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How to print high quality 3D parts with PLA filament

Posted by Aaron Chen on

3D-printing-PLA-filamentPLA filament is probably the most popular 3D printing material today. It is also the easiest material to work and print with nowadays. PLA filament is widely used in FDM 3D printing. It is also ideal for a wide range of applications because it does not wrap easily.

Furthermore, this filament is popular for its unique blends and vibrant colour options. It comes in different shades and styles and known to be an aesthetically pleasing 3D printing filament. 

When handled well, PLA filaments give good results within a wide array of variables compared to other 3D printing filaments. As a guide, here is a blog post on how to get the best quality when 3D printing with PLA filament.

What is PLA material

PLA or Polylactic Acid is a thermoplastic polymer. The majority of the existing thermoplastics are derived from distillation of non-renewable petroleum reserves. However, PLA is different from most thermoplastic polymers because it is derived from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane. It is also referred to as “bioplastic”.

PLA has similar characteristics to polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) or polystyrene (PS). Moreover, PLA filament is natural and long-term biodegradable material.

Why choose PLA for 3D printing

Here are some of the reasons why PLA filament is commonly used in 3D printing:

  • This filament is easy to print. If a high-quality PLA filament is used, it will flow nicely and won’t warp.
  • It has a very neat finish detail. It is not prone to stringing.
  • Post-processing is straight forward because it is easy to sand, cut or drill after printing.
  • This filament doesn’t smell bad when printing compared to other filaments like ABS.
  • Throwing it away will not be a problem because PLA filament is biodegradable. It is also non-toxic and contains all-natural ingredients.
  • This filament can be pigmented easily. There is a wide range of better and vivid colours.

Getting the first layer right

One of the most important parts of any 3D model is the first layer. Here are a few things that need to be done so that the first layer will stick well.

  • The print bed or the print surface needs to be levelled.
  • The extruder needs to be homed to the correct height from the bed.
  • Good base material is needed for the PLA to adhere to.

Printing on blue tape

One of the easiest and fastest ways to get a better print from PLA is by using blue tape or painter’s tape. Here are the things to do:

  • Check if the blue tape creates an even layer. Make sure not to miss any spots or overlap the edges.
  • The blue tape will not stick well to the PLA if the bed is heated.
  • Replace any damaged tape strips when removing parts.
  • Replace the blue tape after 5-10 prints or when parts stop sticking.
  • If the first layer does not stick, check if the print head is close enough. It should make a nice pinched line of PLA.

Getting the right temperature

If a new roll of PLA filament is used, start printing at about 205ᵒC. After that, adjust the temperature gradually by 5ᵒ increments until good quality print layers are produced.

If the temperature is too high, there will be more strings between the parts. Stringing happens because the hot filament loses too much viscosity. To solve this issue, try to incrementally decrease the temperature by 5ᵒ until the extruder stops leaking too much material.

On the other hand, if the temperature is too cold, the filament may not stick properly and gets a rough surface. It can also get a weak part that can be pulled apart easily. To prevent this from happening, try increasing the temperature by 5ᵒ until there are good line segments on each layer.

Finding the appropriate PLA temperature may need some trial and error. Temperature will also depend on the quality of the PLA filament.

Post-processing with PLA filament

PLA filament can be post-processed in numerous ways. One of the most common methods is sanding. This method is simply smoothing out the surface layer of the 3D print. It is also an important step especially when trying to paint a 3D model.

Another post-processing option is polishing. This works well with special metal PLA filament. In this method, some latex gloves, Tetrahydrofuran and polishing cloth are needed.

Storing PLA filament

To ensure quality, PLA filament must be stored properly. Though PLA has a longer shelf life, humidity can damage the material in the long run. It will also negatively impact the quality of the 3D prints.

When absorption takes place, the filament will most likely increase its brittleness, filament bubbling, diameter augmentation or filament degradation. To avoid these, PLA filament should be stored inside an airtight container or a speciality box.

Conclusion

PLA is a great filament and it is a type of easy to use 3D printing material. Thus, it is mostly used by designers and engineers today. Aside from that, it is a renewable and biodegradable resource. It will be beneficial to the environment because it is recyclable and non-toxic. 

When using PLA filament, 3D printing designers and engineers must follow the guidelines/tips given above to produce high quality 3D parts.

If you are interested in PLA material or 3D printing, in general, do not hesitate to contact or approach a reputable 3D printing service provider in Sydney. They also offer other 3D printing services such as 3D design, 3D modelling, custom 3D printing, industrial 3D printing and many more.

Topics: 3d printing

   
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