ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is a common thermoplastic. It’s a popular plastic for injection molding and it’s used to make legos, instruments, sports equipment and more.

If you’re used to printing with PLA, you’ll probably find ABS a little trickier to print with. There are a couple more steps required for each print, and it has a different set of printing settings. However, you need not despair. ABS is a strong and heat resistant filament, with awesome post processing options. With this article under your belt, things will be printing your way.


Getting that first layer right

As we discussed in our PLA article, getting the first layer down is the most important part of the print. Here are the key points:

 1. You need the print bed (or print surface) to be level.
 2. You need the extruder to be homed to the correct height from the bed.
 3. You need a good adhesive to assist your ABS in sticking to the bed.
 4. And of course, making sure that your extruder is heated to the right temperature.


Printing on glass with Kapton/PET tape

In order to print with ABS, you need a temperature controlled bed. The recommended bed temperature for ABS is 110°C.

Instead of printing directly on the glass, it’s better to print with Kapton/PET tape. This makes it easier to clean the bed after you’ve been printing for a while, as you can simply remove the tape, clearing any leftover adhesive or filament.

Having your bed level and extruder at the right height is extremely important when printing on tape.  If your extruder is too far from the glass your ABS simply will not stick. If the extruder is too low the glass it will completely block the extrusion of material and may cause a jam after extended periods.

You should also make sure that you have an adhesive of some sort. ABS requires something to bind itself to during the first layer of the print. We tend to use 3M Blue painters tape

Kapton/PET tape is a great way to print ABS.  It makes a great shiny bottom layer and the heated bed ensures that your parts stay nice and flat. 


Getting the temperature right

When working with a new roll of filament for the first time, we generally like to start out printing at about 230c and then adjusting the temperature up or down by 5 degree increments until we get the quality of the print and the strength of the part to be in good balance with each other.


What to look for

If the temperature is too high:

You will see more strings between the separate parts of your print and you may notice that the extruder leaks out a lot of plastic while moving between separate areas of the print.  If this happens you should try to incrementally lower the temperature by 5 degrees until the extruder is not leaking so much material.  

Sometimes you will have a material that is simply less viscous than ABS and will leak more even at lower temperatures.  We recommend you increase the retraction a few millimeters (3-4 seems like a good number for most every ABS we have tried).

If the temperature is too cold:

You will either see that the filament is not sticking to the previous layer and you are getting a rough surface, or you will get a part that is not strong and can be pulled apart easily.  In either case, you should increase the temperature by 5 degrees and try again until you get good line segments on every layer and have a strong part when done printing.