PLA vs ABS, what do you use in the classroom? When starting out with 3d printers there’s a lot of information to consider, one of them being what material to print with. The most popular materials in education are PLA and ABS, but what’s the difference between them? We often get emails asking us for advice on what material is best, so we have detailed below the main points of each material.
PLA, or polylactic acid, is a biodegradable plastic that is derived from natural resources such as corn starch or sugarcane. It is very popular as a 3D printing filament due to its environmental benefits over traditional plastics like ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene).
Ensure you have ventilation in the room
One of the main advantages of using PLA filament is that it is biodegradable, meaning that it can break down naturally in the environment without leaving behind harmful chemicals or toxins. This is in contrast to ABS, which is a petroleum-based plastic that can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills.
PLA also has a lower carbon footprint than ABS, as it is made from renewable resources rather than fossil fuels. This means that it produces fewer greenhouse gases during its production and disposal, which helps to reduce the overall environmental impact of 3D printing.
Another benefit of PLA is that it is non-toxic and safe to use, making it a great choice for food packaging, medical devices and toys. ABS is also safe to use but the fumes produced while printing ABS can be harmful if inhaled, that’s why PLA is widely recommended for indoor use especially when being used in the classroom. If you want to print with ABS then ensure you have followed your national health and safety guidance when using the material and choose a printer that is ideally enclosed with a hepa filter installed. In the UK we recommend reviewing the guidance from Cleapss who have published guidance on 3D printing in the classroom. If you need to build your own enclosure then you can easily do this very cheap by using IKEA Lack tables and 3d printed attachments downloaded from thingiverse.
In terms of print quality, PLA is also a great option. It is a strong and durable plastic that can produce high-quality prints with a smooth finish. It also has a lower melting point than ABS, which means that it is less likely to warp or deform during printing.
In conclusion, PLA 3D printing filament is a better plastic to use than ABS due to its environmental benefits. It is biodegradable, made from renewable resources, and has a lower carbon footprint. It is also non-toxic and safe to use, making it a great choice for a wide range of applications. Additionally, it offers great print quality and is less prone to warping during printing.