Most plastic deteriorates when left in the sun. This happens either as a physical breakdown or merely in terms of appearance. Typically, plastics will become brittle and break easily when consistently exposed to sunlight. ABS prints warp when left in the sun for a long period.
Just as certain materials are more waterproof, some materials are more UV resistant. The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) light which can degrade plastic materials. Certain plastics react more readily and will degrade faster when exposed to UV light.
PLA for example, is not UV resistant. When left in the sun, PLA easily becomes brittle and loses shape. This might not be a problem for items that are strictly made for their appearance. But for functional or moving parts, this would likely cause a problem as the part would literally get bent out of shape by the sun.
Can ABS Filaments Be Used Outdoors?
ABS printed parts have improved UV resistance compared to PLA. They have a higher glass transition temperature which means they have a better tolerance for heat. ABS is also waterproof. With that said, while ABS has better UV resistance than PLA and may be used outdoors depending on the application, it does not have the best UV resistance when compared to other materials. ASA filament has better UV resistance and is more suited for outside applications.
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Also, check out our post Are PLA & ABS Filaments Waterproof ?! What Are Your Options!
What Temp Does ABS Warp?
Warping is when a 3D print starts to lose shape as a result of excessive heat. How easily a 3D printed item warps, depends on the glass transition temperature of the filament used. PLA has a low glass transition temperature of about 60 degrees Celsius and warps easily. ABS has a higher glass transition of about 85 degrees Celsius so has a better heat tolerance.
This is typical of prints that are used outdoors or in environments like a car dashboard where they are exposed to high temperatures. Warping is also caused by printing without a heated print bed. Source
Printing on a non-heated bed can cause the first layer of a print to cool too fast and shrink as a result.The shrinkage will cause the item to curl or warp around the edges where the item touches the print bed. ABS is particularly susceptible to cooling and almost always requires a heated print bed.
What Is ASA Filament?
ASA (acrylonitrile styrene acrylate) is a professional grade filament specially designed to be weather-resistant. Typically used in the automotive industry, ASA will not lose shape or color when exposed to the sun. Source
In this respect, it is an improvement on ABS which loses its color and warps due to ultraviolet radiation. As such, ASA is a better alternative for prints that are intended for outdoor use.