Decoding 3D Prints: Distinguishing PLA, ABS, and PETG Materials

Hello technology enthusiasts! I’m Carolina, and my lifelong mission is to unravel the intricate world of technology and share my discoveries with you. Buckle up, because we’re diving deep into the fascinating realm of 3D printing filaments today.


Differentiating PLA, ABS & PETG
Ever scratched your head trying to differentiate between PLA, ABS, and PETG filaments? Happens to the best of us! Let’s unravel the mystery together.

Filament confusion, especially with unlabeled spools, can be quite common. But here’s the golden tip: sniff your way out of it! ABS tends to release a potent aroma when heated. But what about PLA and PETG? Well, PLA prints at a cooler temperature (around 200°C) and is notably more fragile. Bend it, and it’s prone to snap!

Stay with me, and let’s dissect this further.

Identifying PLA, ABS, or PETG
The aroma is one of the most telling features. Many liken PLA’s scent to a blend of sugar and popcorn! On the contrary, ABS has a more acrid, burning scent. As for PETG? Mostly odorless!

And here’s another trick for ABS identification: the acetone test! ABS is known to dissolve in acetone, a principal ingredient in the “ABS Slurry” adhesive. If your filament dissolves swiftly in acetone, it’s ABS! Though, a heads-up, some PLAs might dissolve slightly, but at a much slower rate.

Printing Temperatures
To decode the filament based on temperature, keep this in mind: PLA ranges between 190-220°C. ABS swings between 230-260°C, and PETG is set at 230-250°C. If you can print efficiently around 200°C, you’re probably handling PLA. Anything around 240C? That’s ABS or PETG territory.

But remember, while PLA might be the popular kid in the filament world, appearance alone won’t help you identify it. Let’s dive deeper.

Deciphering PLA vs. ABS
PLA’s low melting point compared to ABS is distinct. When exposed to ABS’s required heat, if your filament melts instantly, it’s PLA! Additionally, PLA’s rigid nature means it’ll fracture quickly upon bending, whereas ABS tends to pale and stretch before breaking.

Touch the filament! PLA is smoother and boasts a glossier finish with more vivid hues. In contrast, ABS leans toward a matte texture. The acetone wipe test? If it smears or color transfers onto a paper towel, that’s ABS you’re holding.

Distinguishing PLA from PETG
While PETG remains elusive to our olfactory senses, the temperature test stands strong. Set your 3D printer to around 200°C. If the extrusion isn’t flowing well, you’ve likely got PETG.

On burning the filament, if it emits minimal fumes, PETG is the likely suspect. ABS, with its dominant chemical odor, is more conspicuous. Drop some filament into acetone; dissolved means ABS, and undissolved signifies PETG.

Best for 3D Printing: PLA, ABS, or PETG?
There’s no one-size-fits-all. Each filament has its realm of excellence. New to 3D printing? PLA, with its easy printing and myriad hues, might be your best bet. If strength and heat resistance are priorities, ABS steps up. And for a balanced blend of both PLA and ABS properties, PETG reigns supreme!

Still with me? Good! Let’s continue this exploration and conquer the world of 3D printing together. Onward and upward!