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The short version of my question is:

Are 3D printed parts made of ABS likely to survive for one year in an incubator at 80℃?

Please read on for more details.

I am printing some parts that will be used inside an incubator in a lab. They are likely to be used at 80℃ for at least a year, possibly even at higher temperatures than that. (But most likely under 100℃.)

We're currently using ABS for these parts. My question is whether 3D printed ABS will degrade under those conditions. (For example: will it become soft and slump; will it discolour; will it become brittle?) The parts clip together to form quite a big object, which is basically a rack holding a lot of glass vials, so it's important that it stays rigid.

I did find some papers on thermal degradation of ABS (for example this one looks quite comprehensive) but I don't have the experience to interpret them in terms of how my parts will behave practically. I'm also not sure if being 3D printed will make a difference.

If ABS is not suitable for this kind of application, are there other plastics that are? We're using the Zortrax M200, so our choices are the plastics listed here. I note that PCABS is listed as specifically being temperature resistant, so we might go with that - but we'd prefer ABS if it will work, since it comes in white rather than ivory (which is important for our application) and we have plenty of it available.


update: we decided in the end that using ABS is too risky, so we went with PCABS and we'll just live with the yellowish colour. (We might paint it white.) It's currently in the oven on a test run, and if it doesn't fail in a few weeks we'll take the risk of running the year-long experiment with this material. However, we would still very greatly appreciate advice from anyone who has concrete knowledge or experience of this kind of situation.

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    $\begingroup$ Printing plastics usually have wide range of glass transition temperatures, above that manufacturers change plastic composition as they wish, so you can't be sure whether your plastic will survive or not unless you try. $\endgroup$ – ZuOverture Nov 29 '17 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ @ZuOverture the problem is that trying it involves waiting a year to see if the whole experiment fails. This is why I'm hoping to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of this community. 80 degrees is well below the glass transition temperature for ABS - I'm more worried about oxidation and other chemical changes that could occur. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Nov 29 '17 at 7:48
  • $\begingroup$ From the abstract it looks like the main cause of degradation is oxidation, and I don't think it has a temperature limit where it starts, and below it is negligible. No, oxidation will take place at 80C, just a bit slower than at 112C. I don't see any time scales in the abstract, it should be in full text though. If there's no one who can fetch this article, you can consider test during usage. Print two racks, usage times must differ, but you only use younger and look for degradation signs on older one. Couple of weeks might be enough to start. (And I hope you don't use UV) $\endgroup$ – ZuOverture Nov 29 '17 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ I have access to the full text (I didn't realise it was paywalled) but the problem is it mostly plots time against things like "impact strength" or "oPs intensity I_3 (%) related to number of free volume sites" that I don't know how to interpret in terms of my application. They mostly focus on samples cooked at 120℃, and the time scales for that seem to be in the hundreds of hours. (i.e. a couple of weeks is about right.) If the same is true at 80℃ we will have to use a different material as we need it to last for a year, but I really can't tell that from the paper. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Nov 29 '17 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ Usual method of protection against weathering effects for plastics is painting them, although you'll have to study how this coating behaves at 80C. Some of them might be documented better than ABS ("for outdoor usage in Sahara" should be enough). $\endgroup$ – ZuOverture Nov 29 '17 at 9:36
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To answer your question briefly: No, ABS will not survive for a duration of at least one year at 80-100°C.

1] If you look at the chart above (from Tiganis/Burn), you'll notice, that the blue line (ABS 90°C) is decreasing. I did an eyeball calculation of the graph and arrived at the equation (J for break energy, h for hours):

J = -0.002h + 14

Based on that, a break energy of 0 Joule will be reached after 7056 hours or 294 days.

If you roam around internet forums on 3D printing, you'll find that that value is in the ballpark of people's experiences. I remember one case, where someone put out a piece of ABS in the sun and it broke down after a year.

Tiganis; Burn: The Effects of Heat Aging on Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS) Blends. In: Lacasse; Vanier (1999): Durability of Building Materials and Components 8, pp. 912-922.

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Your ABS filament is likely to be different than the ABS the paper is talking about, at the minimum the filament has added coloring (ABS is not naturally white), its possible it has other additives to make it easier to extrude and - especially for low cost ABS - it's also possible it has other random contaminant.

The "same" material from different manufacturers is often very obviously different (for low cost filament, different batches from the same manufacturer are sometimes different) so, even if someone here did have experience with cooking ABS for a year, you can never be sure your ABS will work the same as their ABS.

If the information is not in the material data sheet you can try to contact the manufacturer, other then that, you really have no way of knowing other then trying for yourself.

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heat it up see what happens also take into consideration additional support in case it degrades its still holding up. if possible give it somekind of protective coat. someone said paint but can you add a coat of resin or ceramic?

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    $\begingroup$ It is in the oven currently on a test run. But as I said in both the comments and the question, we need it to function for at least a year, and and if it fails in that time we will have to start again, so "try it and see" is not exactly a good option for us. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Feb 2 '18 at 5:01
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    $\begingroup$ Gonz, your answer would be much more useful if you would provide an indication of what resin and/or ceramic you are referring to and how this would prevent the underlying plastic to degrade because of the heat (given that any coating will have zero effect on heat penetration, over a one year span). $\endgroup$ – mac Feb 3 '18 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @nathaniel try any plastic. How much does it weight. make a small structure of each material put some heavy weight on it.would there be a time it would cool down, will it cool down slowly. if you clean it what chemicals would you use and at what temp would you clean it in. These factors could cause it to degrade quicker. as for the resin i dont have any recomendation. i just suggest to add an additional layer of something to reduce heat absorb aswell as chemical contact. it could be sprayed on brushed on could be a mineral, salt, a combo o layers.just reinforce the stressed areas. $\endgroup$ – Gonz Feb 4 '18 at 8:49
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I would recommend Taulman Bluprint, which has a Tg of 100 °C and prints around 250 °C.

I got a small sample and it printed well with the recommended settings. I didn't do any thermal testing with my print (I made a knob for a lawn mower with it) but Taulman has a solid reputation for engineered filaments.

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    $\begingroup$ The OP states that he is limited to the choices of the Zortrax M200 material spools. $\endgroup$ – 0scar Aug 1 '18 at 8:29

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