PLA Filament: Everything You Need to Know

3DJAKE ecoPLA Weiß PLA Filament

Discover PLA Filament, the popular and user-friendly 3D printing filament. Learn about its properties, applications, advantages, and limitations.


by Editorial Staff: We are a team of 3D Printing Enthusiasts who have build a lot of knowledge about 3D Printing the last 8 years. Our aim is to create the knowledge hub for 3D Printing covering all minor and major topics. Providing one source of reliable Information for everybody regardless of Beginner or Expert.


Introduction

Polylactic Acid (PLA) filament is a biodegradable thermoplastic, derived from renewable resources like corn starch or sugarcane. It’s considered one of the most environmentally friendly filaments on the market due to its biodegradable nature and the renewable resources from which it’s sourced. PLA filament is widely used in 3D printing for its ease of use, low cost, and versatility, making it a popular choice for hobbyists and professionals alike. Unlike other materials that require high temperatures to print, PLA can be printed at lower temperatures, which makes it accessible to those with basic 3D printers.

Moreover, PLA emits a sweet corn-like aroma when printed, unlike the harsh smells associated with other materials like ABS. However, its biodegradability means that it’s not suited for objects that will be exposed to high temperatures or outdoor environments for extended periods. Despite this, its ease of use and the quality of prints it produces have cemented PLA’s position as a staple material in the 3D printing community.

About PLA Filament

PLA stands out due to its properties like low warping, which makes it ideal for printing large parts. Although it’s considered less durable than materials like ABS, PLA offers sufficient stiffness for a wide range of applications. It has a relatively low glass transition temperature (around 60°C), meaning it can start to deform if left in a hot car or similar environment. Despite this, PLA exhibits good tensile strength and can be post-processed through sanding or painting to achieve a more desirable finish.

Its UV and solvent resistance is relatively low compared to more robust materials, making it less ideal for outdoor use or in environments with harsh chemicals. On the bright side, PLA’s ease of printing makes it an excellent material for prototyping, educational purposes, and decorative items.

Possible Applications of PLA Filament

The applications of PLA are vast due to its ease of printing and good aesthetic quality. Prototyping is a major area where PLA shines. Its accuracy and finish make it a go-to choice for conceptual models. Educational purposes also benefit from PLA, as its safety and ease of use make it suitable for schools and workshops. Further, PLA is commonly used in making decorative items and cosplay, where its surface finish and detail resolution are critical.

Other notable applications include:

  • Biomedical Models: Used for creating detailed anatomical models due to its precision.
  • Household items: Ideal for objects not subjected to high temperatures, like plant pots and picture frames.

Pros and Cons of PLA Filament

The advantages of PLA include its environmental friendliness, made from renewable resources and being biodegradable. It prints at lower temperatures, which reduces energy consumption and makes it compatible with a wide range of 3D printers. Its ease of use, coupled with a low likelihood of warping, makes it perfect for beginners.

However, PLA does have disadvantages. Its lower melting point means it’s not ideal for parts that will be exposed to high temperatures or direct sunlight for extended periods. Its strength and durability are also lower compared to materials like ABS or PETG, limiting its use in functional parts that require high stress resistance.

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Material Settings of PLA Filament

SettingValue
Print Temperature [°C]180 – 235
Build Plate Temperature [°C]20 – 70
Print Speed [mm/s]40 – 100
Cooling Fan [%]50 – 100
Enclosed Build ChamberNot Recommended
Air ManagementRecommended
Min Active Heated Build Chamber Temperature [°C]Not Required
DryingRecommended
AnnealingRecommended

Printing PLA is relatively straightforward. A heated bed is not mandatory but can improve adhesion. The use of a cooling fan helps to solidify the print faster, improving the print’s crispness and detail. Maintaining a clean, dry storage environment for PLA is crucial to preserve its printability.

Mechanical Properties of PLA Filament

PropertyValue
Shore HardnessD75 – D85
Specific Gravity [g/cc]1.2 – 1.3
Tensile Strength at Break [Mpa]45 – 70
Elongation at Break [%]2 – 10
Flexural Strength [Mpa]50 – 110
Flexural Modulus [Mpa]2500 – 4000
Impact Strength Charpy 23˚C [kJ/m²]15 – 35
HDT B [°C]50 – 65
Tg [°C]55 – 70
UV ResistanceLow

PLA’s mechanical properties make it suitable for a wide range of applications not requiring high strength or temperature resistance. Its ease of printing, coupled with these properties, makes it an excellent choice for educational purposes, prototypes, and non-functional décor.

Material Comparison

MaterialPLAABSPETG
Print Temperature [°C]180 – 235230 – 270220 – 260
DurabilityModerateHighHigh
Ease of PrintingHighModerateModerate
UV ResistanceLowModerateHigh
Heat ResistanceLowModerateModerate

PLA is easier to print than both ABS and PETG, making it more accessible for beginners. However, ABS and PETG offer higher durability and better UV resistance, making them more suitable for functional parts and outdoor applications.

FAQ´s about PLA Filament

What is PLA filament made of?

PLA filament is derived from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugarcane, making it a biodegradable and eco-friendly material.

Can PLA be used for functional parts?

While PLA can be used for functional parts, its lower durability and heat resistance compared to materials like ABS or PETG may limit its use in applications requiring high strength or temperature tolerance.

How can I improve PLA adhesion to the build plate?

Improving adhesion can be achieved by using a heated bed (if available) set between 20°C to 70°C, applying adhesives such as glue stick or hairspray, and ensuring the build plate is clean and level.

Is PLA filament waterproof?

PLA is not inherently waterproof and can absorb moisture from the air, which can affect printing quality. However, post-processing methods such as coating or painting can improve its water resistance.

Can PLA be used outdoors?

PLA is not the best choice for outdoor applications due to its low UV resistance and the possibility of deforming in high temperatures. For outdoor use, materials like ABS or PETG are more suitable.

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