Use in ventilated space. 

PLA (Polylactic acid or Polylactide)

 A biodegradable thermoplastic made from renewable resources like corn or soy starch. It is easier to print with than ABS and does not require a heated bed. Unlike ABS, PLA does not just soften but completely liquefies at 3D Printing temperatures allowing for much thinner layer heights than ABS. It also sets rapidly under a blower fan, allowing better bridging and over hang printing. 

BIGGEST ADVANTAGES : Up to 10 times stronger than ABS. Easy to print, and can produce fine resolutions.

DISADVANTAGE : Low softening point. Less flexible than ABS 

BED SURFACE : Cold bed with Blue Tape, BuildTak or glass (possibly with glue stick) 

SAFETY FACTORS: No Fume concerns 

ABS is poor at bridging. PLA with good Blower Fanning can cross as long as a 3cm bridge without droop

Definition: BLOWER/FILAMENT FAN A filament fan blows directly onto the just printed surface rapidly cooling PLA almost the instant it leaves the nozzle.

Definition: BRIDGING Refers to printing across an unsupported span, between to connection points. 



It is now common to see new PLA blends, such as Copper-PLA, or WOOD-PLA. The lower the “added material” vs the PLA in the blend the easier they are to print with. Some examples include : Glow In The Dark, Wood, Copper, Aluminium, Colour change (heat or light reactive). They are lots of fun and usually easy to print. 

PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate) 

Most recognisable as the plastic your drinking bottle is probably made of. Its natural state is colourless and is strong, impact resistant properties while being flexible. 

BIGGEST ADVANTAGE: Strength with flexibility 

DISADVANTAGE: Not good at bridging. Requires slightly higher extrusion (about 240c)

BED SURFACE: Build tak works well. Also Blue Tape.

SAFETY FACTORS: Not defined at time of publishing. 

ABS-PC (ABS blended with PolyCarbonate) 

This blend is used most commonly by the UP brand of printers and requires a higher extrusion temperature than other common thermoplastics. Polycarbonate is strong made from BPA and phosgene.

BIGGEST ADVANTAGE: Strength and also surface quality. Hides layers better than ABS. Also has a higher temperature soften point than straight ABS. 

DISSADVANTAGE: Needs to extrude at higher temperatures (usually 260c) 

BED SURFACE: Build tak works best 

SAFETY FACTORS: Will give of strong fumes. Use ventilation.

Bilby3D hopes you found this helpful