PLA-Polylactic Acid

3d coin

Today’s post is our first material profile.

PLA (polylactic acid)-

PLA-4032D-5lb-coil-Plastic-MakerBot-IndustriesEco Friendly Energy

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.


The sugar is then fed to a special type of bacteria (Lactobacilli) which produces lactic acid as waste during fermentation.


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!


Material Properties:

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.

Biodegradable: Yes

Renewable Resource: Yes

Starting material= corn or maize (if you want to get technical)

Cost: $33 to $48 a kg

Favorite Source: 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.

white_full_800-800x800 darkgrey_full_800-800x800 black_full_800-800x800 red_full_800-800x800 emeraldf_full_800-800x800 darkblue_full_800-800x800 yellow_full_800-800x800 orange_full_800-800x800 pla_purple_full_800-800x800 pink_full_800-800x800 green_full_800-800x800PLA175GlowGn1


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!


Posted on May 24, 2013, in 3D Printing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I read this piece of writing completely on the topic of the comparison of
    latest and previous technologies, it’s awesome

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