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What is PLA

 PLA -> polylactic acid which is a vegetable-based plastic type material. Derived from renewable sources, for example, corn starch or sugar cane (biomass). Although this name is ambiguous as polylactic acid is not a poly acid but rather a polyester. 

These types of plastics are also known as ‘bioplastics’ as most plastics are created using  nonrenewable petroleum reserves. 

Polylactic acid can be created from pre-existing manufacturing equipment therefore they are quite cost efficient to produce. 

Other uses of polylactic acid include:

   - Plastic films

   - Bottles

   - Biodegradable medical devices

PLA facts:

   - Generally food-safe 

   - Easily sanded

   - Easily painted

   - Biodegradable -> although it is biodegradable, it doesn’t compost fast enough to be composted. 

   - Not suitable to be outside

   - Low heat resistance/low melting point

   - Good dimensional accuracy 

   - Good strength

Polylactic acid -> a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester with a backbone formula.

Bio based aliphatic polyesters, including PLA, usually have low melting points and glass transition temperature and are hydrophilic. 

Hydrophilic -> they have a moderate/high water intake when exposed to sources of moisture. This effects it’s mechanical properties and stability. 

For this reason, PLA filament for 3D printing is vacuum sealed and when open will only last so long. You can check if your filament is still good by bending it a little, it it bends you’re good, if it breaks the filament is bad. 

PLA is one of the most commonly used filament types in 3D printing. 

The properties of PLA:

Tg -> ~ 45 - 60 degrees Celsius

Tm -> ~ 150 - 160 degrees Celsius

Glass transition temperature -> Tg -> the temperature when a polymer transitions from a ductile material to a hard, brittle material. 

(For the heat of the printer bed, but this does not mean to set this as the temperature)

Polymer -> of a class, natural or synthetic, substances composed of very large molecules. Polymers examples inside living organisms include, proteins, cellulose, and nucleic acids. PLA is in the polymer class: polyesters. 

Melting point for a double-stranded nucleic acid -> Tm -> the temperature when 50% of the strands are in double-stranded form and the other 50% being in single-stranded form. “Midway in the melting curve”.

When using PLA set these settings:

Bed temperature -> 45-60 degrees Celsius 

Extruder -> 190-220 degrees Celsius 

Cooling -> set to 100% (can ooze without a cooling fan)

Learn more about 3D printers.


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