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PLA 3D printing material - tips and tricks

Polylactic Acid or PLA as it is known, is created using green renewable sources such as starch, corn or sugar cane. This means that it is better for the environment than other materials as it can be recycled and be used in the 3D printing process for models and prototypes. PLA plastic filament is a popular choice in 3D printing, in particular when using the FDM technology.

PLA material is the best option for those applications where 3D printing is still a relatively new addition, as it is known in the industry as the easiest filament material to print. It is ideal for those who are looking to carry out fast prototyping, which is why it’s the perfect choice for quick work.

A black 3D printed model in PLA 3D printing filament material

Main features

Dimensional accuracy: high
Material costs: low
Strength: high
Flexibility: low

Resistance

Heat resistance: low
Chemical resistance: low
Flame retardant: no
Water resistance: medium

Temperatures

Melting temperature: 160 degrees Celsius
Nozzle temperature: 190-210 degrees Celsius
Heated bed: 60-80 degrees Celsius

Downpoints

Objects printed with PLA material can deform due to high ambient temperatures (>50 degrees Celsius).

Features of PLA material

Teeth which are 3D Printed with Grey PLA Filament

PLA material is made from a renewable resource, which makes it completely different to plastics that are petroleum based and made from oil or natural gases that are in short supply throughout the world. Therefore, it is a material that is extremely reliable in terms of availability.

PLA plastic is compostable which makes it completely different to other types of 3D printing materials. Traditional plastics are believed to take hundreds of years to break down and may, never ever breakdown, especially when they end up in landfill where there is no air or sunlight to break it down. However, PLA material can breakdown into natural elements in commercial compost facilities.

It is a known fact that plastics, when melted, can pose a risk to health as they release harmful and toxic chemicals. In contrast to this, as PLA is biologically based, it does not produce the same harmful toxic fumes should it be incinerated instead of ending up in a composting facility.

Easy to obtain a quality finish

The material is extremely forgiving and this means it is possible to obtain a quality finish with minimal or no shrinkage or warpage. It can provide a detailed finish due to the fact that it is not prone to stringing or blobbing.

Following all printing jobs, post print finishing is extremely simple because it can be drilled, sanded or cut while it also offers a high level of strength. It can be found in a wide range of colours due to simple pigmentation, which makes finding a selection of vivid colours for a broad range of applications even easier.

Blue 3D Printed object in PLA Material

PLA material 3D printing tips

When it comes to printing with PLA material, it is important to understand its strengths and weaknesses, but you also have to know how to get the most from this material. It is important to take possible issues into account when deciding to start with PLA 3D printing, so you know what you can expect.

The touch screen of the T1250 Tractus3D printer

1. Control the temperature

When printing with PLA material it is important that the temperature is right. Therefore, beginning with a starting temperature of 195 degrees Celsius will ensure that you give yourself the best chance of success. The temperature can then be reduced or increased by 5-degree increments to obtain the right quality of print and strength so that they complement each other. Some high quality PLA plastics will print at a lower temperature because it contains a higher level of pure resin with fewer contaminants. To improve the adhesion to the build plate, it is important that it is heated to 60 degrees.

Stringing issues on a blue 3D printed object of PLA material

2. Look out for stringing (temperature too high)

If the temperature is too high then strings will appear between the separate parts while the extruder will leak PLA material when it moves between the different areas during printing. Should this occur, then you will be required to decrease the temperature in increments until the extruder stops leaking so much material.

The printhead nozzle of a PEEK 3D printer

3. Layers fail to adhere (temperature too low)

Should the printing temperature be too cold, you will find that the filament will fail to adhere to the previous layer, which will then create a surface that looks and feels rough. It can also mean that the part will be weaker and can then be pulled apart easily. If this should happen, the printhead temperature should be increased by five-degree increments until the printing looks good and the line segments for each layer are right, this will then result in a stronger part once the job has finished.

Screenshot of Simplify3D software with retraction settings for the 3D printer

4. Lower level of viscosity

It can occur that a filament has a lower level of viscosity when compared to other types of PLA material, which means leaking will be higher at lower temperatures. If this is the case then the retraction should be increased by a few millimetres. You can change the retraction distance in the 3D printing software, for example in Simplify3D.

Red filament spool in PLA material for FDM printers

5. Keep the PLA filament dry

PLA material needs to be storaged in a cool and dark place, preferably in a sealed bag. By doing this, you will preserve the quality of the PLA plastics and ensure that the result of the printing process is as expected.

Industries that use PLA material in 3D Printing

As PLA is a very adaptable material that comes with many benefits, it is common to find its use in a number of industries. As time goes on, the applications for which it can be used are developing and growing. Printing with PLA material brings with it a multitude of benefits and that is why it is growing in popularity amongst many industries and manufacturers. The way in which the filament is better for the environment certainly works in its favour and this means that it will surely continue to play a major role in FDM printing. As it is easier on the environment, it will mean that businesses are seen to be doing their bit for the environment while also manufacturing products that are durable, strong and reliable.

Food is packaged and after that placed in green barrels and crates

Food Packaging

As PLA material is seen as a safe alternative to traditional plastics, it is now being used in food packaging. However, it is used because of its ability to package food as it can be disposed extremely easily and will not harm the environment.

a Tractus3D industrial 3D printer next to a racecar

Automotive

The automobile industry is constantly looking at ways to build vehicles that are environmentally friendly and so, PLA material is the perfect option when it comes to prototyping car parts. End-products can be found in plastic trim and plastic on dashboards.

Many household appliances can be found which contain PLA material

Household appliances

Many household appliances can be found which contain PLA material. This is because it's a plastic that offers environmental benefits as well as benefits for the application for which it is used.

What do you want to create by 3D printing with PLA?

Create small and detailed parts

a FDM printing machine next to a desk

With a 3D printer on your desk you can easily create small parts and specialized tools yourself. It is far less complex than other machines, which means that you can produce more products in an efficient and simple way without the high costs. The 3D printers in our desk-series have a fast printing speed, a high accuracy and a low weight, making it easy to put on your desktop or move around.

Create strong and light weight parts

PEEK 3D printer of Tractus3D

High-performance materials, like PEEK and ULTEM® (PEI) are stronger and more resistant than other thermoplastics, making them popular in a number of engineering applications. To 3D print such materials, you need a special printer that can handle very high temperatures. The T650-P is designed for 3D printing high performance thermoplastics, which are strong and durable for long-lasting parts.

Create large parts up to 2,1 meters

Tractus3D big delta Industrial 3D printer 3D printing a big object

The ability to use 3D printing to enhance business operations, reduce costs and improve efficiency is exactly why a 3D printer has become a popular solution. If you’re looking for a way to produce detailed and big objects our large volume 3D printers are an excellent choice. They have a much larger build size than most other industrial 3D printers and can print objects fast at high resolution.

Tractus3D printers are all capable to print PLA and over 20 other materials

Most advanced  Competitively priced  You are always covered

Durable, strong and reliable

Printing with PLA material brings with it a multitude of benefits and that is why it is growing in popularity amongst many industries and manufacturers. The way in which the PLA plastic is better for the environment certainly works in its favour and this means that it will surely continue to play a major role in FDM printing.

When printing with a Tractus3D printer, PLA material makes it possible for many industries to make use of a filament that is ideal for a wide range of applications including use in the food industry, the automobile industry and household appliances. PLA material offers manufacturers a more adaptable and forgiving way of printing with the material and that enhances efficiency, accuracy and productivity, which is exactly what businesses are always looking to achieve.

Quality and efficiency

Through using the T1250 3D printer, it will give manufacturers the ability to benefit from the multitude of benefits that are on offer as well as a high level of quality. There are some critical points to be aware of when using PLA material, but because of the way the T1250 has been designed, it helps to reduce the issues while making it possible to create products of a high standard.

The range of printing temperatures that the T1250 offers means that it can easily work in harmony with PLA material because it needs a stable print temperature for it to be used successfully. This means that the printer performs extremely well and offers more efficiency and quality than other printers can offer. That enables Tractus3D to remain ahead of the other 3D printing companies.

Printing speed combined with accuracy

The T1250 has the same high printing speed and accuracy as the smaller Tractus3D industrial printers, but can print up to a height of 675 mm, with a diameter of 360 mm. This is perfect for users who need to 3D print larger sized objects with plastics like PLA.

Tractus3D printers in general offer speed, efficiency and accuracy, which is what many manufacturers are looking for. The high temperatures within the nozzle and the print bed (build platform) make it a very useful printer in many ways and this ensures a level of quality that other printers cannot match. This means that the use of PLA material is a great choice when it comes to printing with the T1250.There are also other filaments available and not just PLA including PETG, ABS, Wood and many more.

Businessman working on a computer on a desk with a industrial Tractus3D FDM printer on it

Do you have a question about 3D printing PLA? We are there for you!

Please ask us any questions you have about 3D printing PLA. We are happy to help and to provide you with whatever assistance you need in researching the ideal solution for your business - in whatever way works best for you.

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