Is 3D Printed ABS Plastic Waterproof? (Solved!)

Waterproofness is a material’s capability to remain unaffected upon contact with water, which essentially determines if the material is suitable for usage in environments where there would be a risk of water exposure.

While this is an attribute that doesn’t hold a lot of importance for objects with purely aesthetical purposes, there is no denying that it’s one of the most vital properties for 3D printed parts that will see practical use, especially in an outside environment.

In today’s article, we will be inspecting the water-resistance capabilities of 3D printed ABS plastic in particular, which is a significant attribute for many instances of functional printing where it’s necessary to expose the 3D printed part to water.

So, are the parts you have 3D printed with ABS plastic waterproof?

ABS is one of the best filament options for waterproof 3D printing despite being prone to absorbing moisture since it’s naturally resistant to degradation caused by water, unlike filaments such as nylon or HIPS, where water can quickly damage the structural integrity of the plastic.

Next up, we will delve deeper into the waterproofness of 3D-printed ABS plastic, discuss the effects of moisture on ABS, and find out whether ABS is a hygroscopic material or not.

Is 3D Printed ABS Plastic Waterproof?

There is no denying that the water resistance capability of the material is significant for 3D printed parts that have functional usage, as a slight contact with water can entirely ruin the object and cause considerable problems.

Considering that ABS is perhaps the best filament choice for the quality of waterproofness, models 3D printed with ABS plastic are indeed waterproof, making them resistant to degradation caused by water for prolonged amounts of time.

Smoothing the layers of the model you have 3D printed with ABS filament with chemicals such as acetone or epoxy will increase its water-resistance capabilities even further, which is something to keep in mind if the model’s primary purpose is to be exposed to water.

On the other hand, as always, it’s best to pay attention to how your 3D printed part is doing now and then, especially if it has been a long time since you have started utilizing it, as the likelihood of water damage increases over time.

Is ABS Affected By Moisture?

Moisture is a factor that affects many things around us, and the situation isn’t much different when it comes to the plastic we use for the 3D printing process. 

While moisture won’t negatively affect ABS itself, meaning that a model you have printed with ABS being exposed to moisture won’t cause it to degrade, 3D printing with a spool of ABS that has absorbed moisture will definitely cause problems.

In the case of 3D printing, moisture in the filament becomes a problem due to the high temperatures the plastic comes into contact with, where the moisture in the filament is released in the form of steam, creating pressure that affects the printing process negatively.

As a result, proper filament storage, where the filament will not absorb any moisture from the air, is crucial for consistently achieving success in 3D printing, even in cases where water won’t directly degrade the plastic due to the plastic being naturally resistant to it.

Is ABS Hygroscopic (Can It Absorb Water)?

Another vital factor to keep in mind is the hygroscopicity of the material, as even if the material is water-resistant, its capability to absorb water can cause issues for the printing process.

Similar to many other popular filaments, such as PLA and PETG, ABS filament is also hygroscopic, meaning that it can and it will attract and absorb water molecules whenever possible, including the moisture from the air.

While the absorption of water does not negatively impact ABS itself, the fact that it will cause problems for the 3D printing process makes it vital to keep the filament protected from coming into contact with water, with moisture in the air being the primary threat.

Fortunately, despite its hygroscopicity, it’s relatively straightforward to protect ABS from moisture by taking the necessary measures for the correct storage by avoiding moist areas, using airtight containers or bags, and utilizing desiccants to soak any moisture that may come into contact with the filament.

How to Understand if ABS Filament Is Wet?

Even though water does not cause harm to 3D printed ABS plastic, printing with a wet spool of filament, regardless of the material’s water resistance properties, affects the printing process negatively.

If the ABS filament you’re printing with is wet, you will most likely notice some of the signs we have listed below:

  • Cracking and popping sounds during the 3D printing process.
  • Stringing and blobbing during the 3D printing process.
  • Issues with layer adhesion.
  • Inconsistencies in layer line thickness.
  • Problems with the surface texture.
  • Suboptimal physical strength and durability.

As all the signs in this list (except for the cracking and popping sounds) can also appear due to other reasons, we highly recommend purchasing a fresh spool of ABS or thoroughly drying the one you’re currently using to rule out the possibility of a moist spool of filament as quickly as possible, especially if you have kept the spool in storage for a long time.

Wrapping Up

The waterproofness of a 3D printed object is definitely a vital point to consider in many scenarios where you’re planning on using the part functionally, especially in an environment where the likelihood of water exposure is high, such as an outside setting.

As ABS is a type of plastic that water will not degrade easily, models you have 3D printed with ABS filament will be waterproof, making them suitable for usage in areas where they will frequently come into contact with water for extended periods.

On the other hand, we would still recommend checking the part now and then to ensure that it’s still in good condition, as degradation can eventually occur when the object is exposed to water consistently for an extended amount of time, such as a year or more.

Happy printing!