PLA and ABS are the most used 3D printing filaments, to the point that free spools are sometimes included with the purchase of a 3D printer.
AIO Robotics recently explored the similarities and differences between the two popular printing materials and they also reported on each of their strengths and weaknesses.
Both Filaments are Thermo-Plastics:
They "are hard and solid when cooled and moldable and soft when heated". Both are able to be "extruded into plastic filament", and can be rolled around a spool for storage. They can also bind to a 3D printer's build area and can be placed in layers to form the shape of the objects the user wants.
Although both Filaments do have their differences:
PLA (Polylactic Acid) is produced from processed plant products like potatoes, corn, beets, and more. PLA is somewhat biodegradable and can only be composted at compost facilities. It is more natural and eco-friendly. while also being stronger than ABS. PLA is heat sensitive and is not used for objects that encounter high temperatures since it melts somewhat easily.
ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is made out of petroleum and different polymers. Before ABS is processed into filament strands it takes the form of pellets. It can have many different properties and it is a bit more flexible than PLA. ABS is also able to be smoothed with Acetone and is more temperature resistant. It requires a heated bed to bind and the air around it has to be maintained in order to avoid issues and warping.
Both Filaments are popular for a reason, and when printing one has to figure out which of the two will fit their needs better.
Photo by AIO Robotics