Image from Colorfabb
PLA (Poly Lactic Acid) is probably one of the most popular types of materials to 3d print with. The benefits of using PLA include, lower 3d printing temperatures as itcan print between 180 -230 degrees. Also it doesn’t give of nasty smells during the 3d printing process, unlike ABS. In many educational establishments if teachers are 3d printing with ABS they are required to have extraction above the 3d printer. PLA doesn’t require this as its classes as a ‘Bio plastic’.
PLA and the environment.
PLA is considered environmentally friendly and a ‘Bio-plastic’ because it doesn’t contain any oil. The oil has been substituted with cornstarch. This means that it will bio degrade if placed in landfill sites within a year and if it find itself being incinerated it will not give off to many nasty fumes, unlike oil based plastics. As PLA contained cornstarch it is also classed as being sustainable. This means that if the corn used to manufacture the PLA is replanted then the environment can be sustained, thus reducing its effect upon the earth. To learn how cornstarch plastic is made, check out his great youtube video.
PLA is readily available and relatively cheap to buy. From our experience this is a great material to use for prototyping purposes and gives an excellent surface finish that doesn’t require any post processing. However, you will still see the 3d printed lines on the model. Most of the designs that you see on the 3dfilemarket have been printed using PLA material. A great example are these 3d printed storage boxes. Everything you see in the photo has been printed using PLA. To download this model click here.
One good thing we have experiences when using PLA is consistency. We have printed hundreds of models using this material and the outcomes are consistent. Also you can print PLA on a cold bed if using blue painters tape or a 3d printing adhesive. It actually sticks to the print bed extremely well (as long as you have it well calibrated).
PLA Hints and Tip
- Keep your PLA in a bag with a moisture absorbing silica bags. PLA absorbs moisture and this can really effect your 3d printing success rate. It can also block your extruder as the material will lose some of it’s initial properties.
- Keep your 3d printer at a relatively temperature consistent location. PLA reacts to temperature changes and can become brittle and snap. This can be extremely annoying if the filament is stuck in a feeder tube.
- Keep your PLA model out of the sunlight. Exposure to the sun will effect the appearance of your model and it will also reduce any strength properties of your part.
- Ensure that you don’t expose a PLA printed part to extreme temperatures. As this has a relatively low melting point it will easily melt/deform if left next to hot temperatures e.g. cooker hobs, fire places.
- If you are 3d printing anything for the kitchen and use with food, ensure that you use food safe PLA. Also be aware that the 3d printing process (layer by layer) leaves certain parts at risk of harbouring bacteria in-between the layers.