Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene

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Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
ABS resin formula.PNG
Monomers in ABS polymer
Grãos de plástico ABS (ABS plastic grains).jpg
ABS polymer grains
9003-56-9 YesY
ChemSpider 23143 YesY
Jmol-3D images Image
Density 1.060-1.080 g·cm−3 [1]
Insoluble in water
Related compounds
Related compounds
Acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene (monomers)
Except where noted otherwise, data is given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)
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Infobox references

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) (chemical formula (C8H8)x· (C4H6)y·(C3H3N)z) is a common thermoplastic polymer. Its glass transition temperature is approximately 105 °C (221 °F).[2] ABS is amorphous and therefore has no true melting point.

ABS is a terpolymer made by polymerizing styrene and acrylonitrile in the presence of polybutadiene. The proportions can vary from 15 to 35% acrylonitrile, 5 to 30% butadiene and 40 to 60% styrene. The result is a long chain of polybutadiene criss-crossed with shorter chains of poly(styrene-co-acrylonitrile). The nitrile groups from neighboring chains, being polar, attract each other and bind the chains together, making ABS stronger than pure polystyrene. The styrene gives the plastic a shiny, impervious surface. The polybutadiene, a rubbery substance, provides resilience even at low temperatures. For the majority of applications, ABS can be used between −20 and 80 °C (−4 and 176 °F) as its mechanical properties vary with temperature.[3] The properties are created by rubber toughening, where fine particles of elastomer are distributed throughout the rigid matrix.

Hazard for humans[edit]

ABS is generally a low-hazard material and presents few risks to health. However, in some situations, precautions are advisable:

  • Heating up ABS during production (for molding or extrusion as well as in 3D Printing) can produce fumes of acrylonitrile. There is some concern that acrylonitrile could be a human carcinogen. Butadiene is a known carcinogen. Styrene is also believed to have carcinogenic properties.[4] Sealed special boxes with powerful air funnels and remote controlling of the process can mitigate the risks associated with the use of ABS.
  • ABS can be used for the storage of cold food. However, alcohol can produce a reaction similar to heating and styrene is evolved.[citation needed]
  • ABS should not be used in medical implants.[citation needed]


ABS is derived from acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene. Acrylonitrile is a synthetic monomer produced from propylene and ammonia; butadiene is a petroleum hydrocarbon obtained from the C4 fraction of steam cracking; styrene monomer is made by dehydrogenation of ethyl benzene — a hydrocarbon obtained in the reaction of ethylene and benzene.

ABS combines the strength and rigidity of acrylonitrile and styrene polymers with the toughness of polybutadiene rubber. While the cost of producing ABS is roughly twice the cost of producing polystyrene, it is considered superior for its hardness, gloss, toughness, and electrical insulation properties.

According to the European plastic trade association PlasticsEurope, industrial production of 1 kg (2.2 lb) of ABS resin in Europe uses an average of 95.34 MJ (26.48 kW·h) and is derived from natural gas and petroleum.[5]


The most important mechanical properties of ABS are impact resistance and toughness. A variety of modifications can be made to improve impact resistance, toughness, and heat resistance. The impact resistance can be amplified by increasing the proportions of polybutadiene in relation to styrene and also acrylonitrile, although this causes changes in other properties. Impact resistance does not fall off rapidly at lower temperatures. Stability under load is excellent with limited loads. Thus, changing the proportions of its components ABS can be prepared in different grades. Two major categories could be ABS for extrusion and ABS for injection moulding, then high and medium impact resistance. Generally ABS would have useful characteristics within a temperature range from −20 to 80 °C (−4 to 176 °F).[3]

Lego bricks are made from ABS.[6]

The final properties will be influenced to some extent by the conditions under which the material is processed to the final product. For example, molding at a high temperature improves the gloss and heat resistance of the product whereas the highest impact resistance and strength are obtained by molding at low temperature. Fibers (usually glass fibers) and additives can be mixed in the resin pellets to make the final product strong and raise the operating range to as high as 80 °C (176 °F). Pigments can also be added, as the raw material original color is translucent ivory to white. The aging characteristics of the polymers are largely influenced by the polybutadiene content, and it is normal to include antioxidants in the composition. Other factors include exposure to ultraviolet radiation, for which additives are also available to protect against.

Chemical and electrical[edit]

ABS polymers are resistant to aqueous acids, alkalis, concentrated hydrochloric and phosphoric acids, alcohols and animal, vegetable and mineral oils, but they are swollen by glacial acetic acid, carbon tetrachloride and aromatic hydrocarbons and are attacked by concentrated sulfuric and nitric acids. They are soluble in esters, ketones, ethylene dichloride and acetone.[7]

Even though ABS plastics are used largely for mechanical purposes, they also have electrical properties that are fairly constant over a wide range of frequencies. These properties are little affected by temperature and atmospheric humidity in the acceptable operating range of temperatures.[8]

ABS is flammable when it is exposed to high temperatures, such as a wood fire. It will melt then boil, at which point the vapors burst into intense, hot flames. Since pure ABS contains no halogens, its combustion does not typically produce any persistent organic pollutants, and the most toxic products of its combustion or pyrolysis are carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide.[9] ABS is also damaged by sunlight. This caused one of the most widespread and expensive automobile recalls in US history.[10]

ABS can be recycled, although it is not accepted by all recycling facilities.[11][12]


Natural colored ABS 3D Printed Bell on a Makerbot Thing-O-Matic.

ABS's light weight and ability to be injection molded and extruded make it useful in manufacturing products such as drain-waste-vent (DWV) pipe systems, musical instruments (recorders, plastic clarinets, and piano movements), golf club heads (because of its good shock absorbance), automotive trim components, automotive bumper bars, medical devices for blood access, enclosures for electrical and electronic assemblies, protective headgear, whitewater canoes, buffer edging for furniture and joinery panels, luggage and protective carrying cases, small kitchen appliances, and toys, including Lego and Kre-O bricks.[13] Household and consumer goods are the major applications of ABS.[14] Keyboard keycaps are commonly made out of ABS. [15]

ABS plastic ground down to an average diameter of less than 1 micrometer is used as the colorant in some tattoo inks.[16] Tattoo inks that use ABS are extremely vivid.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Matbase". Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  2. ^ ABS. Stratasys Inc. (2007).
  3. ^ a b Plastic Properties of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Small table of ABS properties towards the bottom. Retrieved 7 May 2010
  4. ^ Frost, Ben. "ABS vs PLA Shootout". 3D Printer Plans. Retrieved 2014-09-17. 
  5. ^ Boustead, I (March 2005). Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene Copolymer (ABS) (Technical report). Eco-profiles of the European Plastics Industry. PlasticsEurope.  cited in Inventory of Carbon & Energy database (Hammond, G. P.; Jones, C. I. (2008). "Embodied energy and carbon in construction materials". Proceedings of the ICE - Energy 161 (2): 87. doi:10.1680/ener.2008.161.2.87.  edit)
  6. ^ May, James (2009) [2009]. James May's Toy Stories. London: Conway. ISBN 978-1-84486-107-1. 
  7. ^ Benj Edwards Vintage Computing and Gaming | Archive » Why Super Nintendos Lose Their Color: Plastic Discoloration in Classic Machines. Vintagecomputing. January 12, 2007
  8. ^ Harper C.A. (1975) Handbook of plastic and elastomers, McGraw-Hill, New York, pp. 1–3,1–62, 2–42, 3–1, ISBN 0070266816
  9. ^ Rutkowski, J. V.; Levin, B. C. (1986). "Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymers (ABS): Pyrolysis and combustion products and their toxicity?a review of the literature". Fire and Materials 10 (3–4): 93. doi:10.1002/fam.810100303.  edit
  10. ^ Henshaw, J. M.; Wood, V.; Hall, A. C. (1999). "Failure of automobile seat belts caused by polymer degradation". Engineering Failure Analysis 6: 13. doi:10.1016/S1350-6307(98)00026-0.  edit
  11. ^ "ABS Recycling". Heathland B.V. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  12. ^ "Recycling plastic". Brisbane City Council. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  13. ^ ABS – acrylonitrile butadiene styrene On, lists applications. Retrieved 27 October 2006.
  14. ^ Market Study Engineering Plastics, Ceresana, September 2013
  15. ^ "Keycap Construction: ABS". Deskthority. September 2014. 
  16. ^ Kennedy, C.T.C. et al. (2010), "Mechanical and Thermal Injury", in Tony Burns et al., Rook's Textbook of Dermatology 2 (8th ed.), Wiley-Blackwell, p. 28.48 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]