Material of the Day: PLA Plastic By Alexander Mannheimer

Todays material of the day is PLA Plastic. PLA is short for polylactic acid and is used in the 3-D printing industry. This plastic is made from biodegradable material such as corn starch or sugar cane.

Close up of PLA plastic:

Personal Connection

3D printing is a growing industry around the world and will change the way we can create products. As an industrial engineer focused on manufacturing, 3-D printing is a very important process to be familiar with. Manufacturers are spending a lot of time researching and developing ways that 3-D printing can be used. 3-D printing helps reduce cost, speed up prototyping, and provide a level of customizability never before seen in the industry. I hope to be apart of the innovation by helping companies utilize 3-D printers.

3D printer using PLA Filament:

Advantages of using PLA plastic

PLA is made from renewable resources which makes it unique from other plastics. It is recyclable and renewable.

PLA can be made from Corn Starch, Tapioca Roots and Sugar Cane.

Corn Starch, tapioca roots and sugar cane:

Characteristics of PLA Plastic

PLA has a crystallinity of around 37%, a glass transition temperature 60–65 °C, a melting temperature 173–178 °C

Crystallinity is the degree of structural order in a solid. Crystallinity has a big influence on hardness, density, transparency and diffusion.

Glass Transition Temperature is the temperature where the polymer transitions from a hard, glassy material to a soft, rubbery material.

Melting Temperature is the temperature where a material transitions from a solid to a liquid.

3D applications and comparable material

ABS is another type of plastic used to 3D print and has some differences from PLA. Here is a short video about those differences.


1.Market Study Bioplastics, Ceresana, Dec 2011

2. Gina L. Fiore; Feng Jing; Victor G. Young, Jr.; Christopher J. Cramer; Marc A. Hillmyer (2010). "High Tg Aliphatic Polyesters by the Polymerization of Spirolactide Derivatives". Polymer Chemistry


Created with images by faberdasher - "Festive snowflake in Galaxy Blue" • Creative Tools - "3D printed toy horse figure" • DoraBorges - "cornflour starches corn" • floluong - "Củ Sắn" • Schreib-Engel - "sugar cane licorice stimulant"

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