We’re beginning to notice a significant trend. When looking at new emerging personal 3D printers we are seeing fewer that offer ABS plastic as an option as a 3D printing material.
ABS was among the very first materials used by historic personal 3D printers, as it was commonly available due to its heavy use in large-scale manufacturing. It made sense at the time.
However over time problems persisted. The main issue is, of course, thermal warping. ABS has the peculiar characteristic of shrinking around 8% in each dimension as it cools from melt temperature. This results in not only scale issues (“Hey, why doesn’t fit together?”) but also failed prints (“My object keeps popping off the print bed!”)
The solution is to heat the print operation and cool it down gently all at once when the printing is completed. But most manufacturers cannot do that because the heated chamber method is patented by Stratasys.
So what do 3D printer makers do? They offer alternative plastics, like PLA, which don’t warp nearly as much and can often be successfully 3D printed in room temperature air. PLA smells much nicer when printing, too.
But there’s another insidious problem with ABS: fumes. If you’ve ever 3D printed in ABS you’ll know what we mean. ABS fumes are supposedly not toxic, but they are definitely unpleasant, particularly in a closed room such as most personal 3D printers are being installed within these days.
We’ve found personal 3D printer manufacturers shying away from ABS for the warp problem, but now we’ve seen at least one vendor who’s officially dropping support of ABS plastic due to fumes. While this manufacturer has included an air filter in their device, it just doesn’t do the job.
We suspect manufacturers may be positioning against future lawsuits from consumers claiming damages from “toxic” ABS fumes. If you don’t support ABS, you won’t get sued.