Accessibility is why Polylactic Acid (PLA) is used to make kid-safe toys, medical implants, industrial prototypes and countless household projects. Unlike other materials, PLA Filament prints at lower nozzle temperatures and adheres to unheated beds. As a bonus, PLA’s low emissions are safe for use without a ventilated enclosure.
PLA is also safe for the planet. Made from renewable resources such as corn rather than oil, PLA sequesters atmospheric CO2. The printed object’s lifecycle can end just as safely as PLA biodegrades into non-toxic materials.
Here is everything you need to know about where PLA comes from, how it is made and what makes PLA so popular.
WHO CREATED PLA?
In the early 20th Century, quantum physics was transforming chemistry by explaining, for example, how covalent bonds form polymers. The industrial giant DuPont decided it had to get in on the action as these discoveries led to remarkable chemistry breakthroughs.
One of the scientists DuPont recruited in 1927 was organic chemist Wallace Carothers. His research lab invented polymers that DuPont would go on to market as Nylon and Neoprene. Carothers also created PLA but for decades afterward DuPont’s production process was too expensive for businesses other thanthe pharmaceutical industry.
Flash forward to the 1990s when an idealistic chemist named Patrick Gruber decided he would help end the world’s reliance on petroleum. One weekend, Gruber and his chemist wife Sally cooked up the first batch of corn-based PLA on their kitchen stove.
HOW IS PLA MADE TODAY
Though modern PLA manufacturing has scaled up from that stove-top chemistry experiment, the process is still the same. Everything starts with a starchy plant such as corn or beets. Once the plant’s starches are converted into dextrose, a fermentation stage uses microorganisms to convert thissugar into lactic acid.
Chaining the lactic acid into a polymer can be done directly but most manufacturers take a two-step approach. First, they combine lactic acid molecules into ring-shaped lactides. Then they polymerize the lactides into long-chain molecules of PLA. Unfortunately, the reaction also creates water that has to be removed in a vacuum or through distillation.
Now dried and pelletized, the PLA is ready for industry. What started out as corn kernels becomes injection-molded bottles, plastic bags, food packaging and even medical implants.
WHAT IS INGEO?
Hatchbox makes filament using Ingeo PLA from NatureWorks, the company that Patrick Gruber co-founded to commercialize plant-based PLA.NatureWorks sources starchy plants to produce lactic acid, lactides and ultimately pellets of its Ingeo PLA.
But not all PLA is made the same. Hatchbox PLA filament uses versions of Ingeo specially-formulated to providegood build-plate adhesion, low emissions and low warping or shrinkage as the part cools.
NatureWorks still shares Patrick Gruber’s concern for the planet. More than a raw material, corn sequestersatmospheric CO2 and reduces fossil fuels’ impact on Earth’s climate.Someday, NatureWorks could convert CO2 directly into PLA.
The company cares just as much about the end of Ingeo PLA’s lifecycle. NatureWorks’ composting and recycling technologies help keep Ingeo PLA out of landfills and incinerators.
HOW INGEO IS MADE
INGEO - ECO-FRIENDLY PROPERTIES
USES FOR PLA
PLA INDUSTRIAL USES
Kid-safe and pet-safe, PLA is the most accessible material for everyday 3D printing. All filament-based printers from the most affordable consumer-grade products on up let you use the material. Whether you are repairing a household item or unleashing your creativity, there is a color and blend of PLA for every project, explore all 1.75 pla filament colors.
SIZE AVAILABILITY: 1.75MM | 3.00MM
RECOMMENDED EXTRUSION TEMPERATURE: 180°C - 210°C
PLATFORM ADHESION: Blue Painters Tape
RECOMMENDED BUILD PLATFORM TEMPERATURE: 0°C - 60°C