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Everything About PLA Filament

Hello Machine Bros!
Today we are showing you everything about the 3D printing PLA filament!

The PLA (polylactic acid) filament is practically the most basic and popular FDM 3D printing filament. Almost all of us started 3D printing with this filament and then ventured to try others.

This filament can provide very good finishes to our 3D prints and it is very easy to 3D print with it.

If you want to know more about other 3D printing filaments, we recommend you to visit our article Guide to Select 3D Printing Filaments.

Everything About PLA Filament
Black Panther 3D printed in PLA

What is PLA?

Polylactic acid or polyacid lactic (PLA) is a polymer or bioplastic made up of elements like the lactic acid.

The PLA filament is one of the most common filaments and easy to 3D print.

It has the quality of being biodegradable and practically all 3D printers can make models using this material.

What is PLA?
Catbus printed in PLA

PLA Properties

Maximum stress supported (Mpa)65
Deformation temperature °C (°F)52 (125.6)
Stiffness (Scale 1 to 5)3,75
Durability (Scale 1 to 5)2
Ease of printing (Scale from 1 to 5)4,5
Impact resistance (YES or NO)NO
UV resistance (YES or NO)NO
Water resistance (YES or NO)NO
Resistance to a wide variety of chemicals (YES or NO)NO
Fatigue resistance (YES or NO)NO

Is PLA Really Biodegradable?

Yes, it is biodegradable, but under certain conditions (it degrades in conditions of suitable temperature and humidity). Therefore, it should not be disposed of into the environment.

The fact that it is biodegradable does not imply that it is not polluting, since this filament can effectively pollute the environment.

For the correct biodegradation of PLA, it is usually necessary to use a composter.

Under normal room conditions, PLA will take hundreds of years to decompose.

In certain conditions, for example, burying the piece of PLA in a garden, with a temperature of 60°C, with microorganisms and humidity, PLA may begin to show signs of biodegradation in about 6 months.

Popular Brands

Among the most popular filament manufacturers we have:

PLA Filament Price

The price varies depending on the brand and quality of the filament.

Find next some of the most popular PLA filaments sold on Amazon:

PLA Storage

PLA absorbs moisture from the environment, for this reason, good brands of 3D filaments ship their products in sealed packages and with silica gel bags and usually stored in a box.

Tips for Storing the Filament

  1. After using the PLA filament, store it back in its packaging with the silica gel bag inside.

  2. Do not leave the PLA filament exposed to high temperatures or directly exposed to sunlight.

  3. When the filament absorbs moisture, you will hear bubbles bursting at the 3D printer nozzle, this can affect your nozzle and the quality of your 3D print.

  4. If it is too late, and your filament has absorbed moisture, you can try drying the filament in an oven at 40°C (104°F) for 4-6 hours. Make sure the oven reaches the desired temperature first and then put the filament in the oven. If you exceed the temperature in the oven, the filament could melt.

  5. You can also try drying your filament using fruit dehydrators. Also make sure that the temperature is correct.

  6. The filament spools come with holes. When you remove the filament from your 3D printer, place the tip of the filament in these holes. In this way, the filament will not tangle when you use it again (it is very easy to tangle, and it takes a lot of work to untangle it).

How to correctly store 3D printing filament

What is the PLA+ Filament?

The PLA + filament is an “improved version” of PLA and can be located as a filament between PLA and PETG.

The truth is that each brand offers its own PLA +, therefore, there is no unified concept to define what PLA + is composed of.

Each manufacturer adds the “improvements” that they consider pertinent to offer their PLA+.

In short, it is an attempt to improve the classic PLA, under a marketing strategy by calling it PLA +.

Find here some prices of the PLA+ Filament:

Soluble Filament for Supports When Using PLA

PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) Filament

This filament is usually used as a support material since it can be easily removed from the base piece.

For the use of this filament, 3D printers with double extruders are usually used, so that one nozzle deposits the base filament (PLA), and the other nozzle extrudes the support material (PVA).

PVA dissolves in water.

Find here some PVA filament prices:

Composite Filaments with PLA

Many manufacturers mix PLA with other materials to give the filament special characteristics.

These are known as composite filaments where the base material is PLA.

It is very important to mention that some filaments of this type can be abrasive for common nozzles, so it is recommended to use more resistant nozzles. Usually, the manufacturer provides this information.

Here are some examples:

PLA Filament with Wood Particles (Wood Filament)

Wood Filament
PLA Filament with Wood Particles

The PLA filled with wood particles (Wood Filament) is nothing more than a mixture of PLA with wood particles.

The mixture usually contains approximately 30% wood particles, although obviously this will depend on the manufacturer.

The sole purpose of this filament is to give 3D printed parts an aesthetic finish so that they appear to be made of wood.

Find next different prices for Wood Filaments:

PLA Filament with Metal Particles

Metal Filament
PLA Filament with Metal Particles

The PLA filament filled with metal particles (Metal filament) is a mixture of PLA with metallic powders (eg copper, bronze, brass, stainless steel).

Most often, between 30% and 50% of this filament is made up of metallic particles, of course these numbers will vary depending on the manufacturer.

Find next different prices for Metal Filaments:

PLA Filament with Carbon Fiber

PLA Filament with Carbon Fiber
PLA Filament with Carbon Fiber

The Carbon Fiber filament filled with carbon fiber comes from mixing the base material (PLA) with carbon fibers, thus giving the base material more resistance and rigidity.

One disadvantage is that carbon fiber filament is often not impact resistant.

Find next different prices for Carbon Fiber Filaments:

Conductive PLA Filament

Conductive PLA Filament
Conductive PLA Filament

These Conductive filaments are usually nothing more than the result of mixing PLA with small carbon particles, thus making this filament capable of conducting electricity.

Many makers use this filament in 3D printers with double extruders, through one nozzle they deposit the insulating material (PLA) and through the other nozzle they use the conductive filament.

Find next different prices for Conductive Filaments:

Color Changing PLA Filament

Color Changing PLA Filament
Color Changing PLA Filament

There are two types of filaments within this category, those that are mixed with temperature sensitive particles, or those that are mixed with UV sensitive particles.

Depending on the mixture of particles that this PLA has, it can change color when subjected to changes in temperature, or when exposed to ultraviolet light.

Find next different prices for Color Changing PLA Filament:

Silk-like (Shiny) PLA Filament

Silk-like (Shiny) PLA Filament
Silk-like (Shiny) PLA Filament

This filament tries to emulate the appearance of silk.

It is also known as shiny PLA (Shiny PLA) because its function is that, to give the appearance of a shiny silk.

Find next some prices for Silk PLA Filaments:

PLA Filament with Glitter

PLA Filament with Glitter
PLA Filament with Glitter

This filament consists of mixing PLA with glitter, achieving a visual effect that gives a frosty and shiny appearance to 3D models.

Find next some prices for the Sparky Glitter Filament:

Light Weight PLA (LW-PLA)

Light Weight PLA (LW-PLA)
Light Weight PLA (LW-PLA)

This PLA filament is created by ColorFabb. Its function is to be a light material, this due to its lower density.

This consists of a mixture of PLA with secret materials that ColorFabb uses.

Light weight PLA sold in COLORFABB

Soft PLA Filament

Soft PLA Filament
Soft PLA Filament

It is a PLA mixed with certain additives that provide certain flexibility and rubberiness to the pieces.

Soft PLA Filament from MATTERHACKERS

PLA/PHA Filament

PLA/PHA Filament
PLA/PHA Filament

Also manufactured by ColorFabb.

The PLA/PHA filament is an improvement of the PLA, which, offers greater resistance and less brittle than the basic PLA.

Find next different prices for PLA/PHA filaments:

Fluorescent PLA Filament

Fluorescent PLA Filament
Fluorescent PLA Filament

This filament consists of a mixture of PLA with fluorescent pigments. Therefore, they shine a lot when they are subjected to certain excitations produced by UV Light.

Find next different prices for Fluorescent PLA Filaments:

Phosphorescent PLA Filament

Phosphorescent PLA Filament
Phosphorescent PLA Filament

This filament consists of a mixture of PLA with phosphorescent pigments. Therefore, they glow in the dark.

FUN FACT: The difference between fluorescence and phosphorescence lies in their ability to store light energy and subsequently emit it. Fluorescent objects glow while they are subjected to external excitation by UV light, after that excitation ceases, the brightness ceases in a very short time. Phosphorescent objects continue to emit light for a much longer period after excitation ceases.

Find next some prices for Phosphorescent PLA Filaments:

Magnetic PLA Filament

Magnetic PLA Filament
Magnetic PLA Filament

It is a PLA mixed with iron particles, which allows the filament to respond to magnets, and behave similarly to pure iron in the presence of magnetic fields.

PLA Filament with Improved Mechanical Resistance

PLA Filament with Improved Mechanical Resistance
PLA Filament with Improved Mechanical Resistance

These are PLA filaments mixed with other materials (generally they are manufacturers’ secret formulas), which allows obtaining a PLA with better mechanical resistance than a basic PLA.

For example, Taulman3D offers an improved PLA called In-PLA or PLAdium (currently out of stock in most stores)

PLA Filament with Improved Heat Resistance

PLA Filament with Improved Heat Resistance
PLA Filament with Improved Heat Resistance

It consists of a PLA mixed with minerals which allow that after applying a heat treatment, the minerals crystallize, finally achieving that the piece has a better thermal resistance than a basic PLA.

Transparent PLA Filament

Transparent PLA Filament
Transparent PLA Filament

It is a PLA that resembles glass and allows light to pass through.

Find next some prices for Transparent PLA Filaments:

Post-Processing for PLA

Painting 3D prints in PLA

PLA can be subjected to different post-processing such as sanding, polishing, painting, among others.

In the Beginner’s Guide: How to Paint Your 3D Model article, we explain how to polish and paint your 3D prints and also, all the materials you need.

In the following video, where we 3D print and paint Predator, we use the same painting and post-processing techniques from the aforementioned article:

PLA Annealing

Annealing is a post-processing which increases the mechanical and thermal resistance of your 3D prints.

To know how to apply annealing to a 3D print in PLA we recommend that you visit our article How to Apply Annealing to 3D Prints.

PLA Annealing
Applying annealing to a carabiner in our article 3D Printing and Reverse Engineering

Does PLA produce toxic emissions?

Nicolas Roux (filament emissions expert), CEO of Zimple 3D, in an interview with 3dnatives, explains that:

“Scientific studies have shown that PLA emits a significant amount of nanoparticles that can cross the alveolar capillary barrier and contaminate the entire body through the blood.

These particles are mainly lactides, but many other toxic particles can be released, as the filaments used are rarely 100% PLA and contain up to 40% additives.

That is why there is evidence showing that PLA emits styrene, chloromethyl and many other known carcinogens in the chemical industry. “

Although PLA emits fewer toxic particles than other materials such as ABS, it is also advisable to never work near a 3D printer that is in operation, and always work in a ventilated environment.

Is the PLA Food-Safe?

It depends on certain factors:

  1. PLA is authorized to be used in the food industry. But the filaments may come with additives that are not safe for use with food. So, you should buy a filament that its manufacturer indicates is food grade.

  2. FDM 3D printing is porous, therefore, it allows the accumulation of bacteria. If you want to make your PLA print food-safe, you must seal the printed model with some food-grade resin or sealant.

  3. When washing the 3D printed part, it is advisable to use warm water and an antibacterial detergent. (It is NOT recommended to use a dishwasher).

  4. Some brass nozzles contain lead. It is not known for sure how much lead it contains, and if this could in any way contaminate your 3D prints, and consequently, your food. You can try to make sure you get a mouthpiece that is food grade. Another option would be to use stainless steel nozzles.

  5. One last tip would be to try to design 3D models that don’t stay in contact with food for so long. For example: cookie cutters. On the contrary, if you want to create cups, plates, containers to store food, among others, you should take more precautions since the food will be in contact for a longer time with your prints.

Hardware Requirements for 3D Printing with PLA

NOTE: Generally, the different filament manufacturers tell you what parameters they recommend to use their filaments. The most advisable thing is to follow their indications.

It is advisable to print with a hot bed (YES or NO)YES (But it is not essential)
It is advisable to use with closed 3D printers (YES or NO)YES (But it is not essential)
It is recommended to use with a layer fan (YES or NO)YES
It is necessary to use with stainless steel nozzles (YES or NO)NO
It is necessary to use an all-metal hotend (YES or NO)NO
Extruder Temperature (°C) (°F)195-220 (383 – 428)
Bed temperature (°C) (°F)50-70 (122 – 158)
Gollum printed in PLA
Gollum printed in PLA

Example of 3D Printers that Can Print with PLA

Basically, almost all 3D printers can print with PLA.

Here are some popular printers that are capable of printing with PLA:


If you have just purchased your own Creality Ender 3, this article can be of great help to you Assembly and Calibration Creality Ender 3.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the PLA

Advantages

  1. It is biodegradable
  2. Easy to 3D print
  3. Low cost
  4. It is rigid and has good strength
  5. It has good dimensional precision
  6. Less energy is required to process this filament

Disadvantages

  1. Offers very low heat resistance
  2. Not resistant to chemicals or water
  3. The fact of being a rigid material also makes it brittle
  4. Not good for uses where it must be exposed to the elements (sunlight and/or water)
Azog 3D printed in PLA
Azog 3D printed in PLA

When to use the PLA filament?

  • This material is ideal for producing parts or models at low cost.
  • PLA is ideal for beginners, due to how easy it is to 3D print with it.
  • If you need to 3D print something that will not be exposed to extreme conditions (high temperatures, impacts, humidity, UV rays, etc.), this would be the right material.
  • It could also be used to make a first prototype, and if it meets the desired dimensional conditions, proceed to 3D print later in a more durable and/or resistant material.
When to use the PLA filament?
When to use the PLA filament?

Infographic About 3D Printing Filaments

We recommend that you take a look at our mega filament guide that we leave you below:

Guide to Select a 3D Printing Filament
Guide to Select a 3D Printing Filament

You can also access our article Guide to Select 3D Printing Filaments, where you will find all the information you need regarding the most used filaments in 3D printing.

Conclusions

There is no question why PLA is such a popular material. It is very easy to 3D print with this filament, it is practically compatible with all 3D printers and offers very good finishes.

The weak point that PLA has is its resistance to temperature, which is not very good, but by applying annealing we can improve its thermal resistance.

If you need to learn about other filaments visit our mega Guide to Select 3D Printing Filaments.

In addition, if you are starting out in 3D printing, or are already familiar with it, these two articles can be very useful:

  • Advanced guide of Simplify3D for all those who are looking to overcome the barriers and limitations that Slicers can offer, and get to print spectacular models.

Any questions you have, do not hesitate to leave it in our comments section, as well as any contribution or suggestion you wish to make, we are here to grow together in this wonderful world of 3D printing.

Greetings.

See you soon Machine Bros!

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