Written By: Salvatore Lacorte
Since many of you are beginners you have only used the simple material PLA. If you want to get into creating functional parts, you need to make a few changes to how you print and what you print. Keep in mind this article can also help the experienced with little tips and tricks. As you may or may not know there are many different types of 3D printer materials today. I will be explaining how to print ABS plastic with ease. I decided to make this based on my introduction to the material being far from smooth, but filled with stress and anguish. My hope is that this article can set you on the right path to printing ABS with no curling, layer splitting, and totally failed prints.
Basic Requirements for ABS Printing
First off I highly recommend having a heated bed that can heat up to about 100 degrees celsius. This will help insure that the print will not lift up from the bed causing a curved bottom and bunched up layers. I secondly recommend that you consider purchasing a print bed adhesive. There are many different ones I can recommend. From experience a nice slab of Elmer’s glue stick can do the trick, but if you are looking to go fancy you can purchase some magigoo.
Another recommendation is to keep your printer in an enclosure or at best a warm room with non fluctuating temperatures for ABS Printing. Whenever you have fluctuating temperatures you can get uneven cooling and splits between layers on the model you are printing. Another thing a lot of people don’t realise is how bad ABS smells. It is not like PLA where it emits a sweet smell or no odor at all. Melted ABS smells toxic or like an oil. It will give you a headache if you sit in the same room with it for a long period of time so that is another factor to keep in mind.
Unlike PLA, ABS filament production requires a lot more quality control to manufacture in order create a good product. Due to this I would not recommend going with the cheapest chinese filament you can find. Remember “You get what you pay for”, especially with ABS. I can easily recommend some matterhackers ABS or some white Tesla filaments ABS. I have tested these and they work like a charm. Also another tip for the newbies out there, don’t forget to check the filament diameter. I remember first starting out and purchasing the 3mm instead of the 1.75. Don’t be like me and always double check before you purchase.
ABS Printing Settings
To see great results you must perfect your print settings. First off I recommend printing at about 50 mm/s. This is not too fast and will ensure great bed/layer adhesion. Next I recommend printing between 220-250(depending on filament Brand). Remember temperature can never just be one number for all filaments. It changes for every spool a little bit so I recommend doing a temp tower to test and see what temp looks the best. Next I recommend setting the bed temperature to 100 degrees celsius. This will insure good bed adhesion as i said above. You can also play around with this setting.
I use about 85 degrees, but I started at about 100 and played around a little bit to find the perfect temperature. Next thing that can make or break an ABS print is having the print cooling fan on. If the fan is on it will create many splits in the layers from unevenly cooled plastic and lots of lifting from the print head. If you just turn off the fan in your slicer that will fix the problem. Keep in mind I am not talking about the heat sink fan. If you unplug that it will stop cooling the heat break and clog up the whole hotend.
Another thing that I would enable is raft. Raft makes the print bed level while priming the hotend and creating a small platform for bed adhesion. A downside to this can be if the raft prints too close or too far from the first layer causing a bad bottom finish or becoming stuck to the raft. With a little bit of testing and slicer change that can all be fixed.
After you have perfected your ABS printing settings and have printed what you need, you must put away your filament correctly. I see it all the time, people not sealing there ABS and it absorbs lots of water and when they use it next time it comes out bubbly and not even. Well to prevent this from happening all you need is a seal-able bag with a moisture bag inside to ensure protection from water.
Say you never did that and your ABS is full of water, do not fear because there is a solution. All you have to do is preheat your oven to 160-180 degrees. Next put your ABS filament inside for 6 hours, making sure to check in on it once in a while. After the 6 hours you just have to pull the ABS filament out and let it cool. Then it’s as easy as putting into a sealed bag and your done. Then when you want to use it later it has been well preserved and will print as it did when first purchased .
If you are just getting into 3D printing and have trouble with PLA I would practice more with it to get a grasp of the basics. Then once you are ready for the challenge of ABS you can grasp it firmly with all your knowledge. Creating the strongest and most durable parts you have ever made. Other than that ABS can be applied to many different niches in the additive manufacturing world. Though there are many setbacks related to the steep learning curve the material has. Once it has been mastered you can get some of the best parts you have made with it. If you are interested in more 3D printing content, why not consider checking out my Youtube channel. It is youtube.com/SalvatoreLacorte and we post three times a week. Have a great day and #MAKEMORE