What is PLA？
Polylactic acid or PLA is by far the most popular FDM 3D printing material, for good reason. It is relatively cheap, easy to print, and has hundreds of bright colors and mixtures.
PLA is a plant-based, biodegradable plastic. Its popularity in 3D printing stems from its incredible printability and versatility.
Turquoise PLA Filament
Printing and Performance
PLA is one of the easiest materials to print, unconcerned about having exact print settings. Temperatures are flexible, warping is minimal, and there are no strong print odors.
For this exact reason, many people have only ever printed PLA. If you’re just getting into 3D printing, it’s a great place to start.
PLA is also known for its printing quality. It has the best detail reproduction of common 3D printing filaments, making it ideal for models that focus on aesthetics.
PLA easily absorbs pigments and also provides a variety of bright colors and mixtures. PLA blends become better in terms of durability. Even stronger than ABS.
For those looking for more environmentally friendly materials, PLA is also the first choice. PLA is based on plant matter, making it biodegradable.
Its biodegradability is not enough to degrade printed parts in a normal room environment, but it can make them decompose if needed. These are good news for environmentalists.
PLA VS ABS
Of course, no material is perfect. PLA comes with a few drawbacks that prevent it from being the perfect, all-in-one material:
The temperature resistance of PLA is not as good as that of ABS, ASA and PETG. Different manufacturers and mixtures will produce different results, but most PLA will soften between 50 and 60 °C.
Do not use PLA in any place that needs to withstand fire, hot water or even continuous direct sunlight.
PLA is very flexible in terms of print settings. As long as your bed is level, your printer is in good working condition, and your settings are in the correct range, printing should succeed.
Nozzle temperature: 190–220 °C
Bed temperature: 0 °C or 50–70 °C
Printing speed: 10–100 mm/sec
Before you start printing, make sure your bed is level and clean. If your print does not adhere well to the printing surface, you may need to dial in more specific first layer settings.
After the print leaves the print bed, PLA can be post-processed in a variety of ways.
PLA can be sanded, drilled, filed, and tapped, but special care must be taken to prevent the plastic from softening due to heat.
When drilling, filing, and tapping, please stop periodically to allow the printed parts and tools to cool down. When sanding is required, try wet sanding (with wet sandpaper) to prevent overheating.
Painting and bonding PLA is very easy. Most paints (spray paint, acrylic, etc.) and adhesives (superglue, epoxy, etc.) work well, making PLA an ideal choice for props and decorative parts.
PLA being spray-painted
PLA is an excellent choice for 3D printing. It is easy to use, extremely versatile, and has many qualities and mixtures.
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