What is PLA (PolyLactic Acid) Filament?
PLA stands for PolyLactic Acid, which is a biopolymer. PLA is also a thermoplastic material just like ABS. It is a biodegradable plastic on the contrary. It is also important to understand that every thermoplastic material cannot be used for 3D Printing, although every 3D Printing material is a thermoplastic.
Which Thermoplastic is Feasible for 3D Printing?
A thermoplastic material deems to be fit for 3D printing only when it passes the following three tests.
- Initial extrusion into plastic filament.
- Second extrusion and trace-binding during the 3D printing procedure.
- Feasibility of its end use 3D model application.
PLA Filaments are Harder and Brittle
PolyLactic Acid filaments have more surface hardness as well as these are more brittle as compared to its counterpart Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) filaments. On account of its higher brittleness index, PLA filaments tend to break when bend beyond a permissible limit or goes under the impact of high pressure. Products made up of PLA can be easily cut as well as bonded by using common adhesives.
PLA Starts Losing Shape Beyond 60ºC Temperature
PLA plastic tends to lose its firm shape when exposed to 60ºC temperature for long hours, although much of it also depends on the quality of PLA material. Its behaviour of losing firm shape under long heat exposure owes back to its low grass transition values. It also tends to form bubbles when exposed to prolonged moisture condition. PLA is also known to react with water at higher temperatures. De-polymerization impacts the color of PLA products. Unlike ABS, PLA products can’t be treated with acetone to bring the shine and smoothness over its surface, although it dissolves quite easily in sodium hydroxide.
How PolyLactic Acid Material is Manufactured?
PLA or PolyLactic Acid is manufactured from renewable raw materials made of plants such as sugarcane, corn, soya, potatoes, cornstarch and sugar-beets. PLA is widely used as a 3D printing raw material exhibiting high tensile strength and low grass transition values. PLA smells sweet (like some sweet cooking oil and waffles) as it is made up of sugar containing materials. PLA can be easily melted at temperatures in the range of 190 to 240°C.
Why is PLA Plastic Good for 3D Printing?
PLA flows better based on its chemical properties because of which it gives us a better detailing on its 3D printed models even when printed at high speeds. It makes a good printing raw material to be used specially in 3D printers. PLA filaments are considered to be one of the best 3D printing material for most of the applications these days.
Applications of PLA Plastic Material
A variety of kids’ toys, gadgets, several types of household items, plastic cups, packaging material, plastic water bottles, plastic wrap etc. are created with PLA material. PLA is also good for manufacturing objects worn over human skin because of its biocompatibility nature. It won’t cause any chemical harm to our body and is considered to be a environmental friendly material. ABS plastic is not good for kitchen equipments where the heating temperature goes beyond 60ºC.