ABS VS PLA | A Comprehensive Comparison

Greetings, everyone; today, I’ll present a detailed comparison of PLA vs ABS. So without further ado, let’s begin.


ABS is a strong and durable material that is better suited for parts that require high impact resistance and flexibility. At the same time, PLA is a more brittle material that is ideal for applications that require high detail and precision.

For those who are new to 3D printing, selecting the appropriate material for your project is a crucial decision. PLA and ABS are two of the most commonly used materials in the market.

PLA is known for being biodegradable and simple to print, while ABS is recognized for its durability and strength. In this article, we will examine the distinctions between these two materials and assist you in determining which one is the best match for your 3D printing requirements.

ABS VS PLA: Let’s Talk About PLA Plastic

PLA, also known as polylactide, is a thermoplastic that is produced using lactic monomers derived from natural sources such as sugarcane or corn. It is a versatile and biodegradable plastic that can be used in a variety of products. It is the second most commonly used bioplastic globally, with thermoplastic starch being the most popular. The characteristics of PLA are comparable to those of Polypropylene (PP) and Polyethylene (PE). Moreover, producing PLA is relatively cost-effective as it can be manufactured using existing machinery initially designed for conventional petroleum-based thermoplastics.

The extensive array of applications achieved with PLA material has made it a popular choice for manufacturers seeking both strength and aesthetic appeal in a thermoplastic. PLA is frequently used in medical devices and food packaging, among other typical applications.

Since PLA is composed of natural sugars, it becomes pretty adhesive when heated. This characteristic is advantageous as it enables your models to adhere to the printing bed and reduces the possibility of shrinking during printing. Additionally, the sugars emit a pleasant aroma similar to that of honey, making each printing session a tad more enjoyable.

PLA melting point and glass transition temperature always come on the lower side and thus require comparatively lesser heat or power for printing purposes.

PLA General Properties 

Property Value
Technical Name
Polylactic Acid (PLA)
Chemical Formula (C3H4O2)n
Tensile Strength
PLLA: 61 – 66 MPa (8840 – 9500 PSI) ***
Melt Temperature
PLLA: 157 – 170 °C (315 – 338 °F) **
Molding Temperature
PLLA: 178 – 240 °C (353 – 464 °F) **
Specific Gravity PLLA: 1.24 *****
Flexural Strength
PLLA: 48 – 110 MPa (6,950 – 16,000 PSI) ***
Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT)
49 – 52 °C (121 – 126 °F) at 0.46 MPa (66 PSI) ****
Shrink Rate
PLLA: 0.37 – 0.41% (0.0037 – 0.0041 in/in)******

PLA Advantages 

  • PLA is obtained from sustainable and renewable sources, making it a more eco-friendly alternative.
  • Unlike other plastics that release unpleasant or strong odors, PLA emits a pleasant and mildly sweet fragrance during printing.
  • It is relatively easy to print with and requires lower printing temperatures compared to other plastics, which can save energy.
  • Due to its low toxicity, PLA is considered safe to use in household settings, including for items such as food containers and toys for children.
  • PLA is a biodegradable material, meaning it can decompose over time, reducing the impact of plastic waste on the environment.
  • It has a glossy finish and can be easily painted or sanded, making it a versatile material for creating various models and objects.

PLA Applications

3D Printing: PLA is a popular choice for 3D printing due to its ease of use and environmental friendliness. It is used to create various models and objects for various industries.

Food Packaging: PLA’s ability to biodegrade and its non-toxic nature makes it a viable option for food packaging, including containers and utensils, which can be easily found in various grocery stores and restaurants.

Films and Bags: PLA has the potential to produce biodegradable and compostable films and bags suitable for different purposes, including agriculture, horticulture, and waste management.

Toys: PLA’s non-toxic nature makes it a safe material for children’s toys, and its ability to be easily molded and painted makes it a popular choice for toy manufacturers.

Medical Devices: PLA is also used in the medical industry to create disposable medical devices, such as sutures and implants, due to its biocompatibility and ability to degrade safely in the body.

PLA VS ABS: Let’s Talk About ABS Plastic

ABS, short for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is a type of thermoplastic material widely used in different industries owing to its exceptional characteristics. It is relatively lightweight and has high toughness and impact resistance, which makes it easy to fabricate, mold, and machine. Its strength, rigidity, dimensional stability, and resistance to chemicals, heat, and abrasion make it an excellent material for diverse applications, including household appliances, automotive parts, toys, pipes, and fittings.

ABS is known for its rigidness, strength, and chemical resistance, with a density of approximately 1.05 grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm³). However, it is heavily affected by polar solvents.

ABS also has a high glass transition temperature of typically around 105°C to 110°C (221°F to 230°F). ABS Tg advantages include improved dimensional stability, heat resistance, and durability at higher temperatures.

ABS General Properties 

Below is the table with values related to ABS’s general properties.

Property Unit Value
Density g mL-1 1.03 – 1.14
Coefficient of Thermal Expansion cm / (cm °C) 2.0 – 10.3
Flexural Modulus MPa 1550 – 2580
Tensile Strength, Yield at 23 C MPa 28 – 120
Dielectric Strength V/mm x 104 1.4 – 3.1
Dielectric Constant @ 1 MHz 3.1 – 3.4
Processing Temperature °C 205 – 275
Water Absorption, 24 hr. Immersion % 0.26 – 1.70

ABS Advanatges 

Strength and Durability: ABS is known for its strength and durability, making it a popular choice for applications where impact resistance and toughness are required, such as in automotive parts, toys, and electronic enclosures.

Versatility: ABS can be easily molded and extruded, making it a versatile material for creating a wide range of products, including toys, electronic parts, and consumer goods.

Chemical Resistance: ABS is resistant to chemicals, including acids and alkalis, making it a suitable material for applications where exposure to chemicals is common, such as in automotive and industrial parts.

Heat Resistance: ABS can withstand high temperatures, making it a suitable material for applications that involve heat exposure, such as automotive parts, pipes, and electronic housings

Surface Finish: ABS has a smooth surface finish, making it an excellent choice for products that require a high-quality appearance, such as automotive parts and consumer goods.

ABS Applications

Automotive Parts: ABS is commonly used in the automotive industry to produce interior and exterior parts such as bumpers, dashboard components, and trim.

Pipes and Fittings: ABS’s heat resistance and chemical resistance make it an ideal material for pipes and fittings used in plumbing and industrial applications.

Toys: ABS’s strength and durability make it an excellent material for children’s toys, such as building blocks, action figures, and dolls.

Electronics: ABS is used to create a variety of electronic parts, including computer keyboards, housings for electronics, and telephone components.

Consumer Goods: ABS manufactures various consumer goods, such as luggage, furniture, and sports equipment. Its versatility, strength, and aesthetic appeal make it a popular choice for many consumer products.

That is all for the PLA vs ABS 3D Filament debate.

The Conclusion

To sum up, both PLA and ABS have widely used types of plastic with their pros and cons. PLA is a renewable resource that can degrade naturally, making it a more environmentally friendly option.

It is also easy to print with and has a pleasant scent when printing. On the other hand, ABS is known for its strength, durability, and ability to withstand high temperatures, making it an excellent choice for automotive and electronic parts. The selection between PLA and ABS ultimately depends on the specific requirements and intended application.

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