What is PLA+?
If you are just about starting your foray into the world of 3D printing, the term PLA+ could be pretty puzzling. When it comes to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), a 3D printing technique that adds layer to layer to make prints, PLA is a popular term. So, you might wonder what the “+” is about.
FDM is widely regarded as the easiest way to turn print ideas into reality and the very material that will form your print is an important factor.
In your choice of FDM filaments, PLA stands out from the rest. While filaments like the PETG, ASA, PC, PEI, and ABS can hold their own anytime, any day, the PLA maintains the lead in the popularity contest. In fact, it is quite typical for some printer manufacturers to pack PLAs along with their products. Let’s see what PLA and PLA+ are about.
PLA stands for Polylactic acid. Manufacturers subject lactic acid to the polymerization process to obtain this material. It is the most popular filament type for 3D printing. Unlike the other popular filaments, PLA is non-oil-based and is suitable for a wide range of applications.
Since the PLA filament is a plastic material from lactic acid, it contains non-fossil raw materials like sugar cane or corn starch. These raw materials undergo fermentation to produce PLAs. The nature of PLA makes it less toxic than the others and a better friend to the environment.
There are several brands that manufacture PLA filaments.
You will find several PLA products like;
- Paramount 3D PLA
- Prusament PLA
- Amolen PLA
- Sunlu PLA
- Hatchbox PLA
- Overture PLA
- Eryone PLA
- ColorFABB PLA
- FormFutura PLA
- MatterHackers PLA and
- Polymaker PLA
Each of these products have unique features, but share the fundamental PLA properties.
Several factors make the PLA filament a first-choice printing material for many people. Here are the common reasons.
- Low-melting point
PLA filament has a low melting point. That is, it takes less heat to change it from a solid to a liquid state. Therefore, it is easier to melt than other plastic materials. You can also use PLA without a heated bed. Due to this property, your printer can conserve more energy when you use a PLA filament as it doesn’t require much heat to be set for extrusion.
- Less Expensive
PLA materials are less expensive than other materials.
The PLA material is biodegradable and therefore doesn’t cause harm to the environment.
The characteristics and properties of the PLA are amazing, but what if we could take them to another level? This was the thinking that gave birth to the PLA+.
PLA+ are PLA filaments that have undergone improvements and modifications. Manufacturers have found ways to improve the qualities of the PLA by adding materials to it. So, in essence, PLA+ is simply an enhanced version of PLA with the “+” representing the ever-increasing scope of possibilities as innovation progresses.
The point of PLA+ production is to improve the qualities of the PLA and minimize its failings. To a larger extent, this bid has achieved significant success. The PLA+ holds an edge over the PLA. Here are some of the popular advantages of the PLA+ over the PLA.
One of the drawbacks of the PLA filament was its weakness. PLAs are known for their deficiency in material integrity. For this reason, it was widely advised that PLAs should be avoided when printing material parts with high functionality or load-bearing use. PLAs will cave under significant pressure and lack the capacity to withstand high levels of stress and strain.
The PLA+ has solved this challenge. PLA+ manufacturers have found a way to make modifications that fortify the material and increase its strength. Now PLA+ can produce prints that can withstand significantly more pressure than PLAs. This additional feature has further endeared the 3D printing community to the PLA.
Especially when you aren’t printing for fun, you have an outcome in mind. This outcome is certainly not poor print. You want every moment and effort to be worth it. Getting poor prints after so much investment can be pretty frustrating and this can happen even with the PLA filament.
Manufacturers have enhanced the PLA to reduce the chances of poor results. The PLA+ is widely credited with producing higher quality prints than the PLA. The texture of PLA+ prints is smoother and more attractive than ordinary PLAs. In addition, the PLA+ filament is less stringy than the regular PLAs.
The less brittle a print, the more useful and durable it will be. PLA+ improves on the PLA in this regard. PLAs have been notorious for giving in too quickly to bending forces. You would prefer your print not to break at any slight pressure and undo all your hard work.
PLA+ manufacturers have added some elasticity to the PLA+. they are now less rigid and brittle. With the PLA+, you will get prints that hold their own and can bend significantly and come out unscathed. While the PLAs will snap under a bending force, the PLA+ will rather deform.
PLA and PLA+ do not have the same survival characteristics in storage. If you store PLAs in highly humid places, you may come back to meet a damaged filament. PLAs absorb moisture from the environment and will depreciate as this absorption continues. Exposure to moist environments will cause the PLA filament to lose what’s left of its flexibility and break even more easily than before.
The PLA+ also has an edge over the PLA in the area of storage. PLA+ will withstand environmental conditions which the PLA cannot.
- Heat resistance
The PLA+ filament also does better than the ordinary PLA in withstanding heat. If your print will have interactions with heat, using a PLA will cause problems. PLA will also be a bad choice if your print won’t be used indoors especially if you reside in a hot region.
The PLA filament doesn’t do very well when exposed to high-temperature environments. After a while, it begins to lose its material integrity.
On the other hand, the PLA+ will hold its own under high temperatures and is better suited for outdoor use.
Disadvantages of PLA+
The PLA+ isn’t all about positives, it comes with its flaws too. There are several reasons why it could be less preferable to the PLAa. Let’s examine these disadvantages.
A print doesn’t only need to be durable and effective, attractiveness is also important. One way to improve the attractiveness of a print is its color. Some colors are more suitable for certain prints than others. You will also better appreciate the variety and the freedom to choose from a wide range of color choices. This is one area where the PLA+ comes short.
As the PLA+ strives to gain popularity, users may find a wider variety of available color choices. At the moment though, its color ranges are pretty narrow and will pose a challenge to you if color is one of your major considerations.
Due to the specialized use of PLA+ filaments and the number of improvements that come along with it, it is no surprise that it costs more than ordinary PLAs. While you can get a 1kg spool of regular PLA at $20, the same weight of PLA+ will go for around $30.
Standard PLA and PLA+ Settings
You can expect that given the slight variation in properties, the standards PLA+ settings will be different from those of the PLA. so, ensure you take note of these changes whenever you switch from a PLA to the PLA+.
Let’s go over the significant differences in settings for the PLA and the PLA+.
- Bed temperature
Both PLAs and PLA+s will thrive without a heated bed. However, to eliminate any possible hitches, you should print with a bed temperature of 50 to 60 degrees. If you notice a challenge with adhesion, you can increase the initial temperature by 5 degrees for the first few layers of print. Afterward, revert to the regular temperature.
- Extruder temperature
Due to their marked heat resistance differences, you should use a 200 degrees standard for the PLA and 210 degrees for the PLA+.
- Retraction speed
Use a retraction speed in the range of 30mm/s to 80mm/s for both PLA and PLA+.
- Print speed
Both PLAs and PLA+s do better with lower print speeds. If you print with speeds less than 60 mm/s, you should get better prints than if you use higher speeds.
It is quite easy to get confused over the difference between PLAs and PLA+s. However, there are marked differences between the two.
While PLA filaments continue to enjoy wide acceptance for 3d prints, PLA+ is thriving for specialized printing. PLA+ filaments have amplified the advantages of the PLA and have given PLA users a chance to explore and derive more benefits.
Among other benefits, PLA+ filaments are stronger, more heat resistant, and produce better quality prints than PLAs. Only tweak the settings a little and you can make a smooth transition from the regular PLAs.