Every 3D filament printer requires some sort of raw material with which it can print the desired object. Think of it as ink and paper in a conventional 2D printer.
The quality and nature of the raw materials will be able to determine the scope of the object. Once you understand which material is best for you, you will be able to make an informed decision regarding whether to print in PETG vs ABS
What are ABS and PETG?
ABS is the most common material around. The abbreviation stands for ‘acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.’ This material was amongst the earliest materials that have been used in FDM 3D printing per se.
In fact, it is now one of the single most common plastic filaments used not just in 3D printers, but also in various processes such as injection molding (for instance). It is a polymer that can create anything and everything from airplane seats all the way to LEGO bricks.
From its humble beginnings as a good replacement for natural rubber, ABS has now become one of the bestselling engineering thermoplastics currently available today.
It ruled the roost as the de facto filament of choice amongst 3D printing aficionados before PLA came along. The latter almost unilaterally dethroned this long-standing popular champion as the most commonly used 3D material.
Now, PETG or polyethylene terephthalate glycol is rapidly gaining the same level of popularity. In fact, it now seems to be rapidly taking the place of both PLA as well as ABS as the top choice for all kinds of high tensile strength applications.
The various different blends of PETG are often colloquially referred to as co-polyesters. They can be described as a product that strikes the perfect balance between the natural strength of ABS as well as PLA’s ease of use.
However, this does not mean that we can knock ABS out of the reckoning altogether since it still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Let us check for ourselves, exactly how does ABS go about stack up against the PETG wave that is now taking over the hearts and minds of filament 3D printer enthusiasts all over the world.
The Main Differences between ABS vs PETG
In order to understand the key differences between these two 3D printer raw materials, it is important to understand just what makes them tick. Let us take a closer look at both to figure out which one is the right one for you:
Advantages of ABS
ABS is still the top choice of many filament 3D printing enthusiasts due to the following well-grounded reasons:
Higher Temperature Resistance
As a general rule, ABS typically prints at temperatures ranging from 220 to 250 °C. This big a scale of high-temperature ranges is very important for 3D printing. Yes, it is certainly true that using such high temperatures definitely makes printing with ABS quite energy-intensive.
This is apart from presenting its own set of challenges and dangers in the printing process. However, it also makes ABS prints very stable when exposed to such intense heat.
In the long run, this has certainly made ABS a very popular filament material for those items that tend to be exposed to very high temperatures. These include the dashboard, the seat of a car, or even pipes and other fittings for the carriage of hot liquids.
It is less expensive
This is another reason why in many ABS vs other material debates, ABS carries the show. In terms of manufacturing costs, ABS may not be all that much cheaper than its PETG and other counterparts.
However, the main advantages of ABS are that it is far more widely used and more easily available as well. It is possible to find relatively inexpensive spools of ABS filament jut simply because of the overwhelming abundance of this product in the markets.
What Is PETG Good For?
Polyethylene terephthalate or PET is a polymer that is undoubtedly familiar to just about anyone who consumes plastic products. That would mean pretty much everyone on this planet since it is the single most widely used common plastic in the whole wide world.
At least as far as consumer goods are concerned (Think plastic water bottles). PETG is a variation of PET, albeit the glycol-enhanced version. The addition of a select group of glycol-based additives to the standard PET chemical structure serves to make it just a little bit more flexible.
It will not only be less rigid and more chemically stable but also more heat-stable as well. Here, PETG filament looks better and it is both clearer and much more suitable for labeling purposes than its PET counterpart.
It has excellent stability and does not deteriorate in a variety of harsh conditions. This is why PETG has ended up becoming the top material of choice for all kinds of food containers, outdoor signage; not to mention prosthetic devices and even heaps of medical equipment that would otherwise require changing at specific intervals.
In the 3D printing context, objects built with PETG are made to last for a very long time. You can hang a tiny Master Yoda on your porch and he will remain there for many a long year without losing his structural integrity
Advantages of PETG
If you want to know how other materials fare vs PETG, look no further. In fact, in any sort of vs PETG debate, it is necessary to know what a specific material can do vis-a-vis another one.
PETG can be recycled all the way down to its constituent components. This means that it is much more environmentally friendly than many of its counterparts that can take thousands of years to decompose.
They are not even remotely recyclable and their existence has cast a blight on our planet. However, substituting PETG filament in lieu of these polymers can certainly allow our world to breathe a little bit easier.
It is a Food Grade Plastic
This is another reason why this is such a great choice for any sort of food-related work. If you want to print toy cups and plates or even real ones, you can go ahead and do so. It is far safer to eat from PETG made utensils than many other plastics out there, such as PVC and melamine.
Resistance to Ultra Violet (UV) Radiation
In the long run, it is a known fact that PETG will almost always fare much better even under the harsh mid-summer sun. UV radiation has minimal effect on the material as compared to ABS. Unlike the former, the later can weaken quite significantly. If you need something for outdoor use, rest assured that PETG will last you much longer.
Is PETG More Heat Resistant?
ABS typically gets a slight edge when it comes to temperature resistance. This is because PETG filaments are known to withstand temperatures of around 80°C at most. But ABS, on the other hand, can go all the way up to 100°C.
The margin may be good enough for most every day applications, but it is only ABS that will survive immersion in boiling water. So, if your 3D prints need sterilization, ABS is the way to go. In a nutshell, when it comes to resistance to a higher temperature, ABS will always have a slight upper hand.
Is PETG stronger than PLA?
PETG is a whole lot more flexible as well as ductile when compared to the run-of-the-mill standard ABS, PET, or for that matter, even PLA. In the long run, this effectively means that PETG will always have much greater resistance to any sudden or even long sustained application of force.
It is very simple really. PETG is able to deform very slightly whenever it has to absorb an impact. This property is made PETG very popular for a whole range of applications. Since it is stronger than PLA, it has supplanted it for many applications
Not Prone to Shrinkage
When it comes to 3D filament printing applications both PETG and ABS may both need high-temperature to work. However, their properties are nonetheless miles apart. The benefits of PETG are multifold: It does not easily shrink upon cooling. That is, its shrinkage is noticeably less pronounced, than its ABS or even PLA counterpart.
Apart from that it also boasts of excellent layer adhesion. For many 3D printing applications, this later quality is the winning argument in any other material vs PETG debate.
Thanks to this combination, the overall warping of the 3D object does not become a big issue, in spite of the need for a heated print bed. Here it is pertinent to note that a PETG 3D print does not require a fully enclosed print chamber.
Yes, it is certainly true that PETG is a tad more fragile than ABS. However, it’s layer by layer adhesion more than makes up for this drawback. Apart from that, the overall strength of PETG 3D prints tends to be a bit more isotropic.
This means that it can certainly better handle loads that will always run more perpendicular to the actual direction of the printer layers. As a matter of fact, PETG 3D filaments almost always stick so well to any printer’s bed that experts recommend the use of an adhesion aid to help peel off your prints. Such aids include carton or electric tape or even hairspray.
PETG VS ABS and PLA
In the ABS vs PETG debate, ABS is well-known for being difficult when it comes to filaments for 3D printing. This is precisely why PLA has been able to overtake it. However, when it comes to PLA vs. PETG, the latter is winning out and that in turn ensures that it will rule the roost, in the coming years. Let us see how well these filaments for 3D printing compare to each other.
Warping, Adhesion and Cracking Issues
One of the biggest long-running issues ABS filaments is that they don’t stick to anything. Not even to their own selves. This means that it is crucial to buy a 3D printer that can run a heated bed at temperatures up to and above 100 Celsius. The same holds true for heated chambers as well.
These things can make or mar prints. Almost all poorly heated prints will start warping dramatically. Without the proper heat treatment, they will start deforming and peeling off the whole of the build plate. You might even see visible cracking in-between layers.
PETG on the other hand is much more forgiving in these respects. It does not warp easily and these filaments for 3D prints only require print bed temperatures hovering around 50 to 80 °C. Parts tend to crack only when fan speeds are bit too high and you can easily compensate for this. And what is more, you don’t really need a heated build chamber either.
For PETG, the average suitable temperature is around 90-110 °C (194-230 °F). Neither warping nor dimensional changes occur at these temperatures. At higher temperatures though, PETG will deform gradually, starting from 110 to 170 °C (338 °F).
As stated earlier, ABS requires a whole lot more heat than its PETG counterpart. Apart from multiple and repeated print failures; such high-temperature requirements can be very taxing for your 3D printer.
Here, you would do well to remember that not all printers are able to manage the extreme bed temperatures typically demanded by ABS. Few printers have properly heated build chambers.
ABS also prints at much higher nozzle temperatures, which PEEK-based and PTFE-lined hotends cannot handle. An all-metal hotend, like the E3D V6, is required for printing ABS. There is no such requirement for PETG.
Odor and Particle Emissions
Here again, PETG wins hands down since it is much better from a health perspective. It exudes minimal odors while printing, and it also has low particle emission.
ABS, however, smells much stronger and also has heavy particle emissions. It is a good idea to stay away from the room while an ABS printer is doing its job.
Most hobby-grade 3D printers like the Ender 3 and Ender 5 do not have enclosures, so you would need to ventilate them well if printing ABS.
ABS is a better option for Post-Processing Work
One of the more unique characteristics of ABS is that it is possible to make ABS glue by dissolving this material in patrol based acetone. However, acetone can also be as a smoothening agent for a more uniform ABS print.
This can be achieved via a technique known simply as an acetone vapor bath. It allows for a very consistent as well as smooth finish, to say the least.
It works by exposing the material to the acetone fumes that readily vaporize at average room temperature. If you were to compare this to any other finishing method, you will see that conducting an acetone vapor bath will require considerably less effort but it will still produce exceptional results though.
PETG Is Not Very Hygroscopic
Just about all 3D printing filaments tend to be hygroscopic, and that means that it is possible for them to absorb the ambient moisture present in the air (Irrespective of room temperature).
Between filaments, however, there (used to be and even now) exist many variations and some of them tend to be far more hygroscopic than others. When it comes to ABS vs PETG for 3D printing, it can be asserted that ABS is almost always a bit less prone to the intake of moisture from the atmosphere.
This means that it is not only a whole lot easier to handle but easy to store as well.
ABS has always been considered to be the strong one in the ABS vs PETG debate, but that is not exactly true, even though it has been used for a longer period of time. In fact, in certain cases, it is actually somewhat weaker than PETG.
This holds particularly true when any loads go in a specific direction as far as the layer lines are concerned. This is because ABS usually has a somewhat poorer layer adhesion. (If you want to know more about this topic, you can always leave your name email on various 3D printing forums.)
In its heyday, ABS used to be the strongest material around. However, the appearance of newer and vastly materials has changed the equation. Today, ABS’s strength in most 3D printing applications can be challenged by PETG and other materials.
Price and Availability
PETG is unique because it is available in multiple transparent colors. You can build translucent vases and lamps with it. Something that you can’t with ABS.
However, it is far more expensive for printing than ABS since the latter is available per KG and since it is lighter, a single spool will also last a whole lot more than PETG.
Conclusion: Which One Is Just Right For You?
PETG is both stronger and more durable and it is also available in different shades and transparent colors.
ABS can be considered only if you want to glue and paint your builds; otherwise, PETG is the better one of the two, in most other respects including chemical resistance.