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What Does Melting or Burning ABS Smell Like?

If you enjoy 3D printing, you must know what burning ABS smells like. That way, you can react appropriately if something’s going wrong. ABS is flammable, so you should never leave it unattended.

ABS has an unpleasant bitter plastic smell when melting or burning. ABS is an oil-based 3D printing material, so the fumes it gives off are toxic. Many people describe the scent as very pungent — you’ll want to air out the room if ABS burns. Always use your 3D printer in a well-ventilated area.

Knowing what melting or burning ABS smells like is crucial when working with a 3D printer. The rest of this article will explain how to identify the smell of burning ABS and what causes it, why your 3D printing material melts, what temperature to use for ABS, and how to get rid of the nasty smell.

How To Identify the Smell of Burning ABS

Burning ABS filament has a very distinct smell. If you smell something terrible after printing, it could be your project. Many people describe the scent as acrid, which means “pungent sour, bitter, and harsh.”

You won’t ever mistake burning ABS for a pleasant smell — it’s very distinct and foul. 

If you smell it, you’ll want to open all your windows and increase airflow right away because the ABS emits toxic fumes when burned. 

Make sure you check on the ABS too! The material is flammable.

Why Does My 3D Printing Material Melt?

If your ABS plastic keeps melting excessively during printing, then something’s wrong. You’ll want to check all settings on your 3D printer before using it again.

Your 3D printing material melts when the printing bed is too hot. Objects can also melt or smell like they’re melting when you set the printer nozzle to a very high temperature. You’ll likely notice stringing if this is the case.

Leaking can happen when the nozzle temperature is too high, making your objects appear to have spider webs draped over them. Plus, you might also smell burning plastic. Start by reducing the extruder temperature by 5°F to 10°F (2–5°C).

Lower it by another 5°F (2–3°C) if you still notice burning smells and stringing. Sometimes, 3D printers won’t have accurate temperature readings. So, even though you’re setting it for the correct temperature to use for ABS, the printer still gets too hot.

What Temperature Should I Use for ABS?

You should set the temperature of your printer between 446°F and 500°F (230°C and 260°C). ABS has a melting point of 392°F (200°C), so these higher temperatures are optimal for printing. If you set it higher, you’ll smell burning plastic.

You don’t need to set your machine higher than that range. Doing so won’t make the plastic flow faster — it’ll start burning it at some point instead. Plus, ABS flows easily through the system in the middle of that range.

All in all, make sure that your printing temperature is never too high. Sometimes people forget to change their settings in between using different printing materials. 

Many 3D printers come with an “ABS setting” these days because the material is very popular; if you use it, double-check that it’s not too hot.

What’s Causing a Burning Plastic Smell in My 3D Printer?

Sometimes a new 3D printer can produce a burning plastic smell. This happens as the proactive coating burns. Additionally, users have reported dealing with foul odors after 8 hours of consistent use. Ensure you have sufficient ventilation in the printing room, especially with a new 3D printer.

PLA isn’t as toxic as ABS, so you’ll want to consider using PLA in a new printer, at least until it settles in and runs as expected. However, if you’re smelling burning plastic, the odds are that your project is burning.

You must take immediate action! Check on the print and see what’s going wrong. You’ll want to reduce the heat while still staying in a temperature range where the material can melt and flow through the nozzle.

Overall, there are only two things that cause this smell. Either your printer is new, so the scent is much stronger and more noticeable, or your project is getting way too hot.

How To Remove the Burning ABS Plastic Smell

Since ABS plastic has a strong smell, you’ll want to take care of it before it settles into the room. Start by ventilating the room by opening all the doors and windows. You can also use air fresheners to mask the scent, though they won’t remove it entirely.

You should use fans to circulate air around the room whenever you can. 

Lastly, filling a bowl with baking soda and leaving it in the room can help absorb the odor too. You’ll want to leave it there for several days for the best effect.

Keep in mind that burning plastic fumes may contain dangerous chemicals. Large amounts of ABS fumes can be toxic, so you’ll want to increase ventilation as much as possible.

To prevent smells in the future, always print with ABS in an enclosed printing box. If you don’t have one, you can build your own! It’s worth the trouble. Follow this YouTube video to make your own enclosure: 

If you don’t want to build an enclosure, you also can purchase one online. It’s a good idea to make sure your printer fits before buying! 

I recommend the Creality Fireproof and Dustproof 3D Printer (on Amazon.com). It’s safe and easy to use and has a stable structure supported by iron pipes. It comes in two sizes, is flame retardant, is easy to install, and even offers some noise reduction. It can help keep the smell of ABS plastic from entering your room.

Final Thoughts

In short, melting or burning ABS material has an acrid, burning plastic smell. It stands out, so you’ll have no problems identifying it. ABS is very toxic to breathe in, making it essential to locate and deal with right away.

Your 3D printer might give off a slight smell when working with ABS plastic, which is why you should get an enclosure. Sometimes new printers emit strong odors but stop after more use.