PLA Material For 3D Printing – Properties Guide

PLA material is one of the go to material for desktop 3D printing. This guide covers PLA material properties and what applications it can be used for.

PLA Overviews

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is the most popular material for desktop FDM 3D printing. It’s easy to use, low cost and have great dimensional accuracy when printing.

If you’re new to 3D printing, the PLA material is great for the first time student to create a wide variety of parts for different applications.

In addition, the PLA material is derived from crops such as sugarcane and corn, so it’s biodegradable thermoplastic polymer consisting of renewable raw materials for additive manufacturing.

PLA Material Properties

  • Density – 1.24 g/cm3
  • Coefficient of Thermal Expansion – 68 µm/m-°C
  • Extruder Temperature – 190 – 220°C
  • Bed Temperature – 45- 60°C
  • Price (per kg) – $10 – $40

Areas Of Strength

  • Low cost
  • Easy to learn to use
  • Wide range of colors and blends
  • Great for non functional prototyping
  • Biodegradable
  • Can be solvent welded using dichloromethane
  • Easy post processing

Areas Of Weakness

  • Low heat resistance
  • Machine processing is difficult
  • Lower tensile strength for hard use
  • Very brittle
  • Prone to oozing due to heat (Fast cooling required to prevent oozing)

Common Applications For PLA

  • Learn to 3D print for beginners
  • Cardiovascular implants
  • Drug carriers
  • Print tools
  • Production of tubes
  • Surgical pins
  • Cutlery equipment
  • Jigs and fixtures
  • For hobbyists

Which 3D Printers Can Print PLA

Please make sure your FDM 3D printer has the following capability:

  • Extruder temperature – 190-220 °C
  • No special hot end required
  • Heated bed – 95-110 °C
  • Build surface – Painter’s tape, Glue stick, Glass plate, PEI
  • Cooling fan is required

Best Practices Using PLA Material In 3D Printing

Optimize Cooling Makes A Huge Difference

  • Cool down freshly extruded plastic below the glass transition temperature to prevent stringing and other artifacts
  • Dial cooling fan airflow to max to cool down the entire printing process except for the first 2 layers
  • Use printers that have automatic cooling fan control to greatly improve the print quality without operator’s attendance

Be Specific With Extruder Temperature

  • Different PLA additives can lead to variation in printing temperature (Different for every brand)
  • Wrong temperature setting can lead to oozing, stringing, unwanted artifacts and under extrusion
  • Different settings are required when PLA filament is combined with metal, wood and fiber
  • Always check manufacturer spec for that specific filament before setting the extruder temperature

Fine Tune Retraction To Prevent Oozing

  • Dial retraction setting to prevent filament over flow at the end of a print segment.
  • Try different retraction distance and use the one that gives you the best results

Increase Perimeter Layers

  • Create strong bond between each layers on the perimeter outlines to avoid part breaking

Leave a Comment