PLA Filament Guide – All You Need to Know

There are actually all kinds of things that you should know about the printing itself and about the filaments that are involved before you start buying anything or getting too involved, so we’re going to take a closer look at everything. From understanding the specific type of filaments to the material and even understanding the comparisons between different options, we’re going to dive into it all.
 

What is PLA Material?


First, what is PLA? Well, PLA is actually the most common material that’s used for what’s called FDM 3D printing. The material itself comes in several different blends, which means that it’s difficult to narrow it down exactly when we talk about what it is, but we’ll try to explain just what goes into most of them.
Wood Blends – These have, as you might have guessed, wood right in them. They’re designed to give you an actual wood grain in the finished product, which creates a truly unique finish.
Metal Powder Blends – These, as you also might have guessed, include different types of metal directly in the blend. They are actually designed to give you a more metallic shine when they’re finished and polished.
Overall, you’ll find a large number of different blends, and we’ll list the ones here that we’ve found.

Algae
Aluminum
Bamboo
Beer
Birch
Brass
Bronze
Carbon Fiber
Cedar
Coconut
Coffee
Color Changing
Conductive
Copper
Cork
Ebony
Fluorescent
Glitter
Glow-in-the-Dark
Hemp
High Temperature
Industrial
Magnetic Iron
Olive
Pinewood
PLA/PHA
Polyester
Rubber
Silk
Stainless Steel
Transparent
Willow

 

What are PLA Filaments?

PLA filaments are actually all made with polylactic acid (that’s what the PLA actually stands for). It’s then mixed with one of the many ingredients mentioned above and sometimes with a specific color to create a filament that’s a different style, color, weight or for a different purpose. Overall, however, these filaments are considered a thermoplastic polymer that actually comes from a host of different renewable resources, so they’re not harming the environment. They’re also biodegradable, so whatever you create will eventually break down into the earth.
The reason they’re so much better than other types of filaments is that you’re going to get all of the quality that you’re looking for but you’re also going to get that environmentally friendly aspect that can make you feel great about using this product. They come in all the different varieties that you could possibly want and they’re not going to hurt the environment along the way. That’s definitely going to be a good bonus, right?
Now, if you’re wondering more generally what these filaments are, they’re the pieces that are used for a 3D printer to create whatever it is you want to make. The filaments are actually found on spools and you can load them directly into your printer in whatever configurations you want (depending on your printer) and it pulls the filaments and creates what you program it to, just like that.
 

Is PLA or ABS Stonier?


When we start looking at different varieties of filament for a 3D printer the other one that you should look at is ABS. These two are the most popular and most commonly used among enthusiasts, so it’s a good idea to recognize what this one can do as well and why you might want to choose one over the other.

Where PLA filament is biodegradable, durable and simple to use, ABS is a little different. ABS is actually stronger and more durable than PLA and it’s also quite flexible. On the other hand, this material is made with an oil-based thermoplastic, which means that it’s definitely not safe for the environment and you’re going to get that chemical smell when you heat it up to create something. So, let’s look at a couple of key points:

Printing Quality: PLA is a simple product to use when you’re printing something because it melts at a lower temperature and it’s not as likely to warp in the process. Not only that but it’s going to smell quite a bit better than ABS.

Nozzle Use: ABS is designed to smooth out and flow easily when it’s melted down, which means that it’s going to flow through your printer nozzle with no problems at all. On the other hand, PLA can get a little sticky and that can clog up your nozzle.

Cooling Off: PLA is designed to cool easily, without needing additional support once it’s formed or as it’s being formed. You can print it directly onto a standard print bed. ABS, on the other hand, requires a heating bed or an enclosure so it doesn’t cool too quickly and crack.

Durability: ABS is stronger and more durable to wear, more flexible as well as being extremely impact resistant. On the other hand, PLA has pretty good surface hardness but will otherwise break under pressure.

After Use: Once you’re done with whatever you’ve created you can actually put PLA directly into your city composter and it will break down because it’s biodegradable. ABS, however, is recyclable, so you’re not totally hurting the environment.

Additional Care: For those who want to glue pieces together or who are interested in painting their finished product ABS is generally the better way to go. You’ll need to coat your PLA before attempting to paint it.
 

Is PLA Filament Biodegradable?


Absolutely, PLA filament is biodegradable because it’s made with specific ingredients that are meant to break down and return to the earth over time. This is great because it means you’re not just creating something that’s going to eventually sit in a landfill for hundreds of years. When you or whoever has the product gets tired of it they can get rid of it and know that the product itself is going to break down and it’s going to return to the particles that it used to be, nurturing the earth instead of bogging it down with more trash.
 

Any Other Benefits of PLA Besides Chemical Property?


There are several different benefits to PLA, with the best one being that this particular filament is super simple to print with. It’s easy for even beginners to use and it doesn’t have the learning curve or process that you’ll have with other formats (including ABS).

You’ll also have the ability to get very intricate detailing in the end product that you create because the filament itself doesn’t get stringy or produce blobs while you’re trying to work with it. Instead, you’ll get a smooth application and you can create more unique end products.

The material doesn’t release a strong smell when you’re printing with it and when it gets heated because it’s not made with the heavier chemicals and products like ABS. This makes it easier to use in your household because no one is going to be irritated by the smell.

PLA also comes in a wide range of different blends and different colors because of the way that it’s made. This makes it very easy to pigment and therefore simple to get a great looking finished product that’s just the colors that you want it to be.
 
Overall, you’re going to find a number of great benefits to PLA filament. You’ll be able to create the products that you want and you’re going to have no problem finding a specific filament that creates the right impression. With PLA, you’re going to have no end to the options available.