Handy 3D printing tips by CREAT3D: ABS & warping

Wednesday, 12 February 2014  |  Sabina Gonzalez-George
Warping image

How can you get the best results from 3D printing in ABS on your CubeX?


3D printing in ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is great because of the structural rigidity the plastic provides, giving sharp definition to your parts. As many consumer and commercial parts today are composed of thermoplastics, prototyping in ABS allows companies and engineers the opportunity to best predict the end performance of the part by using as similar material as possible.


ABS is an ideal material to use for prototypes, models and form, fit and function testing parts. However, ABS’ biggest downside in 3D printing on desktop printers, is that it is prone to warping, particularly if you print larger objects. Here’s our suggestions of how to improve your 3D prints in ABS…


Firstly, do you really need to print it in ABS?!

ABS is good for smaller parts that require finer detail. For example printing a nut & bolt 2-3cm wide by 4-5cm high we would use ABS, but if printing larger, we would use PLA. Due to the FDM printing method and PLA’s strong bonding properties, you get a better result in PLA.


Correct set up…

If it is ABS you want to print in, the most important element is that your CubeX 3D printer is setup correctly, mainly that the print bed is level and the Z-gap is set correctly. If your 3D printer is not set-up correctly, then anything you try to do to stop warping is also fighting against a poor calibration.


Then there’s the glue…

Current Cubify advice, with regards to glue (that’s used to try to stick bottom of the model to the base), is

-       For PLA, use one very thin layer and leave to dry so it becomes tacky

-       For ABS, use 3 thin layers, leave to dry so it becomes tacky

What you don’t want is any gloopy bits of glue, because if the print jet goes through them, it will stop extruding. Other things that you could consider for better adhesion to the print bed is the use Kapton tape or even hairspray!


The first layer…

To give the best chance of the part not warping, you want to make sure that the first layer of the print is laid down correctly. You should set your Z-gap to ensure that the filament is pushed down onto the print bed. You are looking for a line of filament that comes out slightly squashed, rather than being laid down in a tube (like squeezing out toothpaste)


The environment…

The reason why ABS warps and sometimes cracks between layers is inherent in its own properties. One of the main causes is uneven cooling, so it’s best to try to keep as stable temperature as possible. Make sure you keep your lid on your printer during printing and also make sure your CubeX is not situated by any drafts e.g. open door, window or air conditioning to try to maintain a constant temperature.


The finish…

It’s hard to remove warping completely when using ABS, but these are just a few of our experiences to help along the way. And if your printed part does need a little tlc you can always finish it by sanding or painting.


Back to News >