ABS is an excellent printing material due to its strength and durability, however printing with ABS can prove to be far more of a challenging than PLA. This is because ABS is much more sensitive to thermal variations and therefore requires more preparation to use. However, do not to let this deter you, with the right adjustments and a few iterations, you will be printing like a pro in no time! Below are tips and guidelines on how to improve your performance while using ABS.
While the Optimum Temperature will vary from printer to printer, we recommend starting at 230 C and then iterating in increments of 5 degrees until you dial in the optimum nozzle temperature. How do you know which direction to make the adjustments? Here are some indicators:
If you see trails of filament as your nozzle moves to a separate part of the print, the temperature is probably too high. This is causing the filament to leak as it extruder moves across the print bed.
When the extruder temperature too low, you will see a rough surface finish and layers may begin to crack. The bonding between adjacent layers will be very weak and this is undesirable both functionally and aesthetically.
Building the Foundation
For the critical first layer of your print we recommended using a slightly higher nozzle temperature to help build a strong foundation. Most slicing programs allow you to differentiate between the first layer temperature and the bulk nozzle temperature. By making this adjustment, you will create a stronger bond between the filament and the platform and improve the likelihood of attaining a successful print. After the first few layers, lower the nozzle temperature 5-10 degrees to the optimized bulk printing temperature.
ABS has a strong tendency to warp while printing. However, this problem can be addressed by heating the print bed and applying an adhesive to the build surface. Warping occurs because the edges of the print cool at a different rate than the center of the part and begins to contract inward. A heated print bed is necessary for printing with ABS so that the plastic will stay above the glassing temperature (temperature at which it becomes malleable) of 85oC and will prevent the base from contracting.
The optimum print bed temperature ranges from 100 – 120 C depending on the printbed and again iterate in steps of 5 degrees until you have found the temperature that works for you. After the first few layers have been printed and you have obtained a solid foundation you should lower your print bed temperature 10 – 20 degrees.
Print beds should be coated in Kapton tape to allow for much easier cleaning of the build platform by simply removing the tape. There are two very effective methods we like to employ to bond our prints to the build surface. The first method is to use hairspray as a quick and low-cost solution to bond your print to the build surface. Apply a healthy layer and you are ready to go. The second effective solution allows for more flexibility in bonding strength is to create a concoction we like to call ABS Sauce. Apply a single coat to build surface and you are ready to go.
Happy Printing, the team at 3D ProtoTech