ABS vs. PETG: Differences and Comparison
Learn about the differences between these two materials used in 3D printing.
ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified) are thermoplastics used in 3D printing. These materials can handle significant stress and strain. Although ABS and PETG have similarities, their material properties, cost, and applications make them very distinct. ABS is far less hygroscopic than PETG. PETG filament easily deteriorates when left out, so it must be properly stored. Of the two, ABS is cheaper, more readily available, and on the whole, more popular. Depending on the brand, a one-kilogram spool of ABS goes for about $20 while the same amount of PETG costs $30.
One unusual advantage of ABS is that it maintains its shape and does not deform under machining processes. PETG’s biggest advantage, on the other hand, is its versatile nature.
This article will compare ABS vs. PETG, explore their advantages and disadvantages, and list a few alternatives.
ABS is a styrene-acrylonitrile copolymer whose properties have been altered by the introduction of butadiene rubber. It is a multipurpose thermoplastic that finds relevance in many manufacturing processes, including in 3D printing. ABS is notable for being recyclable, durable, and malleable at a specified temperature. It combines the attributes of its components as described below:
- Acrylonitrile is resistant to heat and chemical reactions and also offers age stability.
- Butadiene helps it maintain its shape, toughness, and impact resistance.
- Styrene helps ABS hold up during processing.
ABS was first used to manufacture bullet-proof plastic sheets in the mid-1940s. It was patented in 1948 and commercialized in 1954 by the Borg-Warner Corporation. ABS is used in various high-strength applications including pipes, keyboard keys, fittings, vacuum cleaners, toy bricks, helmets, and wall socket faceplates.
ABS is preferred to PETG for several reasons. An ABS filament will not melt or stick to itself until its temperature surpasses 100 °C. Unfortunately, if the printer doesn’t reach that temperature, the print will warp or twist out of shape. This is detrimental to the build plate, which may peel off or crack as a result. PETG, on the other hand, requires a lower temperature (in the 50 °C to 80 °C range). In this case, warping is far less likely, but bed adhesion is a big issue. This can be solved by coating the build plate with a release agent like hairspray or glue from a glue stick.
Any piece that needs refurbishing or machining will be better off if it is made of ABS. Additionally, it is difficult to dye or paint PETG because many adhesives do not bond well with it. ABS, meanwhile, is excellent for post-processing. The filament can be dyed or the final part painted in any color.
For more information, see our guide on What is ABS.
Below are some advantages of ABS compared to PETG:
- ABS responds better to post-processing than PETG. It can be painted, machined, and reworked.
- The availability and low production cost of ABS make it more cost-effective compared to PETG.
- ABS is suitable for high-temperature applications. PETG starts to deform at bed temperatures of 80°C or more.
- ABS is less susceptible to moisture in the air than PETG. If PETG is not properly stored, it will deteriorate.
Below are some of the disadvantages of ABS compared to PETG:
- ABS reacts negatively to UV radiation. PETG, on the other hand, fares well in sunlight.
- ABS has poor adhesive properties compared to PETG.
- ABS is less resistant to chemical changes than PETG.
PETG is a tough copolyester thermoplastic material. It was created by modifying the glycol molecule found in PET, or polyethylene terephthalate. PET is naturally very tough and the addition of glycol makes it less brittle. PETG is best for household uses such as kitchen utensils, dishes, and drink containers. This is because of its natural resistance to impact, humidity, and heat. When sufficient heat is applied, it can be molded into a defined shape. PETG is also a popular material choice in the production of transparent materials such as water bottles. It is non-toxic and commonly used in the food industry.
A differentiating factor between PETG vs. ABS is the odor that is released during the printing process. PETG emits fewer particles and thus creates a milder odor. ABS, on the other hand, needs a properly ventilated enclosure during the printing process. PETG also strongly resists deformation and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. As such, it is a viable option for parts intended for outdoor use. ABS, by contrast, is photosensitive, so the sun’s UV rays weaken its chemical structure.
To learn more, see our guide on What is PETG.
Here are some of the advantages that PETG has over ABS:
- PETG has better chemical-resistant properties than ABS. It fares well in both alkaline and acidic environments.
- Due to PETG's good layer adhesion, it is less prone to warping than ABS.
- PETG is considered to be the best filament for the production of transparent objects. It gets its color from additives. ABS, on the other hand, is not naturally clear and requires special treatment to make it so.
- PETG handles UV light much better than ABS.
The disadvantages of PETG compared to ABS are:
- PETG is generally more expensive than ABS. A one-kilogram spool of PETG costs about $30 while the same amount of ABS costs about $20.
- PETG is more hygroscopic than ABS. If not properly stored, its affinity for moisture will cause it to degrade with time.
- PETG is difficult to paint. Its adhesion qualities are far weaker than those of ABS.
Reacts negatively to UV light
Low cost of production
Excellent layer adhesion
Difficult to paint
Table 1. ABS vs. PETG Comparison
Both ABS and PETG are recyclable. PETG beats ABS in terms of chemical resistance. PETG can withstand the influence of alkaline and acidic environments.
ABS is often used in parts that must withstand relatively high temperatures (up to about 100 °C). For this reason, it sees use in microwave ovens, pot handles, and rice cookers, among others. PETG, meanwhile, has an upper-temperature limit of 50 °C to 80 °C.
Printed PETG parts can reach higher levels of accuracy compared to ABS. The dimensions of ABS parts change slightly while they cool. This makes ABS unfit for 3D printing projects with stringent dimensional specifications.
The recommended printing speed for ABS falls between 30-70 mm/s. PETG can reasonably handle a printing speed of 60-100 mm/s. However, if the 3D printer is stable and properly tuned, it can print at the upper-speed limit without any adverse effects. Based on these recommended speed ranges, it is safe to say that PETG parts can be printed faster.
Surface adhesion is a measure of the material’s tendency to stick to other materials. ABS surfaces do not stick well to the printer’s build surface while PETG sticks extremely well.
ABS is better suited than PETG to hot environments. If the bedding temperature exceeds your specific filament's limit (between 50 and 80 °C for PETG), it will have a negative impact.
Biodegradability refers to the ease with which a material breaks down under natural conditions (without any extra human input). Although sunlight harms ABS’s physical properties and moisture degrades PETG’s internal chemistry, they both persist beyond that degradation. Neither material can be considered biodegradable.
ABS releases strong, potentially toxic fumes while printing. It must be properly ventilated during the print. The fumes produced by PETG are not as bad as those generated by ABS but nonetheless should still be avoided if possible.
Because ABS is cheaper, it is typically preferred to PETG.
Two mutual alternatives to ABS and PETG are:
Both are all used in fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers and have relatively good impact resistance similar to ABS and PETG.
The list below denotes the similarities between ABS and PETG:
- Both are non-biodegradable.
- They are both susceptible to moisture (though to different degrees).
- Both are used in printers that print at high temperatures.
- ABS and PETG are both recyclable.
Other similar materials to ABS are:
- ABS vs. PLA: ABS is weaker and less stiff than PLA (polylactic acid). But the poor heat resistance of PLA makes it most suitable for hobbyist projects. ABS is 25% lighter and has greater durability. It also exhibits about four times the impact resistance. For more information, see our guide on the PLA vs. ABS.
- ABS vs. ASA: Both ABS and ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene-Acrylate), are used in high-strength applications. ASA is more expensive than ABS. The properties offered by ASA are superior, however, whether it has to do with the impact resistance, toughness, reaction to UV radiation, or ease of use.
Other comparisons for PETG besides ABS are:
- PETG vs. PET: PETG was created by replacing the glycol molecule in PET with a larger monomer. PETG has better shock resistance and can handle higher temperatures than its predecessor. Whereas PET has a higher working temperature and remains more rigid, PETG has better impact resistance and flexibility characteristics.
- PETG vs. TPU: PETG is tougher but less flexible than TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). TPU can adhere to cooler printing beds than PETG. The bed temperature should be somewhere between 40 °C and 60 °C. PETG, on the other hand, needs about 60 °C to 80 °C.
This article compared ABS vs. PETG as a material for use in 3D printing applications. To learn more about the differences and similarities between ABS vs. PETG and how these can be applied to your products, contact a Xometry Representative for guidance and expert advice.
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