Today’s post is our first material profile.
PLA (polylactic acid)-
How it’s made
It all starts with corn which is first ground up into starch through a wet milling process. Second by the use of acid or enzymes the starch is broken down into sugar.
Your cells can make lactic acid as well. When we exercise our muscles start to produce lactic acid due to lack of oxygen. When this occurs we feel a burning sensation in our muscles.
To accumulate enough lactic acid, to produce PLA bacteria are grown in large bioreactors.
In the next step several chemical reactions are used to link the lactic acid molecules together, forming long polymers or PLA (polylactic acid). The journey does not end here though, after post processing the PLA is formed or 3D printed into various products. When those products are disposed of the PLA biodegrades in the soil. It’s the circle of life, literally! Except with plastic!
Type of 3D printing which utilizes material: FDM (Fused deposition Modeling)
Most printers utilize 1.7mm filament, some use 3mm filament
Strength: While PLA is a fairly strong plastic. It is less flexible than ABS. It is also biodegradable and will corrode in wet conditions.
Suggested Printing Temperature: 230 °C.
Depending on how the material was manufactured and what dyes have been added the melting temperature may vary. Also, the accuracy at which temperature is controlled is dependent on the printer.
Renewable Resource: Yes
Starting material= corn or maize (if you want to get technical)
Cost: $33 to $48 a kg
Favorite Source: justpla.com for 1.7mm filament
Natural Color: The natural color is a translucent yellow hue
Other Colors: Comes in a variety of colors as shown below, varies by supplier. Some PLA is translucent others are opaque. It also comes in glow in the dark varieties.
This Yoda bust was printed out of PLA at the highest resolution ever achieved using a FDM printer (0.04mm z layer). We will discuss printer resolution in later posts.
Today I leave you with a glimpse of the future. 3D printed food!
Back on Monday with a new 3D printing post!