About ABS Plastics & Machining

Lower cost, easy-to-machine material ideal for prototyping

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) may be the perfect material if you're looking for a reduced cost, readily available, impact-resistant plastic that is relatively easy to machine. Ideal for prototypes, ABS is also a great thermoplastic selection for structural applications and load bearing surfaces.

As a copolymer, it's made up of 3 components:

  1. Acrylonitrile, which provides chemical resistance and heat stability.
  2. Butadiene, which imparts toughness and impact resistance.
  3. Styrene, which contributes to rigidity, ease of processing, and a glossy finish.

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More about ABS Plastic Material & Machining

Key Facts About ABS

  • Good impact strength
  • Solid rigidity
  • Easy to machine
  • Lightweight
  • Cost efficient
  • Great for prototypes
  • Resistant to water, phosphorus and hydrochloric acids
black ABS machine manifold

Properties & Characteristics

ABS plastic is a low-cost engineering plastic that is easy to machine and fabricate and is available in either off-white or black stock shapes.

ABS also has a more moderate heat resistance. It can withstand temperatures between 80-90°C (176-194°F) without harm to its form. Often times, this makes it a viable choice for electronics, various consumer goods, and automotive. Some even choose this material in construction.

When it comes to chemical resistance, ABS is able to endure several chemicals and retain its integrity. However, if exposed to certain solvents, its structure can degrade and become less reliable. For a graded list of which, please visit our chart.

Lego pieces ABS plastic

Typical Applications, Processing, & Recyclability

While different appliances have different requirements, ABS can meet most while still being cost effective. Most applications in the automotive industry use ABS due to the above properties and its flexibility. It can also be easily molded, extruded, and even 3D printed with various colors to fit most required functions while still maintaining design.

Additionally, this material is often used in prototyping also due to its receptiveness of paint and glue. If the first one doesn't work out, manufacturers can usually recycle ABS, depending on local regulations and guidelines.

Typical ABS applications include:

  • Prototyping, especially for 3D printing
  • Enclosure components (typical for electrical housings)
  • Structural components (typical for automotive and construction)
  • Toys and other consumer applications

Limitations & Considerations

ABS can undergo warping or shrinkage during cooling, which most designers and engineers can manage with proper design and printing techniques, especially in 3D printing applications.

Designers have also explored other materials that compete fairly well with ABS. PLA (Polylactic Acid) and PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) are other options that designers can use instead of ABS based on which properties they need in their thermoplastic materials and use cases.

Is ABS fit your project?

Reach out today for a free, no obligation quote!