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Comparison ABS vs. PLA

Made from Petroleum based Plant based (generally corn, soy beans, etc.)
Key features Harder and more impact resistant, hence often used for mechanical parts or parts to be exposed to the elements. In general, easier to print.
Smell Some report a bad plastic smell with ABS but even with traditional 3D printers it is less noxious than a permanent marker. PLA is reputed as having more of a corn-like/sweet smell.
Hardness Hard, impact resistant and tough, and has a decent flex or "bend" to it. Hard, but more brittle than ABS when bent. More likely to snap when bent/flexed.
Heat settings 210°C - 250°C 175°C - 220°C
Usage Heated build platform recommended. Heated build platform not required.
Post processing Can be cut, filed, or glued. Acetone can be used to render its surface smooth and shiny. Can be cut, filed, or glued. Doesn't work with Acetone.
Vulnerabilities Less vulnerable to degradation due to moisture and sunlight, as well as over-heating in processing. Generally more stable and more resistant to chemicals. Vulnerable to degradation due to moisture and sunlight, as well as over-heating in processing. It can droop if it gets too hot.
Appearance Generally glossy, but very varied Options for various translucencies
Environment & Recycling Classed under recycling Number 7, which means that although it can be recycled, many local recycling programs do not accept ABS. Some programs do now take ABS, with Number 7 materials generally being recycled into plastic lumber and other. PLA is a bio-plastic, which means it degrades, but outside of an industrial composting facility, it does so very slowly. Options for recycling and commercial composting do exist, they just require a little extra effort on the part of the consumer.
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