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Synonyms: polylactic acid, polylactide;
DE: "Polymilchsäure"
On Site? yes (as filament)
Suggested Donation: 5 ct/g
Location: 3D printer farm
Suggested Tools: 3D printers, hot air gun,
hot air soldering station,
knives, rotary tool, files,
twist drill bits, sandpaper

PLA is a thermoplastic with excellent properties when it comes to 3D printing. Pure PLA is a biodegradable bioplastic, but our 3D printing filaments contain softeners and pigments that might be less healthy or cause the material to degrade slower than the pure compound.

Material Science

  • trivial name: polylactic acid
  • origin: usually corn starch or whey
  • melting point: 150-160 °C
  • biodegradation: debated, estimates from years to hundreds of years
  • recycling ideas: extrude into new printing filament
  • solvents: chlorinated solvents and other nasty chemicals we don't want on site - sorry to disappoint you...
  • RIC: #7 - OTHER

(mostly from Wikipedia)

Health & Safety

If you have been close to a 3D printer for a while you probably noticed a bit of that burnt plastic smell most people find rather unpleasant. As mentioned before, PLA is not inherently bad but there might be some nasty additives in some (cheap) filaments. We try to use the good ones and have found a great partner for locally produced filament, but it is a good idea to keep the area well ventilated anyway. We are planning to build fume hoods around our printers as well.

There is some scientific data regarding fumes.


(also see 3D print postprocessing)




There are a few things that could be interesting to do, e.g. finding out how well shredded PLA is actually composted or which techniques could be used to smoothen the surface of a print. More on that later...

Further Reading