PLA vs ABS...there can be only one! Well actually there are two plastic giants in the 3D printing industry and we take a look at both.
When it comes to 3D printing, whether it be with a 3D pen or desktop printer, the two most common filament types are ABS and PLA. Both are thermoplastics, which means that they become malleable when heated.
In this way, you can use the heated plastic to create any shapes you want, and then let them cool down to preserve your shape permanently. There are many other materials for 3D printing, but not all of them are suitable for the standard 3D pen.
Most 3D pens currently on the market are designed to work with only PLA and ABS. However, many artists are experimenting with different types of plastic, and the latest of Professional 3D pens and 3D printers are allowing for these special kinds of plastic.
In this article, we will discuss the differences between these two basic types of plastic for 3D pen and printer.
Before comparing PLA vs ABS, we will briefly describe each plastic.
PLA plastic is a biodegradable thermoplastic, made from renewable resources like sugarcane or corn starch or soy beans. When it melts, there is no smell, so it is very comfortable to use in the home or classroom.
The main benefit of PLA is that it's easy to print with, as it melts at a lower temperature.
Outside of 3D printing, it's commonly used in medical implants, food packaging, plastic cups and even in the tobacco industry. Tobacco giant Philip Morris use a PLA based filter in order to "cool the aerosol" in their IQOS Heets devices.
ABS plastic is an oil-based thermoplastic, commonly found in automotive trim, protective headgear, and toys such as LEGO. When ABS melts, it lets off the odour of burning plastic, so we recommend using it in a well-ventilated room.
Objects printed with ABS boast slightly higher strength, flexibility, and durability than those made from PLA. Since the focus of this website is on 3D pen printing, our focus will be on what you can draw with each plastic.
The table below shows what you can print with PLA vs ABS.
Detailed comparison: ABS vs PLA
List of features
Advantages of using PLA
Disadvantages of using PLA
List of features
Advantages of using ABS
Disadvantages of using ABS
So which plastic should you buy?
Kids printing with a 3D Pen should use PLA plastic, due to its non-toxicity and lower temperatures. Due to PLA’s biodegradability, for all permanent applications, ABS plastic remains the best choice.
If you choose to buy PLA please keep in mind that you should store it in a way that it is isolated from moisture, i.e. keep it sealed.
This does not mean that the plastic is destroyed if it spends a week is on the shelf, but long-term storage in a humid environment can undesirably affect both the printing process and the final product.
ABS and PLA are best kept in a vacuum or tightly sealed package to avoid excessive moisture in the materials.
There is no way to say which plastic is the best for your 3D pen. PLA vs ABS; they both have advantages and disadvantages.
If you want to take a look at the full range of plastics available for 3D pen or printer then check out our review of the best 3D printing materials.
PLA has a bigger colour range including translucent, transparent and luminous in the dark plastic. If you are a beginner, and you do not have the skill to create complex objects, then PLA is the best choice.
ABS has a wider range of applications, but one of its greatest deterrents is of course the smell it gives off when the extruder heats it to the melting point.
If you buy are looking to buy the best plastic for a child to use with his or her 3D printer, then PLA is the best choice.