Objects made out of ABS plastic are found all around us and we use then in our daily lives, from the dashboard of the cars we drive to the lego pieces that the kids play with. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is a thermoplastic polymer that has been used in various methods of plastic manufacturing for a long time. Very often in the injection molding and industrial 3D printing industries, ABS plastic is the material of choice. It is hence clear that there are certain reasons why these industries and manufacturers are so inclined to ABS than the other plastics.
ABS is obtained from acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene but let us not bore ourselves with the chemistry.
One of the most important reasons why 3D Quick Printing use ABS plastic is because of its toughens and impact resistance. For instance, a company that needs to 3D print parts as a prototype of a metal part or assembly is better off choosing ABS rather than other plastics such as PLA which is also widely used in consumer 3D printing. ABS plastic has some amount of flex to it unlike PLA which snaps when an external force is applied. For this reason, in prototyping, mechanical parts designed to mimic metals parts are preferably printed in ABS plastic.
Moreover, by increasing the proportions of the constituents of ABS, its impact resistance can further be improved.
HIGHER TEMPERATURE RESISTANCE
ABS plastic offers relatively high thermal stability in comparison to PLA. it can be used within temperatures of -20 and 80 °C (−4 to 176 °F) while still maintaining its mechanical strength. For this reason, ABS is preferred in making plastic housing of electronic devices such as computers, mobile phones, and tablets since they do to radiate some heat during intensive use. Prototypes of parts for outdoor testing in sunny conditions are also best 3D printed in ABS plastic. For instance, ABS would be an ideal material for printing plastic parts for a solar assembly due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures.
SURFACE FINISH AND POST PROCESSING
Acetone vapor polished ABS part
As far as 3D printing is concerned, a model manufactured with ABS plastic generally appears cleaner and look superior to the same model made with PLA. Hence it is not surprising that most industrial 3D printer like the Stratasys Dimension 1200 3D printers used at 3D Quick Printing sticks to printing with only ABS plastic.
Parts printed with this plastic can be sanded to achieve a smoother surface finish and if that is not enough, a process known as vibratory polishing can further be employed to produced even finer surface texture.
Furthermore, a glossy finish can also be achieved through acetone vapor bath. A process in which the printed model is exposed to acetone vapor for some time. One may be amazed to also know that large ABS parts can be printed in pieces and chemically bonded with acetone to produce a perfectly seamlessly complete part. However extra care must be taken when handling acetone since it is highly inflammable and can be harmful to humans.
Nevertheless, with all these attractive and positive points made of the ABS plastic, one may ask why PLA still remains as a competitive option especially in the consumer 3D printing industry. The answer is very simple, successful printing of ABS plastic can only be achieved in an enclosed build chamber with regulated ambient temperature. Unfortunately, most consumer 3D printers do not meet this requirement, thus they lack an enclosed build chamber with regulated ambient temperature.
For the above well-elaborated reasons, most of the printing done at 3D Quick Printing are done with this strong, high temperature resistance and impact resistance plastic while the remaining few are done in Nylon. Nylon is another mechanically tough plastic but that is an interesting topic to be discussed some other day.
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