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Plastics & Elastomers

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and its Features

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, often abbreviated as ABS, is an opaque engineering thermoplastic widely used in electronic housings, auto parts, consumer products, pipe fittings, lego toys and many more.

Get detailed technical information about ABS polymer and know more about its key properties, limmitations, applications, processing conditions and much more.
  About  ABS           Key applications            Typical Properties          Suppliers         Brands  
ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. ABS is an impact-resistant engineering thermoplastic & amorphous polymer. ABS is made up of three monomers: acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene:
  • Acrylonitrile: It is a synthetic monomer produced from propylene and ammonia. This component contributes to ABS chemical resistance & heat stability
  • Butadiene: It is produced as a by-product of ethylene production from steam crackers. This component delivers toughness & impact strength to ABS polymer
  • Styrene: It is manufactured by dehydrogenation of ethyl benzene. It provides rigidity & processability to ABS plastic

Monomers of ABS Polymers

  1. How ABS is Made?
  2. Key Properties of ABS Plastic
  3. Limitations of ABS
  4. ABS Blends – Thermoplastic Alloy
  5. Applications of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
  6. ABS Processing Conditions
  7. ABS Properties for 3D Printing
  8. ABS Recycling and Toxicity

How ABS is Made?

ABS is produced by emulsion or continuous mass technique. The chemical formula of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is (C8H8·C4H6·C3H3N)n. The natural material is an opaque ivory color and is readily colored with pigments or dyes.

Molecular Structure of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

Molecular Structure of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

ABS is a strong & durable, chemically resistant resin but gets easily attacked by polar solvents. It offers greater impact properties and slightly higher heat distortion temperature than HIPS.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene has a broad processing window and can be processed on most standard machinery. It can be injection-molded, blow-molded, or extruded. It has a low melting temperature making it particularly suitable for processing by 3D printing on an FDM machine.

ABS falls between standard resins (PVC, polyethylene, polystyrene, and so on) and engineering resins (acrylic, nylon acetal…) and often meets the property requirements at a reasonable price-cost effectiveness.

Key suppliers of ABS plastics include: SABIC, RTP Company, LG Chem, Ineos etc. 3D Printing ABS grades are readily available from 3D Systems, Stratasys, Techmer Engineered Solutions…

» View all ABS grades and suppliers in Omnexus Plastics Database

This plastic database is available to all, free of charge. You can filter down your options by property (mechanical, electrical…), applications, conversion mode and many more dimensions.

Key Properties of ABS Plastic

ABS is an ideal material of choice for various structural applications, thanks to its several physical properties such as:
  • High rigidity
  • Good impact resistance, even at low temperatures
  • Good insulating properties
  • Good weldability
  • Good abrasion and strain resistance
  • High dimensional stability (Mechanically strong and stable over time)
  • High surface brightness and excellent surface aspect

ABS shows excellent mechanical properties i.e. it is hard and tough in nature and thus delivers good impact strength. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene offers a high degree of surface quality. Apart from these characteristics, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene exhibits good electrical insulating properties.

Chemical Properties of ABS

  • Very good resistance to diluted acid and alkalis
  • Moderate resistance to aliphatic hydrocarbons
  • Poor resistance to aromatic hydrocarbons, halogenated Hydrocarbons and alcohols

Mechanical Properties of ABS

Elongation at Break 10 - 50 %
Elongation at Yield 1.7 - 6 %
Flexibility (Flexural Modulus) 1.6 - 2.4 GPa
Hardness Shore D 100
Stiffness (Flexural Modulus) 1.6 - 2.4 GPa
Strength at Break (Tensile) 29.8 - 43 MPa
Strength at Yield (Tensile) 29.6 - 48 MPa
Toughness (Notched Izod Impact at Room Temperature) 200 - 215 J/m
Toughness at Low Temperature (Notched Izod Impact at Low Temperature) 20 - 160 J/m
Young Modulus 1.79 - 3.2 GPa

Electrical Properties of ABS

Arc Resistance 60 - 120 sec
Dielectric Constant 2.7 - 3.2
Dielectric Strength 15.7 - 34 kV/mm
Dissipation Factor 50 - 190 x 10-4
Volume Resistivity 14 - 16 x 1015 Ohm.cm

Check Out Several Other Properties (Physical, Chemical, Fire Performance...) of ABS in Detail!

ABS is readily modified both by the addition of additives and by variation of the ratio of the three monomers Acrylonitrile, Butadiene and Styrene. Heat stabilizers, hydrolysis stabilizers, lubricants, UV stabilizers etc. are being used in non-reinforced and reinforced grades to increase specific material properties.

Hence, grades available include:

  • High and medium impact
  • High heat resistance, and
  • Electroplatable

Fire retardant grades can be obtained either by the inclusion of fire retardant additives or by blending with PVC. In order to increase stiffness, impact resistance and dimensional stability, ABS can be reinforced with fibers, fillers, minerals, etc. It can lead to loss on transparency, yield strength...Learn how to avoid such compromises!

Limitations of ABS

  • Poor weathering resistance
  • Ordinary grades burn easily and continue to burn once the flame is removed
  • Scratches easily
  • Poor solvent resistance, particularly aromatic, ketones and esters
  • Can suffer from stress cracking in the presence of some greases
  • Low dielectric strength
  • Low continuous service temperature

ABS Blends – Thermoplastic Alloy

To overcome some of these limitations, ABS can be readily blended or alloyed with other polymers such as PA, PBT, PC etc. This blending with polymers further increases the range of properties available such as mechanical, thermal... & more. Get instant access commercially available ABS/thermoplastics blends using the link below:

Search Various ABS/Polymer
Search Various ABS/Polymer Blends

And Let’s Discuss ABS/PC Blend in Detail...

ABS/PC is an abbreviated form used for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene/polycarbonate blend. It is a thermoplastic alloy made up of polycarbonate and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. Both of these polymers are widely used on their own and have very specific properties and also drawbacks of their own.

However, when alloyed together they form one of the most widely used industrial amorphous thermoplastics with:

  • Enhanced processability
  • Good flow characteristics, strength, stiffness and,
  • Good heat resistivity 

Furthermore, additives can be added in the blend to improve for example its UV and oxidation stability, fire safety and reinforcing agents such as glass fibers and mineral fillers are added to improve the blend's strength and rigidity.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene/Polycarbonate (ABS/PC) blends are commonly used in commercial and industrial applications such as example automotive, electronics, telecommunication, etc. where hard yet light-weight, heat resistant and easily processed materials are required.

Applications of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

Several properties like high impact strength, heat performance etc. make ABS suitable for use in automotive, home appliances, electronics, building & construction, transportation industries and many more.

Automotive Applications – ABS is the preferred engineering plastic when it comes to dealing with automotive applications. There has been an increasing focus on weight reduction in automotive. Being a great substitute to metals, ABS has been extensively used in manufacturing automotive parts.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene applications in automotive and transportation include:

  • Instrument panels
  • Pillar trim
  • Dashboard components
  • Door liners and handles
  • Seat backs, seat belt components, etc.

Appliances – Used of ABS in appliances include appliance control panels, housings (shavers, vacuum cleaners, food processors), refrigerator liners, etc. Household and consumer goods are the major applications of ABS. Keyboard keycaps are commonly made out of ABS.

ABS for Appliances 

Electrical & Electronics Applications – ABS provides good all-round performance for electronic enclosures, computer keyboards etc.

Electronics Applications of ABS 

Pipes and fittings made from ABS are widely used as they are easier to install and do not rot, rust or corrode. Under proper handling, they withstand earth loads and shipping & can also resist mechanical damage, even at low temperatures.

ABS is further used to make legos, instruments, sports equipment, gardening tools, medical applications include manufacturing nebulizers, compressors and more.

ABS Processing Conditions

Acrylonitrile-butadiene Styrene (ABS) has a broad processing window and can be processed on most standard machinery.

  1. Injection Molding

    1. Pre-drying is not always needed for injection molding with a vented cylinder. In case drying is needed then 4 hours at 80°C is generally sufficient. Signs of moisture are stripes, streaks or bubbles in the molding and if any of these are seen then the material should be pre-dried
    2. Melt temperature: 210-270°C
    3. Mold temperature: of 40-70°C
    4. Material Injection Pressure: 50 - 100 MPa
    5. Injection Speed: Moderate - High

  2. Extrusion

    1. Pre-Drying: 3 hours at 70-80°C
    2. Extrusion temperature: 210 to 240°C
    3. Screw Design: L/D ratio of 25-30 is recommended

ABS Properties for 3D Printing

ABS is one of the most versatile materials available for 3D printing today. ABS comes in the form of a long filament wound around a spool. The 3D Printing process used with ABS is the FDM (Fusion Deposition modelling) process where material is heated and squeezed through a fine nozzle to build your design in 250 micron layers.

ABS for 3D Printing

» View all Commercially Available ABS Grades for 3D Printing

Objects printed with ABS boast slightly higher strength, flexibility, and durability. It is a great material for prototyping and it can be easily machined, sanded, glued and painted.

One of main competitors of 3D Printing ABS is PLA. Unlike ABS, PLA is a renewably derived plastic. It is therefore biodegradable whereas ABS is only biocompatible. However, like many plastic materials, ABS is recyclable.

3D Printing: Comprehensive Review for a Good Start

ABS Recycling and Toxicity

As mentioned above ABS plastic is biocompatible and recyclable material. ABS does not have its own plastic number. Products made with ABS use recycling number #9.

  • ABS is 100% recyclable
  • ABS is non-toxic and harmless
ABS Recycling
It doesn't have any known carcinogens, and there are no known adverse health effects related to exposure to its exposure. It is stable and non-leaching.

Recycled ABS can be blended with virgin material to produce products with lower cost while preserving the high quality.

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