Choosing the Right PLA Filament, Everything You Need to Know

April 22, 2024

Introduction

When it comes to 3D printing, finding the right filament is crucial to the success of your projects. One of the most popular options for 3D printing is PLA filament, known for its ease of use, biodegradability, and wide range of colors and finishes.

But with so many different brands and types of PLA filament on the market, how do you know which one is the right choice for your needs? That's where this guide comes in. We'll walk you through everything you need to know about choosing the right PLA filament for your next project.

First and foremost, it's important to understand what PLA filament is. PLA, which stands for polylactic acid, is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugarcane. It's known for its low melting point, which makes it easy to work with and ideal for beginner 3D printers.

When shopping for PLA filament, there are a few key factors to consider. The first is diameter. Most consumer 3D printers use either 1.75mm or 2.85mm filament, so it's important to make sure you're buying the right size for your printer.

Another important factor to consider is the quality of the filament. Cheaper filaments may be prone to breaking or jamming in your printer, so it's worth investing in a high-quality PLA filament from a reputable manufacturer.

Color and finish are also important considerations when choosing PLA filament. PLA is available in a wide range of colors, from basic black and white to vibrant neon shades. In addition to solid colors, you can also find PLA filament with special finishes such as metallic, translucent, or glow-in-the-dark.

Finally, it's important to consider the intended use of your 3D-printed object. If you're making functional parts that need to withstand high temperatures or mechanical stress, you may want to look for a PLA filament that is reinforced with additives such as carbon fiber or metal. On the other hand, if you're printing decorative objects or prototypes, a standard PLA filament should suffice.

In this guide, we'll cover everything from how to choose the right diameter and color of PLA filament to how to store and maintain your filament for optimal printing results. We'll also provide tips for troubleshooting common printing issues and recommendations for the best brands of PLA filament on the market.

Factors to consider when choosing PLA filament

When it comes to choosing the right PLA filament for your 3D printing projects, there are several factors to consider to achieve the best results.

First and foremost, you'll want to think about the diameter of the filament. The most common diameters for PLA filament are 1.75mm and 2.85mm. It's important to check the specifications of your 3D printer to determine which diameter is compatible. Using the wrong diameter can lead to printing issues and poor-quality prints.

Another important consideration is the color of the filament. PLA filament comes in a wide range of colors, so you'll want to choose a color that suits your project. Keep in mind that some colors may require higher printing temperatures or may not be as visually appealing once printed. Make sure to check the recommended printing temperatures for each color before making your selection.

The quality of the filament is also crucial. Low-quality PLA filament can result in clogs, jams, and overall poor print quality. Look for reputable manufacturers that produce high-quality filament to ensure successful prints every time. Reading reviews and getting recommendations from other 3D printing enthusiasts can help you find the best filament brands.

Consider the environmental impact of the PLA filament you choose. PLA is a biodegradable material made from renewable resources, making it a more environmentally friendly option compared to other types of filament. If sustainability is important to you, opt for PLA filament over traditional plastics.

It's also important to think about the printing temperature of the filament. PLA filament typically prints at temperatures between 190°C and 220°C. Make sure your 3D printer is capable of reaching these temperatures before purchasing PLA filament. Printing at the correct temperature is key to achieving strong and detailed prints.

The filament's tolerance is another factor to consider. Tolerance refers to how accurately the filament's diameter is measured. A lower tolerance means a more consistent diameter, which can lead to smoother prints and fewer printing issues. Look for filaments with a tolerance of +/- 0.05mm for the best results.

Popular brands of PLA filament

PLA filament is one of the most popular choices for 3D printing enthusiasts, and there are many brands to choose from. Each brand offers its own unique features and qualities, so it's important to do your research before making a decision on which one to purchase.

One popular brand of PLA filament is Hatchbox. Known for its consistent quality and vibrant colors, Hatchbox PLA is a favorite among many 3D printing enthusiasts. It is widely available and comes in a variety of sizes and colors, making it easy to find the perfect filament for your project.

Another well-known brand is eSun. eSun PLA filament is known for its high quality and durability. It is also available in a wide range of colors and sizes, making it a versatile option for 3D printing projects of all kinds. Many users appreciate the smooth finish and minimal warping that eSun PLA filament provides.

For those looking for a more budget-friendly option, Monoprice PLA filament is a great choice. While it may be more affordable than other brands, Monoprice filament still offers good quality and consistent results. It is a great option for beginners or those looking to experiment with different colors and sizes without breaking the bank.

If you're interested in environmentally friendly options, consider looking into brands like MatterHackers or Overture. These brands offer PLA filaments that are made from renewable resources and are biodegradable, making them a more sustainable choice for 3D printing projects. Many users appreciate the eco-friendly nature of these filaments, as well as their high quality and performance.

Some other popular brands of PLA filament include Sunlu, AmazonBasics, and TIANSE. Each brand offers its own unique advantages and qualities, so be sure to read reviews and do your research to determine which one is the best fit for your needs.

When choosing a brand of PLA filament, it's important to consider factors such as quality, price, availability, and color options. Some brands may be more expensive but offer higher quality filament, while others may be more budget-friendly but still provide good results. It's also important to consider the specific requirements of your 3D printing project and choose a filament that will best meet those needs.

Ultimately, the best way to determine the right brand of PLA filament for you is to experiment with different options and see which one works best for your specific projects. By taking the time to research and test different brands, you can find the perfect PLA filament to help bring your 3D printing creations to life.

Tips for storing and handling PLA filament

Proper storage and handling of PLA filament is crucial in ensuring the quality and performance of your 3D prints. One of the most important factors to consider is keeping your filament dry. PLA is a bioplastic that is known to absorb moisture from the air, which can lead to issues such as poor print quality and clogging in your 3D printer.

To prevent moisture absorption, it is recommended to store your PLA filament in a sealed container with desiccant packets. This will help to keep the filament dry and free from moisture, ensuring that your prints come out looking crisp and clean. If you do not have a sealed container, storing the filament in a dry location such as a closet or drawer can also help to prevent moisture absorption.

Another important aspect of storing PLA filament is to keep it away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Exposure to sunlight and heat can cause the filament to degrade and become brittle, leading to issues like snapping and jamming in your 3D printer. It is best to store your filament in a cool, dark place to ensure its longevity and quality.

When handling PLA filament, it is important to do so with clean hands to prevent any contaminants from transferring to the filament. Oils and dirt from your hands can negatively impact the quality of your prints, so it is best to handle the filament with care and cleanliness. Additionally, avoid touching the filament too much as the oils from your skin can build up on the surface, leading to poor adhesion between layers in your prints.

It is also recommended to use a filament spool holder when feeding the filament into your 3D printer. This will help to prevent tangles and snags in the filament, ensuring a smooth and consistent feed during the printing process. Spool holders can easily be purchased or 3D printed, and are a simple yet effective way to keep your filament organized and free from obstructions.

Lastly, when storing your PLA filament for an extended period, it is best to vacuum seal the filament to prevent moisture absorption and degradation. Vacuum sealing will help to keep the filament in optimal condition for longer periods, ensuring that your prints turn out as intended. If vacuum sealing is not an option, using airtight storage containers with desiccant packets can also help to maintain the quality of your filament over time.

By following these tips for storing and handling PLA filament, you can ensure that your 3D prints come out looking their best every time. Taking the time to properly care for your filament will not only ensure better print quality but also extend the lifespan of your filament for future projects.

Conclusion

Selecting the right filament for your 3D printing needs is crucial to ensuring the success of your projects. From understanding the different types of PLA filaments available to considering factors such as diameter, color, and brand, there are a variety of aspects to keep in mind when making your decision.

One of the most important things to remember is to always choose a high-quality PLA filament from a reputable manufacturer. By opting for a premium product, you can ensure that your prints turn out consistently well and that your 3D printer operates smoothly.

Additionally, consider the specific requirements of your project when selecting a PLA filament. For example, if you need a filament with enhanced strength and flexibility, look for a PLA blend that includes additives such as carbon fiber or wood particles. On the other hand, if you're creating detailed models that require vibrant colors, choose a PLA filament with high-quality pigments for optimal results.

It's also worth keeping in mind that different PLA filaments have varying temperature requirements for optimal printing. Be sure to check the manufacturer's recommendations and adjust your printer settings accordingly to achieve the best results.

When it comes to diameter, the standard size for most PLA filaments is 1.75mm. However, it's always a good idea to check your printer's specifications to ensure compatibility with the filament you choose.

 

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