What is PLA filament? PLA filament work, size and made of
PLA filament is a biodegradable filament, which is used in 3D printers to do complex printings. The abbreviation PLA refers to Poly Lactic Acid, which is derived from environment-friendly materials like cornstarch or sugarcane. This filament is used in a wide range of applications as it comes in various shades and styles. The cheaper cost, environmental-friendly renewable raw materials and glossy finish make this filament mostly usable for 3D printings.
Why you should choose PLA over other filaments
Well, if you are thinking about 3D printing projects you might also have made your mind about using perfect PLA filament in the printer. But the question is why use PLA filament over other filaments? Definitely, there are some reasons why people love to go with PLA when there are some other filaments available for 3D printing as well.
- Biodegradable: PLA or Poly Lactic Acid is a complete biodegradable thermoplastic polymer and it is used to make PLA filament. The biodegradable nature makes this filament environment-friendly, which is to be the first and most important reason for choosing PLA other types of filaments for 3D printing.
- Renewable raw materials: PLA is made from renewable raw materials that make it safer for the surroundings when it is used in the printer. These renewable raw materials also make the filament compostable after it has been used.
- Affordable: Another noteworthy reason for keeping PLA filament over other filament is the cheapness. People who need filament for 3D printing can easily afford PLA filament because of its cheap price.
- Complex 3D printing projects: PLA filament is an excellent choice for complex 3D projects. It is easy to use and you can also use it with ease and grace on a complex 3D project, which looks a bit difficult with the other filaments. It is also usable in materials with detailed design.
- Variety in colors and design: You will find PLA filaments in different colors and they are made for use on different materials. This filament provides a glossy finish when it is put on the projects.
- Doesn’t create any odor: You can use this filament without thinking of having unlivable surrounding while the printing process is going on. PLA filament does the 3D printing in an odorless and clog-free environment.
How does a PLA filament work
PLA is used for 3D printings and it is very much easy to use. To use the filament, you need a replicator printer for the PLA and filament. Typically PLA filament comes like the wire on a spool.
- You don’t need a printing bed like the other filaments when you are using PLA filaments. However, if you are using one, the temperature should be kept within 45 to 60 degrees Celsius.
- PLA can come in opaque color, which will give you a glossy finish and also in translucent color. You need to decide which type of color you prefer as the filament is usable in a wide range of applications.
- Now take the outer part of the filament from the spool and connect it to the printer.
- You have to keep the temperature within 190 to 220 degrees Celsius for having the best possible result. Whereas other filaments require 250 degrees or up the temperature to work on, PLA filament can go well in 180 degree Celsius temperature.
- Some high-grade 3D printers are well capable of working without any cooling fan and they can make your 3D project efficiently. Meanwhile, if you don’t owe such printers you need to use cooling fans surrounding the subject at 100% speed.
- Each printer has its capacity of how much horizontally or vertically you can do your 3D printing and you have to keep your eyes on that limit.
What is PLA filament made of
As I have already said, PLA filament is a biodegradable filament and it is made from cornstarch or sugarcane. Both these things are food grade and biodegradable. Moreover, the raw materials are renewable which makes them harmless to the environment .pdf.
- To make the PLA filament first, you need to select the biodegradable, food-grade resource that can be cornstarch or sugar cane.
- I prefer using PLA from cornstarch and for this, you have to separate the starch from the wet milling process and it is the first step of making the ingredient of the filament.
- Then mix the starch with enzymes and supply adequate heat to the mixture. This process will certainly transform the starch into D-glucose.
- After having glucose, you need to apply the fermentation method to get lactic acid from the glucose.
- Now it’s time to create PLA plastic from the lactic acid. For this, you can use two different methods.
- In the first method, you will get a better molecular weight as you will use lactide as a mediator state. In the other method, you can directly polymerize the lactic acid.
- When you transform the glucose into PLA plastic, you won’t find them in string shape design of course. And for manufacturing purposes, you have to bring a string shape on the PLA plastic.
- Now for this, you need to go through a heating and cooling process. First, put uneven shaped PLA plastics in the filament extruder. There is a heating chamber, which will make a string like a bond between all the pieces of plastics.
- Then through a nozzle, the string-like bond will move into the cooling section. The sting like plastic will go through another two chambers, where the first one is filled up with warm water. The warm water helps to give the plastic a properly-rounded diameter. And the second chamber is filled up with cool water to help the plastic retain its shape.
- Next, the filament will be automatically moved to the spool mechanism from the cooling chamber. It has a laser device to measure the diameter of the filament and it will want the filament to stay in two standard diameters. It will cut the filament when the machine detects the spool is properly rounded up with the string of PLA filament.
PLA filament size
There are mainly two standard sizes of PLA filaments, 1.75 mm in diameter and 2.85 mm in diameter. However, most 3D printing manufacturer loves to use the first type. You will notice a few accurate ups and down in the filament which will be not more than +0.05 or -0.05 mm.
PLA vs. ABS filament
Both PLA and ABS filaments are made of thermoplastic. But they are not the same at all. Although PLA filament can be used with ABS filament, some differences distinguish these two.
- Thermoplastic: PLA filament is made of using Poly Lactic Acid thermoplastic, whereas ABS has used Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene thermoplastic.
- Fast processing: PLA filament is known for its fast processing even in creating complex 3D objects.
- Accuracy in work: In the term of accuracy, PLA filament is also the winner. Unlike ABS, it uses a low temperature and when it is cooled, it can accurately print the corner and provide a complex shape to the project.
- Strength: ABS filament is stiffer and durable, whereas PLA is rigid and fragile. ABS can provide you higher impact resistance, which makes it better than PLA in this field.
- Melting temperature: If you are thinking of applying one of these filaments in a high-temperature object, ABS will be the right choice as it has a melting temperature of 105 degrees that is of course better than PLA’s 60 degrees.
I think you are now well aware of the facts you need to know about PLA filament and also know in what fields it is better than other filaments.