PETG and ABS are two popular materials used in 3D printing that have excellent heat resistance and durability. While PETG is an excellent choice for easier printing and strong parts, ABS is a hobbyist favorite for its easy post-processing.
Once you’ve mastered using lower melting point 3D printing filaments like PLA, you may want to start using more resilient materials like ABS and PETG. Both are great options when your parts need resistance to high temperatures, but they have very different characteristics and uses overall. When deciding between the two materials, you’ll need to decide which thermoplastic best suits your project’s needs.
In this article, we’ll look at how the differences between PETG vs ABS 3D printing filaments affect your prints, the pros and cons of both materials, what types of projects are best suited for which filament, and the basic print settings needed for both materials.
What are PETG and ABS?
PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol) is a common thermoplastic that has gained popularity as a multipurpose 3D printing material due to its durability and ease of use. PET plastics are commonly used for beverage bottles, utensils, and product packaging. PET itself is quite brittle when 3D printed, so filament makers add glycol (G) to improve its flexibility and performance.
ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is a petroleum-based thermoplastic popular for 3D printing thanks to its high temperature tolerance and chemical interactions with solvents like acetone. It is often used in injection molding, car interior parts, product housings and parts, and more.
|Nozzle Temperature||210°C – 250°C||220°C – 250°C|
|Bed Temperature||70°C – 80°C||90°C – 100°C|
|Strength||Good tensile and impact strength||Low tensile strength, good impact resistance|
|Glass Transition Temperature||80°C – 85°C||105°C|
|Approx. Price Per KG||$30||$25|
Comparing ABS vs PETG
In terms of strength, PETG has a stronger tensile strength in comparison to ABS. PETG has excellent layer adhesion (which makes it less likely to break apart where the layers come together once mechanical stress is added).
PETG has a tensile strength of around 7000 PSI, while ABS has just under 6000. PETG typically rates better for impact resistance with a 238, 178, and 35 on the notched IZOD impact test, while ABS only scored 128, 149, and 55. In short, this means that PETG can better withstand being dropped or hit without shattering.
ABS has better temperature resistance than PETG, since ABS can withstand temperatures up to 100°C, while PETG only has a temperature resistance of up to 80-85°C. In reality, this difference isn’t overly significant. Both are a significant improvement over PLA. Unless the temperature is going to be a large factor in your finished print, PETG will almost always be the strongest filament option of the bunch.
Situations in which ABS’ slight temperature advantage is most useful are in cases where the print will need to be sanitized since ABS’s softening temperature of 100°C means it can withstand a dip into boiling water.
When comparing PETG vs ABS filament, ABS prints shrink more during the cooling process than PETG prints. Shrinkage not only contributes to poor adhesion to the build plate, but it also affects the dimensional accuracy of your finished 3D prints (how close your physical part is in size and shape to the original 3D model).
Dimensional accuracy is more important in parts where it needs to be a specific size and shape to fit onto other objects or parts. Replacement parts for a machine may need accurate sizing so the part fits and moves together with the rest of the machine.
You can account for shrinkage and loss of material during post-processing during the design phase to ensure a clean fit, but it is usually much easier to just reduce shrinkage in the first place by using the right material. PETG is the clear winner here.
Compared to ABS, PETG has increased UV resistance. This makes it good for outdoor use or other environments that will lead to prolonged sun exposure. However, it’s important to remember that even the best PETG filament is more hygroscopic than ABS, so it will absorb more water from rain or humidity and degrade from that over time.
Print speeds and settings for ABS and PETG are about the same, so neither material has an advantage here.
While both filaments require much higher nozzle temperatures than, say, PLA, ABS has higher temperature requirements than PETG. ABS has a typical temperature range of 220-250°C, but it can require up to 270°C depending on the brand. PETG’s temperature range is 210-250°C, though most brands usually don’t require higher than 230°C.
ABS’ higher print temperature makes it harder to print with, but it does result in ABS’ higher temperature resistance. Be sure to check the printer’s manual or specific filament packaging to find out what the recommended print temperature is for your chosen ABS or PETG filament.
Both ABS and PETG filament require a heated print bed to print properly. PETG usually prints well with a bed temperature around 70-80°C, while ABS needs 90-100°C to stick to the print bed.
ABS has poorer layer adhesion than PETG and is prone to warping off the bed if the build plate and nozzle can’t keep the high temperatures needed for ABS filaments. Adding a DIY 3D printer enclosure or using an enclosed 3D printer is the best way to ensure the build area stays up to temperature consistently without drafts.
Fumes and Smells
ABS has a much stronger odor than PETG filaments while printing and has greater particle emission. While it is best practice to enclose your 3D printer and ventilate 3D printing fumes outside with all materials, it is especially important when using ABS.
ABS produces irritating and harmful odors that can not only disrupt your living spaces but also cause respiratory issues and other health concerns over time. You shouldn’t stay in the same room while printing ABS and you should let the fumes clear out before reentering if you aren’t using an exhaust hood or other ventilation system to clear them during the printing process.
Moisture Absorption and Storage
While both PETG and ABS are hygroscopic (meaning they absorb water), PETG is far more moisture sensitive than ABS. Not only does PETG take on a lot of moisture (even through humidity in the air), water can degrade the material over time.
Both materials should be stored in a filament dry box to avoid moisture absorption and should be dried in a filament dryer or dehydrator before use (or whenever there has been a potential exposure to water or humidity.
ABS is the winner for post-processing against most 3D printing materials, and PETG is no exception. PETG has a higher chemical resistance than ABS, so it has fewer possible smoothing agents than ABS and does not bond well with most paints and adhesives.
PETG also doesn’t sand as easily as other printing materials like PLA, so it is hard to manually smooth as well. PETG is generally not the best material for projects that need a lot of post-processing work like 3D printed helmets, 3D printed armor, props, or mechanical parts and prototypes that need a smooth outer surface.
ABS is a solvent-based material, which means it melts in the presence of other solvents like acetone. This makes it easy to remove layer lines from ABS prints through acetone vapor baths or cold smoothing. You can also glue ABS prints together using a process called solvent welding.
In solvent welding, the outer layers of parts are melted with a thin application of acetone and harden into a single layer when pressed together. ABS also paints beautifully, making it one of the preferred materials for decorative items, costumes, and props.
Both materials have an excellent variety of available colors. ABS is usually an opaque material, while PETG is transparent (though some ABS brands like Hatchbox also have some transparent options). Since ABS paints well, it’s easy to cover the original filament color to match your desired shade without needing to keep several colors on hand. PETG, on the other hand, is difficult to paint, so you are more limited to the filament shades you have in stock.
The cost of filament can vary depending on the brand, but in general, ABS is cheaper than PETG. This is due to the lower cost of production for ABS and the higher demand (since it’s been used in 3D printing for longer).
ABS filament averages $25 per kg spool, while PETG is usually around $30.
Choosing Between PETG vs ABS
When to Use PETG
PETG is an excellent multifunction 3D printing filament. With its high tensile strength, impact resistance, and flexibility, PETG is a great option for functional parts that need a high tolerance for mechanical stress. Its heat and UV radiation resistance make it suitable for prints for outdoor use.
It is easier to print with than ABS thanks to better bed and layer adhesion, lower print temperatures, and less shrinkage and warping, so it is a good option for users who want better printability than ABS for everyday prints but want something more durable than standard PLA.
Something to note here is that PETG does have a tendency to string when your 3D print settings are not dialed in correctly. We have a dedicated article on PETG stringing that you can use if you run into this problem.
PETG is not ideal for projects that require a lot of post-processing, since it doesn’t sand, glue, paint, or smooth as easily as other 3D printing materials.
Recommended PETG filament
Polymaker PETG is our go-to brand for PETG. It has a great selection of colors, is made from high-quality raw materials, and has excellent tolerances for an easy and accurate printing experience.
When to Use ABS
ABS is a great heat resistant material that is easy to smooth and post-process. You should choose ABS filament for projects that need to be smoothed, glued, or painted (especially large ones that will take a lot of time to sand by hand). ABS is also ideal for projects that will be exposed to very high temperatures or that need to be sanitized with hot water or steam.
ABS filaments are hard to print with. They require high nozzle temperatures, a heated print bed, and an enclosed print chamber to keep the print area at a consistent temperature that not all printers will be able to maintain. This makes ABS parts susceptible to temperature-related print defects like poor layer adhesion and warping.
Recommended ABS filament
Our favorite brand of ABS filament is Hatchbox. They have a huge variety of available colors, a low price point of around $20 per kg roll, and great tolerances at +/- 0.03mm. It comes in both popular diameter sizes of 1.75mm and 2.85mm, so it is compatible with most printers. It also prints a little cooler than typical, with a recommended nozzle temperature between 210°C and 240°C. This makes it easier for most printers to reach and maintain the correct temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is ABS better than PETG?
Comparing PETG vs ABS, there is no easy answer to which one is better. It depends on a variety of factors, such as the specific 3D printing application. Some people might prefer ABS because it is easier to print with and has higher heat resistance. Others might prefer PETG because it is more durable. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide which material is best for their needs.
Is PETG more flexible than ABS?
PETG is more flexible than ABS because it is made of softer polymer plastic. This makes it easier to print without warping and provides more elasticity that is resistant to fracturing. However, PETG is also more sensitive to higher temperatures, so it may not be the best choice for prints that require a lot of heat.
Will PETG melt in a car?
PETG will not melt in a car. However, it may become soft and deform if exposed to extremely high temperatures. PETG is known to have a glass transition temperature of around 85°C. This means that it can become soft and pliable above this temperature. So, if you’re leaving your PETG print in a hot car, it’s possible that it may warp or deform.
Is PETG toxic like ABS?
PETG is not classified as a toxic material, and it does not release harmful fumes when heated. However, it is recommended that you work in a well-ventilated area when using this filament, as some people may experience respiratory irritation from the fumes.
PETG and ABS are both good choices for high-temperature 3D printing filaments, but they both have their benefits and disadvantages. When comparing PETG vs ABS, PETG filaments have a clear upper hand over ABS in terms of strength, printability, and fumes and particle emissions.
However, PETG struggles with projects that require post-processing and moisture resistance. ABS has a slight advantage with temperature resistance and it is one of the easiest filaments to post-process. On the other hand, it is difficult to print with, has noticeably more fumes and VOCs, and has poor UV radiation resistance.
Overall, PETG is a great filament for making strong prints without the hassle of ABS, while ABS excels at making quick work of creating smooth and beautiful prints. We recommend using PETG whenever you can and saving ABS for the times when you either need an extra bit of high-temperature tolerance or when you have a large batch of prints that need post-processing.
Do you still have questions about PETG vs ABS filaments? Let us know in the comments!