Most 3d printer owners tend to avoid ABS for a number of reasons. Some stem from misinformation some stem from fear but most are just because they can’t get prints to turn out using ABS. This is a shame really because when you think about it we are trying to get the strongest prints available. Out of the 2 main printer filaments ABS and PLA The former is the better filament. Don’t blow up the comments I will explain. First there is heat resistance. Parts made in ABS will hold up better to heat exposure so for someone like me that bought one 3d printer kit and decided to set it to multiply like rabbits. This is of great value as I can make another 3d printer cheaply and not have to worry about sagging or part failure. PLA has actually failed me here. I wish I had taken a pick of my sagging X carriage and that happened while printing PLA parts.
Then there is the abuse it can take. PLA will crack and split where ABS will tend to bend long before it will break. This makes it great for parts that will take loads or a beating. Cosplay for instance. ABS costume and prop parts will last through a con without you worrying that you could break them. This is all a fact well known to the toy industry. Most toys that are made to be played with outside or ruffly are made in abs. And then there is the finish. Acetone smoothing makes some of the best looking parts you can get 3d printing. This means less finishing work before you paint or display the part. Acetone can also be used to quickly bond parts together as well. Over all out of the 2 ABS is usually the better choice if you want cheap parts that will last. That being said there are a few hurdles that you need to jump to get consistent prints. Some of these I feel apply to all filaments though. Here are a few tips to get consistent quality results printing in abs.
One Proper bed adhesion.
If the part can’t stay on the bed while printing nothing else will matter. Lets start with surface. I have tested just about every product and technique around for getting ABS to stay on the bed. The best I have found is BuildTak it just works. Set your nozzle height so that the first layer is more flat than round (just under half the height) and prints will not come off. I have even tested it on cold beds and not a single lift. Now it does have a downside. First is cost. Unlike other options this is going to cost a little pocket money but it is worth it. The other downside is some times stuff sticks too well. If you get rough with it you can tear it up. If this is the case just let it fully cool and working slowly with a metal spatula pry one edge at a time and slowly it will let go. Heated beds tend to stop this from happening most of the time because the bottom cooling usually causes it to let go.
Those of you that don’t want to spend the cash here is my second favorite method. ABS slurry. Not juice. You want a good 50/50 ratio of ABS and acetone or MEK (more on mek in a bit)and a metal cake frosting spatula preferable one with a 45 degree bend at the handle. On a 200mmX200mm bed apply about a tablespoon of Slurry to the bed with the cake spatula spread it all over till you coat the whole bed with a thin layer try to keep it even. Having a removable bed helps with this but it can be done on a non removable bed. Beds with a texture are better than smooth. Buy some 800 grit or higher wet dry sandpaper and buff the surface before apply the slurry the first time and it will stick even stronger. This is good for large prints or prints that have odd shapes. Just apply slurry to areas that peal up when you remove parts. This will be good for about 5 prints before you need to acetone wash the bed and start with a fresh coat.
For slurry storage I use glass soda bottles. Just shred failed prints and supports add them to a bottle and fill with Acetone. Over time you will have slurries of any color good for bed coatings and part dipping or welding. Clear glass soda bottles allow safe storage and easy access to any color.
Two Bench test every filament
The best thing you can do for any filament is bench test it. Run a Heat tower for stringing and a benchy for filament properties like overhangs,warping and cooling. Once you know what it takes to get a solid bench you will get more consistent prints with less chances of Failure. ABS also tends to shrink a little so it’s good to see how much so you need to change a print to compensate for that. This isn’t a waist either. Failures can be added to your slurry or given to random people. I hand out benchies all the time. It’s a great conversation starter. These are my 2 favorites to run.
With these 2 you can Quickly figure out just how a filament is going to act.
Three Oil your Filament
Most of us have our 3d printer is dusty environments. Using a small dusting sponge with some Peanut oil on it will keep most clogs from happening. Not only that but you are making it easier on your extruder to feed the filament. I use peanut oil because it is High temp and food safe (unless you have a nut allergy then use a food mineral oil) I say food safe only because some of us have children that may put things in their mouths. Not because I use my prints to hold food. Oiling ABS also adds to it’s resilience as it’s oil based. Over all it’s a good idea to use one even with other filaments.
Four Adjust your Retraction Settings
More often than not I see this overlooked. ABS runs hotter so it tends to Dribble more than PLA Get your retraction settings done right and post procession prints will be much easier. I found Matter Hackers guide to be one of the best available on the subject so I will post it below.
Mek is like Acetone but better for ABS IMO. For one it doesn’t stain ABS like acetone can. This rarely is an issue but some times acetone will cause ashy white stains in some ABS. I have found that MEK doesn’t do that to those filaments. It also evaporates better when applying ABS Slurries. You get a smoother coat and less bubbling. When smoothing prints it eats slower into the ABS giving you more leeway so you don’t have to be afraid to vapor smooth your prints. Over all if you are going to use a solvent I suggest MEK over acetone every time.
If you have any tips of your own let us know in the forum