In this article you will find some information that will help you to master the PLA
Note: This article contains advanced information regarding PLA. The default settings for our BCN3D PLA have been tailored for good quality and reliable results, and are fully tested by our laboratory. These tips complement those settings to ensure the best quality in printing with PLA.
PLA (PolyLactic Acid) is the most common 3D printing material in the market, there are various reasons why it is so widely used: It doesn't release any toxic agents, doesn't present any warping issues, it has a low melting point and, most importantly, it's one of the easiest filaments to print with.
However, there are some considerations to take into account in order to be successful with every print done with this material.
Tip: Check out this material compatibility chart, it will help you choose the materials that fit best with PLA:
Get an even First Layer
The first layer is the most important part of your 3D printed part. It is the base that supports the rest of the printed part, and especially with PLA, it's important that it comes out even to prevent accidents.
Make sure that your printing surface is well-calibrated before printing. This should be done once a week and after the printer is transported. These following articles will help you with this:
Make it stick well
One thing PLA is most known for is that it doesn't need a heated bed in order to be printed successfully, although the best finish comes when it gets printed on a glass surface at 60-70ºC on the Sigma and Sigmax. This makes the PLA get a bit molten and it gets a glossy, smooth finish on the base of the printer.
For the Epsilon, there's no need to heat up the bed, and it is preferable to have a bed temperature below 35ºC, and it will still have a good finish on its base.
In order to ensure good adhesion, it is recommended to apply adhesive complements. You can use a wide range of products that are commonly used in 3D printing, such as blue painter's tape, Elmer's glue stick, or hairspray, but the one we recommend is Magigoo gluestick, as it prevents damages in the glass, while it provides a strong adhesion. It also has the amazing feature of easing the release of the parts once the glass is cold.
PLA is a little bit different than the other 3D printing materials, the biggest difference is that it is super sensitive to high temperatures. This plays a huge role while printing it, as it needs to be cooled in order to get the best results.
Having this into consideration we can say that little printing temperature changes (both in the hotend and the environmental temperature) cause a huge difference in the printing quality of PLA. It is best to maintain an even room temperature of 20-25ºC and printing PLA at its optimal temperature. In the Epsilon, it's best to have a low Bed Temperature to prevent the Build Chamber to heat up too much.
With the BCN3D materials, you don't need to worry about finding the best printing temperature setting, as our Lab works hard to achieve the best configurations for our filaments.
Tip: For Silver and Gold BCN3D materials, raise the temperature 5ºC more.
If for some other reasons, you prefer to print with different PLA brands, it's possible that you experience a range of issues. It is normal, every brand uses different additives that can change the printing properties of the filament. If you spot underextrusion or overheating issues, the best is to ask the manufacturer about the best settings for that particular filament.
Otherwise, you can make a new profile and find the optimal temperature by printing a Temperature Tower and changing the Printing Temperature in 5ºC steps during the print job.
PLA is quite easy to print, but this doesn't mean you can skip its maintenance. There are some considerations to be taken in order to obtain the best results one print after the other:
1. Clean the hotend every time you change materials to prevent clogging.
2. Make sure your extruder motor gears are clean and free of plastic shavings to ensure the best grip and prevent filament grinding.
3. Keep the surface of your printer flat, check it every once in a while by following these articles:
Need more tips? Check out our forum community for help.
It's important to keep your printer in good shape to make the most out of it. In this chart you can find a list of the extruder maintenance procedures and how frequently these should be done.
Take your e-waste to a certified recycler. Check how we do it in BCN3D.
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