If you are into 3D printing, you probably know about the popularity of PLA. People prefer using this material as they are great for beginners and experts alike. Even you are a beginner who wants to try printing your first 3D model, you might be wondering how to use PLA filament.
Also, its affordability and environmentally-friendly properties contribute to its labeling as a default filament.
Instead of spending time looking for information elsewhere, you have us! We have explained everything you need to know in this guide to make your 3D printing experience enjoyable.
So, let’s get started!
How To Splice PLA Filament
Often you will find that your leftover PLA filament is too short for creating a new model completely. You don’t even want to throw it away and wish it could be of use. In such cases, you have the option of fusing that filament with another one.
Method 1: Using A Tin Foil
- Cut a piece of tin foil into a triangle shape.
- Wrap the triangle-shaped tin foil tightly around a length of filament to make a tube. The filament acts as a guide.
- Slowly take out the foil tube from the filament.
- Take two ends of the filaments that you want to join. Insert one end of the filament into one end of the foil tube, and the other end of the filament on the other end of the tube. Make sure they connect at the center of the tube.
- Heat the center using a temperature-adjustable soldering iron.
- When the area becomes hot, gently push the filaments. You will feel that they have fused. Let it cool down for a few minutes, and then remove the foil tube.
Method 2: Using A PTFE Hose
- Take a hair straightener and set its temperature to 230 degrees Celsius. Mount it on a stand in such a way so that it doesn’t move.
- Take a piece of PTFE and cut it to a length of 36mm.
- Insert the tube between the plates of the hair straightener. Put a tape around the hair straightener to ensure the tube remains in place without slipping out.
- Switch on the hair straightener and set its temperature to 220 to 230 degrees Celsius. Wait for a minute for the PTFE tube to heat up.
- Take the two PLA filaments that you want to fuse and insert them into the PTFE tube, one on each side. Make sure the filaments lie in a straight line and press them against each other until they fuse.
- Remove the fused filament from the hair straightener and let it cool down for a few minutes. Also, remove the PTFE tube.
How To Dry PLA Filament
Before you start printing with your PLA filament, you need to ensure it remains dry. That’s because PLA absorbs moisture from the air and causes itself to swell up. As a result, you will not be able to get perfect 3D prints. Here’s how you can dry your PLA filament:
1. Using An Oven
If you have an oven, you have the convenience of drying the PLA filament easily.
Place the PLA filament inside the oven tray and set the temperature to 40 or 50 degrees Celsius. Since this temperature range lies below the glass transition temperature of PLA, you can keep the filament in the oven for four to six hours. The longer you keep it at a low temperature inside the oven, the more it will get dried.
Make sure the temperature doesn’t go high, otherwise the filament will fuse. One way to check whether the oven reaches an accurate temperature is to use an oven thermometer. Before placing your PLA filament inside, you can place the oven thermometer and test the temperature.
2. Using A Filament Dryer
You probably didn’t know this, but there is a device that is specifically made for drying filaments. If you don’t have an oven or don’t need to buy one, you might consider getting a filament dryer instead.
Filament dryers are very easy to operate. All you need to do is place the spool on the spool holder, adjust the appropriate settings, and the device will start drying. For PLA, it is recommended to set the temperature to 45 degrees Celsius and the timing to four hours or less than that.
Some filament driers give you the advantage of drying the filament and printing it at the same time. When you turn on the machine, the spool holder rotates. There is a hole in each spool compartment through which the filament is fed for printing. Such driers are ideal, especially if you run a 3D printing business.
3. Using A Food Dehydrator
Food dehydrators are used to dry fruits as well as other foods. If you already have a food dehydrator in your kitchen, you can use it to dry your PLA filaments without investment.
Unlike ovens, dehydrators are designed to operate at low temperatures, which makes them ideal for drying filaments. They typically come with grids that you can remove to accommodate large filament spools.
How To Store PLA Filament
Proper storage is essential to prevent moisture from setting into the PLA filament. If you remain cautious about it from the moment you purchase your new PLA filament, you won’t need to dehydrate it often.
1. Store The Filament In An Airtight Bag
PLA filament comes packed in a vacuum-sealed bag for a reason- to prevent moisture from entering.
This is a pointer to properly storing the filaments. You might consider getting such bags for storing the filaments and also throwing in a few packets of desiccants for the best results.
When it comes to choosing bags, you can either go for the one that contains a vacuum valve for pushing the air out or the one that comes with a double-zipper. If you use a sealed bag, like Ziplocs, there is a higher chance of moisture permeating through it, so it’s better to avoid using it.
2. Use A Transparent Storage Box
While you can also store your filaments in an opaque storage box, transparent ones let you view which filament is inside, thus giving you convenience.
Apart from bags, you can even store your filaments in a transparent storage box. These boxes come with a sealed lid that makes it impossible for moisture to settle in.
When you are choosing a storage box, you will need to know the size of the filaments you are going to store in the box. For example, if you want to store a few spools of 20cm in diameter, you might want to get a larger box.
How To Recycle PLA Filament
It’s of no surprise when you fail to print your desired models, because not everyone can make it in a single go. Instead of throwing away the waste into the garbage can, you can recycle it to create new models.
- Gather all your failed PLA 3D prints.
- Insert the prints into a shredder one by one. Make sure you put small parts as big ones may damage the equipment. One thing you can do beforehand is to place a printed object inside a bag and then break it down with a hammer.
- Set up an extruder. You will need to ensure the filament comes out of the nozzle perfectly. Also, set up a fan for cooling the extruded filament.
- Feed the shards into the extruder. Make adjustments for the temperature and the diameter of the filament. Typically, the recommended temperature range for extruding shredded PLA is 140 to 170 degrees Celsius.
- If you have an empty spool, you can use it to wind the filament in place.
Tips On Using PLA Filament
- PLA is prone to stringing when it is heated beyond the recommended temperature. In order to avoid such things from happening, it is best to read the manufacturer’s documentation and find out the optimal temperature for your filament.
- If the filament fails to adhere to the previous layer, it would mean that the filament has lost most of its temperature. In that case, you can try increasing the printhead temperature by five-degree increments.
- If you find the filament having a low viscosity, you can increase the retraction distance by a few millimeters.
- Do not leave unused filaments in an open area for more than 12 months. Doing so will cause the filaments to absorb moisture. So, it is better to purchase the amount you need and use it all before buying another spool.
- Make sure to remove the filament and store it properly after every use.
While PLA is available at affordable costs, it can be wrong to assume that you will get sub-par quality printed models. As long as you are using the 3D printer and the PLA filament properly, there’s a slight chance of your designs getting ruined. Not only will you save money but also reduce wastage of filaments.
We hope our guide on how to use PLA filament was able to show you the path to printing your desired models successfully. Whether it’s a steamboat or your favorite comic character, you must be excited to display it on that floating shelf on your wall!