In the realm of home 3D printing, polylactic acid (PLA) is king. Although it’s often compared to ABS – next in line to the throne – PLA is easily the most popular 3D printer filament type, and for good reason.
First and foremost, it’s easy to print with. PLA has a lower printing temperature than ABS, and it doesn’t warp as easily, meaning it doesn’t require a heating bed (although it definitely helps). Another benefit to using PLA is that it doesn’t give off an evil smell during printing. It’s generally considered an odorless filament, but many have reported smelling sweet candy-like fumes.
Finally, as a biodegradable thermoplastic, PLA is more environmentally friendly than most types of 3D printer filament, being made from annually renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane.
Like ABS, PLA is the base material used in many exotic or recreational filaments, such as those with conductive or glow-in-the-dark properties, or those infused with wood or metal.
- Strength: High | Flexibility: Low | Durability: Medium
- Difficulty to use: Low/li>
- Print temperature: 180°C – 230°C
- Print bed temperature: 20°C – 60°C (but not needed)
- Shrinkage/warping: Minimal
- Soluble: No
- Food safety: Refer to manufacturer guidelines
When Should I Use PLA 3D Printer Filament?
In this case, the better question might be, When shouldn’t I use PLA? Compared to other types of 3D printer filament, PLA is brittle, so avoid using it when making items that might be bent, twisted, or dropped repeatedly, such as phone cases, high-wear toys, or tool handles.
You should also avoid using it with items which need to withstand higher temperatures, as PLA tends to deform around temperatures of 60°C or higher. For all other applications, PLA makes for a good overall choice in filament.
Common prints include models, low-wear toys, prototype parts, and containers.