PLA is a common term in the world of 3D printing. It stands for Polylactic Acid, a biodegradable and renewable thermoplastic polyester. PLA is a popular material in 3D printing because of its ease of use, low printing temperature, and wide availability.
Invented in 1930 by chemist Wallace Carothers, the same developer of nylon and neoprene, PLA has been used in various applications such as packaging, disposable cups, and even medical implants. Its biodegradable property makes it an eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastics. In 3D printing, PLA is known for being the most commonly used material in the production of filaments that 3D printers use to create 3D printed objects.
Understanding what PLA means in 3D printing is important for anyone interested in this technology. In this article, we will dive deeper into what PLA is, its properties, and why it is widely used in the 3D printing industry. We will also explore the advantages and disadvantages of using PLA as a 3D printing material and provide tips on how to best use it for your projects.
What is PLA?
PLA is a commonly used material in the world of 3D printing. It stands for polylactic acid or polylactide. PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic polyester that is derived from renewable resources such as corn starch, sugarcane, and maize.
PLA is a type of filament that is used in 3D printing. It is a thermoplastic, which means it can be melted and reshaped when heated. PLA is a popular choice for 3D printing because it is easy to use, has a low melting point, and is environmentally friendly.
PLA has several properties that make it an ideal material for 3D printing. Here are some of the key properties of PLA:
Biodegradable: PLA is biodegradable, which means it can be broken down by natural processes. This makes it a more environmentally friendly option than other types of plastics.
Low melting point: PLA has a low melting point of between 170-180°C. This means it can be printed at a lower temperature than other materials, which makes it easier to use.
Easy to print: PLA is easy to print with and requires minimal adjustments to the printing settings. This makes it a good choice for beginners who are just starting with 3D printing.
Strong and durable: PLA is a strong and durable material that can withstand wear and tear. It is a popular choice for creating functional parts and prototypes.
Limited flexibility: PLA is a relatively rigid material and has limited flexibility compared to other filaments. This means it may not be suitable for certain types of applications.
Overall, PLA is a versatile and popular material in the world of 3D printing. Its biodegradability, low melting point, and ease of use make it an ideal choice for a wide range of applications.
Why is PLA Popular in 3D Printing?
PLA is a popular choice in 3D printing due to its sustainability. It is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources like corn starch or sugarcane. It is also compostable, making it an eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastics. PLA has a lower carbon footprint than other 3D printing materials, making it a popular choice for environmentally conscious makers.
Ease of Use
Another reason why PLA is popular is its ease of use. It is a low-temperature filament, which means it requires less heat to melt and is less likely to warp during printing. PLA also has a low odor and does not require a heated bed, making it a convenient option for beginners. Additionally, it has a smooth surface finish and is available in a wide range of colors, making it a versatile material for 3D printing projects.
PLA is also a cost-effective option for 3D printing. It is widely available and has a lower price point compared to other materials like ABS or nylon. It is also compatible with a wide range of 3D printers, making it accessible to a larger audience. PLA is a reliable and affordable choice for both hobbyists and professionals alike.
In conclusion, PLA is a popular choice in 3D printing due to its sustainability, ease of use, and affordability. It is a versatile material that is widely available and has a low price point, making it accessible to a larger audience. Its eco-friendly properties make it a popular choice for environmentally conscious makers.
How to Print with PLA
Printing with PLA is relatively easy and straightforward compared to other 3D printing materials. PLA is the most commonly used material in 3D printing due to its ease of use, low printing temperature, and biodegradability. In this section, we will discuss how to print with PLA by covering PLA filament diameter and temperature, bed adhesion, and cooling.
PLA Filament Diameter and Temperature
PLA filament comes in different diameters, such as 1.75mm and 2.85mm. It is essential to check the diameter of the filament you are using before printing. Most 3D printers accept both diameters, but it is always best to check your printer’s specifications to ensure compatibility.
PLA has a relatively low printing temperature, usually ranging from 180°C to 220°C. It is essential to set the correct temperature for your printer to get the best results. Printing at too high a temperature can cause the PLA to burn, while printing at too low a temperature can cause under-extrusion and poor layer adhesion.
Bed adhesion is critical when printing with PLA. PLA tends to warp and lift from the print bed during printing, especially when printing large objects. To ensure proper bed adhesion, it is essential to level the print bed and clean it thoroughly before printing.
There are different methods to improve bed adhesion, such as using a heated bed, applying glue stick or hairspray to the print bed, or using a specialized bed adhesion sheet. Experiment with different methods to find the one that works best for your printer and PLA filament.
Cooling is an essential factor when printing with PLA. PLA needs to cool quickly after extrusion to ensure proper layer adhesion and prevent warping. Most 3D printers come with a fan that cools the PLA during printing. It is essential to ensure that the fan is working correctly and positioned correctly to cool the PLA effectively.
In conclusion, printing with PLA is relatively easy and straightforward compared to other 3D printing materials. To get the best results when printing with PLA, it is essential to pay attention to the filament diameter and temperature, bed adhesion, and cooling. By following these guidelines, you can achieve high-quality prints with PLA.
PLA vs. Other 3D Printing Materials
When it comes to 3D printing, there are many materials to choose from. PLA is one of the most popular materials, but how does it compare to other options? Let’s take a look at some of the other common 3D printing materials.
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a popular thermoplastic used in 3D printing. It is known for its strength and durability, making it a great option for functional parts. However, ABS can be more difficult to print with than PLA and requires a higher printing temperature. It also emits fumes when heated, so it’s important to use it in a well-ventilated area.
PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) is a newer 3D printing material that is gaining popularity. It is known for its strength and flexibility, making it a great option for parts that need to withstand stress. PETG is also more resistant to moisture and UV light than PLA. However, it can be more difficult to print with than PLA and requires a higher printing temperature.
Nylon is a strong and durable 3D printing material that is often used for parts that need to be tough and flexible. It is also resistant to abrasion and chemicals. However, nylon can be more difficult to print with than PLA and requires a higher printing temperature. It also absorbs moisture, which can affect the quality of the print.
Overall, each material has its own strengths and weaknesses. PLA is a great option for beginners and is easy to print with, while ABS, PETG, and nylon are better suited for functional parts that need to withstand stress and wear. It’s important to choose the right material for your project based on its properties and requirements.