ABS is the most widely used polymer for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing. Take a walk down any aisle in a store and you are bound to see ABS in items that contain plastic. Consumer goods and automotive are the first industries that come to mind. Although, many industries have taken advantage of the unique combination of UV resistance, vivid colors and glossy finish that set this material apart.
What is ABS?
This particular material is a terpolymer, which means it has three constituents:
- Acrylonitrile- This material is used in thermoplastics that have chemical and heat resistance.
- Butadiene- Mainly used as a constituent in many thermoplastics to impart that rubbery type of property to a material.
- Styrene- It can be found in polystyrene and other thermoplastics. As opposed to butadiene, it imparts a very stiff, rigid behavior to the plastic. It also allows the plastic to have a glossy outer surface so that when colors are added, the colors have a very vivid expression in the material.
ABS thermoplastic is an amorphous material, which means it doesn’t have a very sharp melting point. When the material is melted during the FDM process, it will flow over a range of temperatures. The result is that the material will not have a sharp melting point if you heat it afterwards, but it has a range of temperatures that it will soften over. Because ABS is recycled plastic, you can recycle it in conventional processes after it is printed. ABS plastic is also very chemically resistant to standard oils from your skin, so you handle the material without causing degradation problems.
Applications for ABS
Common injection molding and extrusion applications for ABS cover a number of areas. The first one is children’s toys. LEGOsTM are made out of ABS thermoplastic as well as consumer appliances, particularly electronic enclosures such as tv’s, radios, remote controls and other small plastic encased devices. The material works well for interior automotive parts, and that is why it is used on the dashboard of many common automobiles. The material has good UV resistance as long as it’s exposed to intermittent sunlight.
Printing Technology: FDM
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Technology uses production-grade thermoplastics to create parts that are designed to be accurate, easily replicated and stable over time. The FDM process allows for 3D printing with the most commonly used thermoplastics, such as ABS, polycarbonate, a variety of blends, as well as engineered thermoplastics for aerospace, medical, automotive, electronic and other specialty applications.
When printing on an FDM machine you tend to get stronger parts since you are working with thermal plastics. If you plan on testing your parts in a strenuous process, FDM may be the better choice. These materials specialize in high tensile strength and resistance to high temperatures.
Learn more about ABS Plastics
This article is just meant as an introduction to this material. For additional details and specifics about all that it can do, take a look at some of our related content:
- Differences Between ABS and ASA
- ABS Option for PolyJet Printers
- How To Make Your PLA and ABS Filaments Last Longer
Want to learn more about which Stratasys 3D printing material is right for your application? Download our 3D Printer Material White Paper below.