My simple guide for (nearly) perfect ABS printing

Since I started 3D printing, I've spent a lot of time fixing various sorts of issues while printing ABS and I felt like sharing my knowledge, so here is a simple guide to getting almost perfect ABS prints every time.

 

Temperature

I use 240°C for the nozzle and 110°C for bed. You could probably go higher but I don't recommend much lower.

Bed and adhesion

The first thing I noticed on my first ABS print was that it just won't stick to aluminum in any conditions. I tried hot glue, ABS slurry, hairspray, glue sticks and blue tape but none of them worked very well.
I later found salvation in form of kapton tape. You can get a roll for about 20€ on ebay, which is quite expensive for a roll of tape, but the results are just breathtaking. At room temperature, it won't provide any extra adhesion to the ABS, but once it heats up to about 100°C, any ABS printed on it will cling to it like crazy. In fact, on one occasion I found out that if the tension gets too big, the tape will separate from the bed before the print separates from the tape.

 

Thermal expansion

If you've printed with PLA before, you're probably familiar with the concept of cooling your prints. Never cool ABS!

The biggest problem that used to plague my prints was that ABS contracts quite significantly while it cools. On short prints you can mostly get away with it, but on anything longer than 1-2 hours, the material has enough time to cool down and completely ruin the print. This will manifest most significantly in 2 ways:

  a) ​The print will warp and lift from the bed on edges significantly

  b) The print will warp and the individual layers will separate in certain places

The solution to this problem is to keep the ABS warm while it prints, and cool it only after the printing has finished. The best way to achieve this is to build an enclosure for your printer. I've seen some systems for automatic temperature control, but for me, even a passive setup works amazingly, where the heat source for the interior of the enclosure is the heated bed. 

Watch out for damage

If you build an enclosure for your printer, you have to keep in mind that some of the parts of the printer itself might be (and probably are) made from thermoplastics, which can soften after spending some time inside the enclosure. This happened on my printer and certain parts where a lot of force was applied bent a little, and create inaccuracies in further printing. The only way to really solve this is to use materials that will resist the heat inside the enclosure. However, I on my printer I've kind of went around this by changing the design a bit and reduced the load that was applied to the part that deformed. You could also change the design of the part itself to make it more durable in the areas where large forces are applied.

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Thanks for the write-up.

It seems that different people have different solutions for printing with specific materials.

 

I print most types of ABS, like you, at 240º Celsius. However, I do not heat up my printbed as much. My preferred printbed temp for ABS on my glass printbed and 3D Lac spray is just 68º C.  Often, if used to heat it up more, it was then that my prints started to warp on those long 10-15+ hour prints.

That said, in many cases, I substitute ABS with TitanX filament, which is an improved type of ABS with better mechanical properties as well as a very much reduced tendency to warp. (Although even TitanX will warp especially on big prints with high infill).

 

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