Top 10 Differences Between ABS and PLA

3D Printing is something that is being researched on. The main plastics include ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)plus PLA (Polylactic Acid). ABS plus PLA are called thermoplastics. This means that they tend to be soft as well as moldable during heating. They come back to a solid state when they experiencing cooling. This characteristic of melting and then being processed once again makes them a good option. ABS is good for 3D printing due to its strength, machinability plus flexibility. PLA is used due to the many colors plus translucencies that it has.

Differences between ABS and PLA

There are some differences that are present between ABS as well as PLA.

Above is a picture of ABS

Above is a picture of PLA

1.Response to Moisture

ABS that has moisture usually bubbles and spurts precisely from the nozzles tip at the time of printing. This presents some problems including reducing the visual quality, part accuracy as well as powerfulness. Stripping and also clogging within the nozzle can occur. One can dry ABS by employing hot or dry air.

PLA reacts to moistures in a different way. It also bubbles or even spurts precisely at the nozzle, but it may produce discoloration as well as a limitation regarding 3D printed part properties. This is because PLA has a tendency to respond to water when at a higher temperature and experience de-polymerization. One can employ a food dehydrator so as to dry PLA, but still keeping in mind that this may change the crystallinity ratio causing alterations within the extrusion temperature as well as various extrusion properties. This usually is not a huge tension for a lot of 3D Printers.

2.Part Precision

ABS’s surface that is directly in contact with the printers’ bed tends to curl upwards. This problem may not occur if the print surface is heated and remained smooth plus flat. Solutions may also be put on the print surface to limit this problem.

PLA in comparison to the ABS has increasingly limited part warping. One can therefore print properly by not employing a heated bed. The plastic may curl a bit on large parts when one fully takes out the heated bed.


When looking at ABS, print at precisely 210-240 having a heated bed that should be at 80 or higher. When it comes to PLA then print at precisely 180-200. It is possible to print this by not using a heated bed, but one can use one that is at 60.

4.Print Efficiency

ABS is usually facile to pint with. It becomes a bit tough to handle when it has been extruded as it shrinks when it cools. ABS nevertheless can be printed at a fast rate. It also resists stringing. Print inside a room which is not very cold. The room should also not have drafts that may make cooling become faster. PLA is able to stick and become bigger when it melts, therefore it often becomes tough to jam the hot-end in. Inserting some oil to the hot-end will limit this problem. PLA does not experience much shrinkage therefore allows one to print huge prints.


ABS is regarded as being a strong plastic when printed at proper temperatures, so as to have a good layer bond. It is rather flexible and may bend instead of snapping when it has pressure exerted in it. PLA is able to print strong objects, but it still is rather brittle in comparison to other plastics. Layer bond tends to be extremely powerful when it is printed properly.


ABS gives off smell that is strong when someone is busy printing. Some people have problems with this smell when the ABS is placed in a closed space. It is advisable to print in a room that has much ventilation. This should be the case when utilizing any plastic. PLA is much different when looking at the fumes that it gives off. PLA gives a wonderful smell.

7.Best Time to Use

ABS is rather tough therefore objects which may be dropped, placed in environments that are warm, as well as employed in a way that is not delicate, are the best uses for ABS. ABS tends to be excellent for many objects. PLA should be used whenever possible. This is due to the fact that it is a bioplastic which one can recycle. It is therefore good for the environment also. ABS is excellent for boxes, prototype parts as well as models. One can also employ it in the outdoors. It is also insoluble in water.

8.When Not to Employ

Do not use ABS when wanting to print something that is large, but are not able to secure it from any breezes as well as from air temperature that is ambient. If you are not able to ventilate your room properly then do not use ABS. Do not employ PLA somewhere that has a temperature of 60. This is because it will sag. It is not advisable to use it for tool handles as well as for things that tend to drop a lot.

9.Effects on the Environment

ABA is not as environmentally friendly as PLA is. This is due to the fact that PLA is biodegradable. ABS is also not degradable.


The molecular formula for ABS is (C8H8•C4H6•C3H3N)n while the molecular formula for PLA is (C3H402)n. The chemical compounds of ABS are namely acrylonitrile, butadiene as well as styrene. PLA is derived from renewable resources namely corn starch, sugarcane, starch, tapioca roots or even chips.

From the above analysis of the differences you can chose which one is more suitable for your requirements, for example if you aim to protect the environment then PLA will be the better choice for you. PLA smells better also. ABS has the benefit that it is rather strong. If you are looking for something strong then you can consider that. A good 3D Printer is the Makeblock mElephant 3D Printer. This is a PLA one. It has very good precision as well as extensibility. Its printing quality is also amazing.