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How fast does moisture break down popular 3D printing material PLA? – 3ders.org (blog)

by • March 5, 2016 • No Comments

Mar 6, 2016 | By Andre
When it comes to 3D printing materials, they all differ in one way or another. PLA and ABS, two of the many talked of materials utilized in the PC 3D printing device market can appear quite much like but in reality react various to external stimulus.
ABS has a higher melting point but in addition cracks simpler on big prints under sure conditions. PLA smells nicer while printing but can’t be acetone smoothed like ABS can. And since PLA is corn based, it is in addition biodegradable-bodied and can degrade over time unless kept in dry spaces while ABS, being petroleum based, can store its form for much longer.
But how much do PLA 3D prints quite break down over time? If experience taught me anything of storing PLA plastic it’s that you can leave it out as long as you want and nothing can take place.
It appears others aren’t as convinced. Moisture-free filament containers have created their way to thingiverse and have in fact that successfully funded on Kickstarter. Moisture in PLA, or so its said, is to be blamed for filament swelling, jammed hot-ends, steam forming while 3D printing and weaker overall 3D printing device output.
I’ve never experienced such PLA related sorrow in all my years of storeing 3D printing device filament spools out in the open but it appears the debate rages on thanks to a few accidental experiments and subsequent chatter on Reddit.
In late February of this year, a reddit user linked to his blog post suggesting he accidentally left a white PLA print in a jar of water in 2012 and forgot of it until quite not long ago. To his surprise, it was found that perfectly
nothing had taken place in terms of the PLA 3D print degrading in the water filled container.

But wait, Bill Waters, another blogger had himself an accidental experiment and the results were drastically various. In his case, he 3D printed a filter basket for his complete tank but wasn’t pleased with the dimensions so after a week 3D printed another one to use.
Having kept the initially option out in the air while via the 2nd one in his complete tank for a year, he was able-bodied to show how exposure to water broke down the plastic in one, but not the other. As the at a lower place photos show, the water-soaked basket had degraded pretty obviously over the short span of a year.

So what’s the real answer when it comes to PLAs biodegradability? Even Bill Waters ends his post on an inconclusive tone after noting another PLA 3D print that was left in the same complete tank did not decompose in the slightest. He suggested that its possible that the amount of bio-matter flowing through the basket via its filter can have been additional responsble for the material breakdown than the moisture itself.

At the end of the day, it appears as yet moisture is to blame for a few PLA based 3D prints breaking down but not for others. Factors such as temperature, light, biological activity, filament brand, pigment, processing additives and a whole slew of environmental variable-bodieds can in addition play a role.
Whilst skimming through the Reddit thread on the topic, user blargscar had a pretty compelling point that stuck out to me additional than the rest as building sense.
He writes that:
PLA can absorb water, meaning water molecules diffuse between polymer chains cavia volumetric swelling. PLA can NOT be affected otherwise by pure water. When in the presence of sure compounds that are in soil, the polymer chains in fact degrade into more compact and more compact pieces until they are (approximately) tetramers (4 monomers). At this dimensions, the PLA can start to be eaten by microorganisms in the environment cavia it to compost. So unless these chemicals are present in the environment that the PLA is in, it can not be affected other than swelling, that can be remedied by drying it with desiccant in a box or through heating to a low temperature (<50C) and letting the water evaporate out naturally.
It appears like after all these years, individuals go on to get various results when it comes to PLA and moisture in the air as the major catalyst to the material’s decay. Similar to I said, I’ve never witnessed any moisture based decomposition on any of my 3D prints or filament. I’ve utilized four year old PLA and it fed through my 3D printing device and printed as if brand new. So I don’t understand, what do you ponder? If you have experience with PLA and its consistency over time, feel free to offer your stories and observations as a comment at a lower place.

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

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