What Is ABS?

When you’re 3D printing something, there are a few qualities you likely want your finished product to have. You want it to be durable, neat, and have a fantastic finish.

ABS is a fantastic printing material that can provide all these qualities and more, including relatively high heat resistance and insulating abilities.

ABS has become very popular as a material among home 3D printers and large-scale manufacturers. Read on to learn more about ABS printing and the benefits ABS can bring to your printing process.

 What Is ABS? 

Before we dive into all the wonderful properties ABS has, let’s talk some about what this material is.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, is a kind of plastic that’s usually opaque and can come in a variety of colors. It’s what’s known as a thermoplastic, meaning that as it gets hotter, ABS will become softer and eventually melt. 

One of the most important properties of thermoplastics is that you can melt and reform them multiple times. Some plastics will create a set structure after they’re heated once, and if you try to heat them again, they’ll just burn. But thermoplastics can be melted and reformed multiple times, making them useful for 3D printer plastic types

 How It’s Made 

As you might guess from the name, ABS is made up of styrene and acrylonitrile, two liquid components. You may have seen styrene elsewhere in your life, as it’s a very popular manufacturing material.

Styrene is used to make plastics and rubber, which are then turned into everything from insulation and car parts to food packaging.

During ABS manufacturing, styrene and acrylonitrile get mixed together in the presence of polybutadine. These three chemicals interact to form the opaque plastic we see in everything from Legos to the keys of the computer you use every day. Once the plastic is formed, it can be colored a variety of hues and molded or extracted into endless different shapes.

 Common Uses

Whether you realize it or not, you see ABS materials around you every day. In addition to some of our favorite toys, ABS also makes up the plastic casing on power tools such as drills and saws. The plastic face guard you see on your wall sockets and light switches in your house is also made with ABS.

ABS is also one of the most popular options for 3D printing filaments.

Because it is a thermoplastic with a relatively low melting point, it’s easy to work with, especially in fused deposition model printing. And, thanks to some special qualities we’ll discuss more later, it’s easy to create a shiny, smooth finish on objects printed with ABS.

Among filament types for a 3D printer, ABS offers a number of fantastic benefits. Some call it the best 3D filament thanks to its amazing properties. But if you want to get good results, you'll need to get the best ABS filament available.


One of the biggest advantages ABS brings to the manufacturing and nylon 3D printing tables is its durability.

As anyone who’s ever stepped on a Lego can attest, ABS can be tough, inflexible, and hard to snap. This makes it a great choice for people looking for the best 3D filament types. 

ABS is also very scratch-resistant, which is part of what makes it so popular in high-touch applications. You wouldn’t want your computer keyboard or light switch plate to get scratched up within the first week of you using it. ABS ensures that these materials will stay in pristine condition for years after you bring them home.

 Heat Resistance 

We mentioned that ABS has a relatively low melting point, and in the world of thermoplastics, it does.

Compared to PETG, which only begins to melt around 500 F, ABS melts very quickly. The thermoplastic has a melting point around 230 F, which means it could start to get soft if left in a car on a hot day.

However, 230 F is still a relatively high melting point for a plastic and is well within the parameters of most application requirements.

For instance, your drill is never going to get up to 230 degrees, so you don’t have to worry about the plastic case melting. And you can get certain types of ABS that have more heat-resistant properties for specific applications.

 Insulating Abilities

One of the common applications of ABS is as an insulator for electronics.

Delicate electronics such as phones and computers rely on very tightly controlled electrical signals to work. Keeping these signals insulated from each other and outside power is critical to keeping these systems operating well. 

ABS does not conduct electricity, so it makes a great option for insulating electronics. Its relative heat resistance also means it won’t melt as those electrical signals start to heat up. And the fact that ABS is so durable can help to provide some protection to the delicate systems it protects.

 Ease of Printing 

When you get ready to 3D print an object, one of the things you have to consider is how easy the material is to work with. Some materials, such as PETG, tend to ooze when you print with them. This means you may have to take special measures to ensure they’re reinforced properly during the print.

ABS, however, is one of the simpler materials to work with in terms of 3D printer filament types. Its low melting point makes it perfect for fused deposition modeling, and it doesn’t tend to drip or ooze. You can create more lightweight designs, confident that they’ll be strong and stable.


On the subject of strength, ABS’s strength is one of the things that makes it most popular among manufacturers.

We mentioned that it’s durable, and that is an important quality to have. But parts that are going to be under strain during standard use need to be strong enough to stand up to that load.

ABS does not snap or break down easily, so it can be used in parts that are going to see a lot of wear and tear. It can deal with as much as 43 megapascals of pressure before it snaps. For reference, marble has a tensile strength of 15 mPa, and concrete comes in at just 5 mPa.


One of the most important qualities of ABS is its machinability. Machinability refers to how easily a material is able to be cut and finished without wearing down the tools too much.

A material may have great strength and durability, but if it doesn’t have good machinability, it won’t be practical for a manufacturer to work with it.

ABS is fantastic on a machinability front, even though it is so strong and durable. It’s easy to cut and work it, and as we’ll discuss more in a moment, finishing it to a beautiful shine is a simple matter of rubbing it with some acetone.

This makes it a very affordable material to work with, both in terms of raw materials and wear and tear on machines.

 Finish Options 

Both home 3D printers and commercial manufacturers have to consider the finish options for a material before they start working with it.

It’s not enough to be able to make an object out of a material; you also have to be able to make it look good. This may mean polishing it to a shine or removing any evidence of cut marks from its surface.

ABS has a chemical peculiarity that makes finishing it a simple matter and earns it the title of best 3D printer filament in some circles.

When it’s exposed to acetone, ABS becomes smooth and shiny without losing any of its definition. This makes polishing it a simple matter of rubbing the outer surface down with acetone and then sending it off for final packaging.

 Disadvantages of ABS

Like any material, ABS has its downsides, too, and it isn’t suitable for every application.

Its lower melting point, for instance, makes it unsuitable for use with hot beverages. An average cup of coffee is around 185 F, plenty hot enough to start softening ABS that hasn’t been manufactured for greater heat resistance.

ABS can also be more prone to cracking, curling, and warping than some other thermoplastics.

When you 3D print with it, you may notice strong fumes, and it’s a good idea to wear PPE when working with ABS. And finally, ABS is a petroleum-based plastic, meaning it isn’t very sustainable or environmentally friendly.

 Learn More About ABS Printing

ABS is a fantastic material both for large-scale manufacturing and for at-home 3D printing.

It’s durable, strong, easy to finish, and has a workable melting point. It’s great for insulating electronics, creating tough covers for tools, and making bricks that will cause the worst pain in the known universe if you step on them. 

If you’d like to learn more about ABS printing, check out the rest of our site at 3DF Filaments.