Filament Guide| 5 Basics You Need to Know About PLA
2020-06-23

PLA filament is widely loved by users in the 3D printer industry due to its stable performance, low price, and affordable price, and environmental protection effects.

What is PLA Filament?
PLA filament is the most commonly used 3D printing material used on FDM 3D printers. PLA (Polylactic Acid), also known as corn starch resin, is a new type of biodegradable material made from starch raw materials extracted from renewable plant resources (such as corn), with good biodegradability.

PLA History and Its Production Process
Back into the 1930s, PLA was first produced by American chemist Wallace Carothers who is most well-known for the research and development of nylon and neoprene in the chemical company DuPont. Later in the 1980s, PLA was eventually produced for use by American company Cargill.

PLA is polyester produced by fermentation under controlled conditions of a carbohydrate source such as corn starch or sugar cane. At first, the corn has to be wet-milled thus making the starch gets separated, and then it will mix with an acid or lactic acid monomer. Through the mixture process, starch is broken down into glucose (D-glucose) or corn sugar. As a result, glucose fermentation produces L-lactic acid, which is an essential component of PLA.

PLA is considered a non-Newtonian pseudoplastic fluid, which means its viscosity (flow resistance) will change depending on the stress it is subjected to. Specifically speaking, PLA is a finely cut material, which means that viscosity decreases as you apply pressure.

Characteristics of PLA Filament:
PLA filaments are of great properties which make them especially suitable for entry-level users and worries-free printing experience.

1. Easy-to-print. PLA has its melting temperature at 180ºC, which makes the use of hotbed heating and printer enclosure not necessary when printing with PLA. Besides, PLA is of good tensile strength with tensile modulus 2.7–16 GPa, reducing the printing trouble such as warping or nozzle clogging.

2. High heat resistance. Basically, the basic mechanical properties of PLA are between polystyrene and PET. PLA can withstand a high temperature of 110 ºC, therefore, it is often used in the food industry and for 3D printing.

3. Quality final prints. Compared to other 3D printing materials like ABS which often brings stringiness or blabbing during printing, PLA, on the other hand, greatly eliminates those potential problems.

4. Less complex post-processing. To make better quality PLA 3D prints, PLA only requires simple post-processing methods such as sanding and acetone treating, making it more convenient to print with.

5. No-toxic and sustainable. As mentioned before, PLA is made from natural materials such as corn starch. It can be degraded under certain aerobic conditions.

PLA Filament Applications
PLA 3D printing filament is harmless and biodegradable, which makes it a unique advantage in disposable tableware, food packaging materials, and other disposable supplies. Meanwhile, what requires attention is that disposable tableware processed with PLA raw materials are not resistant to temperature, oil, and microwave. As technology evolutes, PLA filament is also gradually applied in the automotive industry and electronics.

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