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ASA ASAP

3D Printing ASA: Best Practices for Optimal Prints

Picture of Lucas Carolo
by Lucas Carolo
Mar 11, 2020
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3D printing with ASA combines several resistances with great mechanical robustness. Follow these tips to improve your ASA 3D prints.

3D Printing ASA

Why ASA?

An external outlet socket made of ASA
An external outlet socket made of ASA (Source: Stratasys)

Acrylonitrile styrene acrylate, also known as ASA, is an engineering thermoplastic with a similar molecular structure to the very popular and commonly used acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a.k.a. ABS. ASA is known for its high impact and good chemical resistance. It can handle high temperatures (softening at 105 °C) and great dimensional stability.

Compared to ABS, ASA is UV-stable and maintains its appearance and resistance even after long exposure to sunlight and water. It’s in many common products including auto parts (bumper covers and side mirror housings), gutter and drain pipes, and outdoor furniture.

In the following, we’ll take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of ASA before moving on to what’s necessary to print with the material, considering both hardware and software aspects.

If you already have a design in mind and you simply need it to be printed in ASA, consider using a 3D printing service. With Craftcloud, the 3D printing and price comparison service from All3DP, you’ll instantly find the best price and provider based on your models and location. And the best part is, there are no added fees!

Still here? Then let’s talk ASA.

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3D Printing ASA

Pros & Cons

Because of its UV resistance, ASA is a good candidate for car dashboard cupholders
Because of its UV resistance, ASA is a good candidate for car dashboard cupholders (Source: Fillamentum)

While PLA is perhaps the most-consumed material for FDM 3D printing, ABS is frequently used for high resistance applications like functional or outdoor parts. Unfortunately, it has a few drawbacks with regards to printability that are also seen in ASA due to their shared heritage. Most of these drawbacks are less present in ASA, though, making this material a bit easier to print.

Pros

  • UV stable (great for outdoors)
  • Tough and durable
  • High impact and temperature resistance
  • Great resistance to chemicals and water
  • Good overall finish
  • Soluble in acetone (for gluing and smoothing)

Cons

  • Requires higher extruder and bed temperatures
  • Prone to warping, cracking, and shrinking during 3D printing
  • Potentially dangerous fumes
  • Expensive

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3D Printing ASA

Hardware Requirements

An all-metal hot end for higher temperatures is required for ASA
An all-metal hot end for higher temperatures is required for ASA (Source: Amazon)

Before even considering using ASA, make sure your 3D printer meets the following hardware requirements. This will definitely save you a headache in the future.

  • Heated bed: This is mandatory. ASA is prone to shrinking and cracking due to the temperature difference between the nozzle and the surrounding air. The thermal deformation caused by this disparity creates internal tensions that potentially lead to problems during the printing process.
  • Build surface: Proper bed adhesion is essential for ASA, and for this, there are dozens of solutions. Many use Kapton tape, coating solutions like ABS glue, or standard hairspray. As with any other material dependent on good bed adhesion, make sure your bed is always properly leveled.
  • Enclosed printer: This is highly recommended, especially when printing large parts. Though it’s possible to get away with smaller parts without an enclosure, larger models will produce a lot of residual stress that can eventually cause cracking and delamination. An enclosure also protects the 3D printer from drafts that will most certainly cause parts to warp.
  • High-temperature hot end: No special hot end is required as long as it can print at temperatures as high as 260 °C. PTFE-lined hot ends might not be entirely suitable for longer periods of ASA printing since PTFE starts degrading at 250 °C. While some ASA filament brands can be printed with temperatures lower than 250 °C, an all-metal hot end is surely the safer choice.

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3D Printing ASA

Print Settings

Tuning the print settings is perhaps the most important step to improve ASA prints
Tuning the print settings is perhaps the most important step to improve ASA prints (Source: science photo via Shutterstock)

If all the hardware requirements are met, it’s time for fine-tuning the printing settings:

  • Bed temperature: For ASA, it’s recommended to have the build plate temperature set between 90 and 110 °C, depending on the filament brand. Filament manufacturers usually recommend specific bed temperatures.
  • Nozzle temperature: This material prints at a relatively high temperature, usually falling within the 240 to 260 °C range. For ASA, printing too hot is better than too cold, as higher temperatures provide better layer adhesion. That said, it’s always recommended to calibrate nozzle temperatures for different filament brands.
  • Cooling: No cooling is required for printing with ASA. In fact, it’s generally recommended to leave it off. However, very low speeds (5 to 10%) might improve overhangs and overall print quality. We suggest first focusing on having good layer adhesion, and once that’s been achieved, try using the cooling fan to avoid overheating issues.

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3D Printing ASA

Challenges

Warping can be a common issue with both ABS and ASA prints
Warping can be a common issue with both ABS and ASA prints (Source: Prusa Research)

Printing with ASA can have its difficulties because it can be terribly sensitive to temperature changes. The good news is that ASA is still easier to print with than ABS.

As mentioned earlier, perhaps the most pressing issues when working with ASA are the warping effects and the potentially dangerous fumes that can be released.

Warping

Warping happens when the part fails to cool evenly. There’s plenty of information on avoiding warping during FDM printing, which mostly with ABS. And since these two materials are so similar, it’s a good idea to follow the same recommendations: avoid wind drafts, ensure good first layer adhesion, keep your printer calibrated, and, as a final resort, use brims or rafts.

Fumes

As for the fumes, most printing materials release some kind of harmful substance during extrusion. Perhaps the most famous one is ABS, known to emit both dangerous gaseous molecules and nanoparticles. Although less troublesome than ABS, printing with ASA also requires some preparation and care. Also, it can be a very smelly process – mostly due to the presence of styrene.

Proper ventilation is strongly recommended along with the use of masks, if appropriate.

(Lead source image: Fillamentum)

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License: The text of "3D Printing ASA: Best Practices for Optimal Prints" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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