Printing with PLA

What is PLA?

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is a bio-degradable and bioactive thermoplastic polyester derived from renewable resources such as corn starch, cassava roots, chips or starch or sugarcane. PLA along with ABS is one of the most popular materials used in the 3D printing community.
PLA is harder than ABS, has a low coefficient of thermal expansion and low vicat temperature. Because of these properties it is the most easiest to print with and most suitable for beginners.

Temperatures when printing PLA

The temperature of the nozzle when printing with PLA should be around 200°C. Even though we don’t need a heated bed to print PLA, it is recommended. The temperature of the heated bed should be around 55-70°C. By increasing the bed temperature we’re achieving better adhesion of the material on the table. We can use hair spray or painters tape to ensure better adhesion on the bed. If you’re printing on painters tape, you can print with or without a heated bed.

Rafts and supports

When printing PLA on rafts or with supports, we have to take into consideration that due to the properties of PLA (high strength) rafts and supports will be very hard to remove. That is why it is not recommended to print PLA on rafts. We have also had a lot of problems removing supports from PLA prints.

Cooling and printing speeds

When printing with PLA cooling has to be set at 100%, because we need to cool the material as soon as it is extruded. Enclosing a printer is not recommended when dealing with PLA. Print speeds can be set to maximum, but if you’re printing a model with a lot of details you can try printing at lower speeds as this will yield better results.

In conclusion, if you’re new to 3D printing, PLA is the best material to start with, because you won’t be dealing with issues like print not sticking to bed or warping, as you can when dealing with ABS. Due to it’s properties, PLA should be used only to print things that will be exposed up to 60°C, because above that temperature, prints will get saggy. You shouldn’t print things such as tool handles or things that will be dropped frequently, because PLA is very brittle and will most likely break or chip (PLA is not flexible like ABS, meaning it will break rather than bend).

Thank you for reading, leave a comment!

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