What Is ASA Plastic Used For?

ASA, or Acrylonitrile Styrene acrylate, is an amorphous thermoplastic that was made to be an alternative to ABS, which is also a popular material used in 3D printing. It’s very similar to ABS too, so if you’ve used that then you should feel at home when using ASA.

The fact that ASA is resistant to UV and stress cracking makes it great for fused deposition modeling printing processes. As a plastic, it’s compatible with PVC and PC plastics too.

Here we have gathered everything you want to know about ASA. Not only have we covered what it’s used for in 3D printing, but we’ve also covered how it is made, its pros and cons, and the main manufacturers of ASA plastic in the 3D printing industry.

ASA Production

If its full name didn’t tip you off, ASA is a combination of styrene and acrylic byproducts, namely acrylonitrile and acrylic ester. These three monomers are either reacted or grafted together, depending on the specific manufacturing process that is used.

The styrene and acrylonitrile are mixed first, where they copolymerize, during which the acrylic ester elastomer is added in powder form.

ASA Pros And Cons

Each and every filament material has its ups and downs. That’s why you should look into the suitability of your 3D printing materials before you start, to make sure they’re up to the task.

You’ll need to keep in mind how strong, flexible, and hygroscopic each material is, along with how easy it is to work with when it’s in viscous form.

ASA Pros

  • ASA is resistant to UV rays, so your printed objects won’t get bleached by sunlight contact
  • ASA can deal with general wear and tear over a long period
  • ASA has a high glass transition temperature, so it won’t melt or lose structural integrity on hot days
  • High dimensional stability, meaning it won’t collapse under its own weight

ASA Cons

  • Creates toxic fumes, so you need to have a lot of ventilation/space
  • ASA prints at an extruder temperature between 240 to 260 degrees Celsius, which is higher than PLA and ABS
  • ASA comes with a high price tag attached

ASA Printing

Now that we know what ASA is and the benefits of using it, let’s go into more detail about ASA and printing. As we said, those who are familiar with ABS filaments should find ASA filaments much easier to work with. They share many of the same properties.

Here are some tips for printing with ASA.

First, ASA is sensitive to changes in temperature. The main temperature changes that happen during printing are drafts and the wind. Keep your printer in a location where it isn’t exposed to the elements or any drafts that may make their way through your home. If you have a closed printer, you don’t need to worry about drafts that much.
Next, you’ll need adhesion to make your printing bed stable.

We’d recommend Kapton tape, which should then be scraped to avoid adhesive build-up and then gradually replaced as tears and other imperfections develop. Tape is cheap and easy to work with, so it’s a favorite of beginners to 3D printing.

You should also consider using a layer fan to stop overheating or cracking in your printed items. You only need to keep the fan at a minimum setting, and you may need to change it depending on the size of your print and if you’re using a hybrid filament with other materials or not. Using a fan ensures the entire object solidifies properly and avoids those sudden temperature changes that weaken ASA.

You should also make sure the extruder and the printing bed are at the correct distance apart, which should be detailed in the printer manual if not online.

ASA can be integrated with HIPS – High Impact Polystyrene – as a support for models made from ASA, as long as the cantilevers aren’t over 45 degrees from the horizontal bed.

What Can You Use ASA Filament For?

It’s best when used to create sturdy but lightweight parts for tools. Those are things like jigs, fixtures, tool caddies, and grips or handles that have ergonomic properties. They’ll be durable, light, and made to your exact shape specifications.

Given the UV resistance that ASA has, you can also make it to make outdoor items. If you need to print some customized flower pots or patio decorations, you can print them with ASA.

For more advanced uses, you can also use ASA to create some automotive parts. ASA is cheaper than other materials that are up to the task of creating car parts, especially prototypes for side view mirrors, bumpers, and dashboard fixtures.

ASA Manufacturers

If you like the properties of ASA and you’re wondering where to find some, you should be able to find suppliers online. You should get from reputable brands that will give you the best standard of material and service, to get the best results when your prints are done. Brands like PolyLite ASA, Fillamentum, FilamentOne Pro, and 3DXMax should have you covered.

The price points across each brand may differ. In general, you can expect to pay a little more for ASA filament than standard PLA and ABS. Specialized PLA and ABS, however, may cost more than ASA, so you can still save money by going with this option. ASA also tends to be the same price, if not slightly more expensive, than PETG filament. The most expensive by far is nylon filaments, so you should stay away from those if you’re buying on a budget.

By now, you should know everything you need about ASA plastic and its use in 3D printing. If you’re looking for a material that lasts outdoors, resisting both mechanical and chemical weakness without losing its color, then ASA may be the best choice for you.

Michael Moore