How to 3D Print ABS on an Ender 3 & 3D Printers


ABS is a low-cost material that is ideal for printing robust and durable parts that can withstand high temperatures, but it can be tricky to 3D print. Some people wonder how they can successfully 3D print ABS on an Ender 3, so I decided to write this article detailing how to do this.

Keep on reading for more information about how to 3D print ABS on Ender 3.

How to 3D Print ABS on Ender 3

Here’s how to 3D print ABS on an Ender 3:

  1. Set Printing Temperature
  2. Set Good Bed Temperature
  3. Retraction Settings – Distance & Speed
  4. Use an Enclosure
  5. Dry the Filament
  6. Use Filament Storage
  7. First Layer Settings
  8. Use Adhesive Products

Check out this video for a detailed explanation of how to 3D print ABS on an Ender 3.

1. Set Printing Temperature

When it comes to 3D printing ABS filament, you’ll want to set your printing temperature to a good value. The optimal temperature will depend on what brand of filament you are using, as well as your 3D printer setup and environment.

The temperature range for ABS runs between around 210-270°C.

One user might find that they get the best results with a printing temperature of 225°C, while another user gets the best results at 240°C. The best way to determine this is to 3D print a Temperature Tower.

This is basically a model that has multiple blocks, where you can run a script to automatically change temperatures throughout the model.

Check out the video below to see how to 3D print a Temperature Tower in Cura. It’s easy in Cura because there is an in-built Temperature Tower and script that you can run.

If you use another slicer, you can download this Smart Compact Temperature Calibration Tower from Thingiverse and create your own script.

Here are some brands of ABS filament and the recommended temperatures from the manufacturer:

Printing ABS at lower temperatures can cause parts to lose their strength, though it can help with better quality in some cases.

The hotend on an Ender 3 shouldn’t go above 240°C because of the stock PTFE tube. If you upgrade your PTFE tube, and ideally the hotend, you can print at those higher temperatures.

2. Set Good Bed Temperature

Setting a good bed temperature is a little simpler than setting the printing temperature, though still important. A good bed temperature is what gets the ABS filament to adhere to the bed properly.

The bed temperature range for ABS usually falls between 75-105°C.

Here’s the temperature range for some brands of ABS:

  • Polymaker ABS – 90°C
  • HATCHBOX ABS – 80-100°C
  • SUNLU ABS – 80-120°C

Some users have had good results with setting their bed temperature to 100-110°C for the first layer, then lowering it to 85°C after that. You can do that by setting your bed temperature to 85°C, then adjusting the Build Plate Temperature Initial Layer setting in Cura.

Other users said they have had more success using temperatures of 100-110°C, so do some of your own testing with the brand of ABS you have.

3. Retraction Settings – Distance & Speed

You also want to dial in your retraction settings such as retraction distance and retraction speed for 3D printing ABS. For the Ender 3, people usually use values such as 5mm for the retraction distance and 45mm/s for the retraction speed which is the default in Cura.

It’s a better idea to do some retraction tests for your 3D printer.

Check out the video below by CHEP to tune up your retraction settings in Cura.

4. Use an Enclosure

ABS is a filament that has a higher melting point, meaning the temperature difference between the environment and the material can create significant shrinking. This is what causes a lot of failures in the form of warping.

One user mentioned that printing with ABS is not necessary, but it is very helpful when 3D printing ABS on an Ender 3. When you use an enclosure, you are able to have a better control of the environment, leading to better printing quality and success.

The biggest factor is probably the air currents that flow through, which lowers the temperature of the ABS.

Another benefit of using an enclosure is to protect yourself and others against the toxic fumes of ABS. Ideally, you want to ventilate the enclosure with a fan and vent to the outdoors for the best safety.

Avoid printing ABS in spaces next to where you occupy.

Another user shared his experience of using enclosure to print on any day, regardless of the weather. On chilly days, he found it challenging to print effectively. By using an enclosure, he pre-heats the build plate for some time to increase the temperature of the enclosure.

This led to improvements in his printing quality and success.

Here are some affordable enclosures you can use from Amazon:

5. Dry Your Filament

Once you’ve figured out the correct storage methods, learning to dry your filaments properly is a good idea. ABS can be dried using a filament dryer machine to improve the printing quality.

Here are some great filament dryers that work for drying ABS:

It’s possible to dry your filament in an oven, but most ovens aren’t calibrated for using the lower temperatures that filament requires. This means it could end up softening your filament enough to make it adhere together, and ruin the whole spool.

6. Use Filament Storage

Proper storage of your ABS filament is important to get the best printing results. Most filaments are hygroscopic which means it can absorb moisture from the environment.

When your ABS filament is not in use, make sure to store it in an airtight environment, ideally with desiccants like silica gel to keep the air dry.

Many users have noticed the difference between their print quality when their filament is properly stored, versus left out to absorb moisture.

You can store your ABS filament in a plastic container, or use individual vacuum bags. I’d recommend going with something like the Ataraxia Art 3D Printer Filament Storage Bags from Amazon.

 

7. First Layer Settings

As you may know, the first layer for your prints is the most important, and we can improve it by using better first layer settings. ABS prints can have trouble adhering to the bed if your first layer settings aren’t optimized.

I’d recommend tuning your first layer settings such as:

  • Initial Layer Height
  • Initial Layer Print Speed
  • Initial Printing Temperature
  • Build Plate Temperature Initial Layer
  • Initial Layer Line Width
  • Initial Layer Flow

Tuning just a few of these settings can significantly improve how well your first layer adheres. You may just need to pick 1 or 2 of these settings to adjust, then run some simple experiments to see if it works.

Making sure your bed is properly leveled is the most significant factor, but after that, you can adjust some first layer settings.

CHEP made a useful video on fixing the first layers on your 3D prints.

 

8. Use Adhesive Products

I always recommend users to start implementing adhesive products on their bed surface if they aren’t already. These are cheap and practical solutions to getting your first layers to adhere to the bed much stronger.

In terms of the best value for money, I’d recommend going with the Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Sticks from Amazon. I’ve used these plenty of times and they work really well.

You simply just rub it on your bed surface and it dries clear so you can’t see it afterwards. When you do remove the model, you’ll see an outline of the model in a white color, but you can spritz it with water to remove it if you want.

Your 3D printing success rate should significantly improve when using this for ABS on your Ender 3.

You can also go with Magigoo All-in-One 3D Printer Adhesive Glue from Amazon.

Here is a list of some practical adhesive products that are highly appreciated.

One user said that he liked using ABS juice better than glue sticks or hairspray. It gave him much better results for 3D printing ABS on Ender 3.

The video below shows you how well ABS bed adhesion is by using ABS Juice, made by dissolving pieces of ABS in acetone.

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