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Toying with the idea of making kits out of PLA - PolyLactic Acid. It is a bioplastic, being made from the lactic acid found in milk and elsewhere, and is biodegradable. It is one of the more common materials used for extruded 3D printing, and can also also be injection moulded. Unlike resin it is non-toxic and can be solvent-glued. Transparent forms are available. I have seen beautifully clear transparent items claimed to have been 3D printed from it, but I am not convinced that is in fact possible; 3D printed with a fine, smooth shiny surface, really? I don't know if it can be powder/laser printed or formed into sheets and vac-formed.

My idea is that mass-market kits can be backed up with short-runt printed aftermarket or even home-made mods, (downloaded or self-designed) all in the one eco-friendly material.

The main concern seems to be that PLA is not very heat-tolerant, apparently it starts to soften at relatively low temperatures; place a model in full, hot sunlight and you may find it sags. On the other hand "high-temperature PLA" seems to be a thing, but I have no idea how "high" such temperatures might or might not be.

Does anybody know more about this stuff?

Edited by steelpillow
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Don't.  It's crap.

More specifically, when scraping it, it curls rather than chipping off like dust, so it's a nightmare to trim.  We've printed PLA parts at work on our FDM printers, so have a bit of experience with it.  We found it easier to print than ABS or polystyrene which is why we used it.  The models were for fit checks, concepts and visualisation, so were not expected to serve us for very long anyway, and didn't need to have a good finish.

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Starts to soften about 60degrees - you can make models with it but as above it is difficult to get a good surface finish despite filling. 

You generally get air entrapment even with the clear grades so clarity isn’t great and the surface lines/texture add to opacity

If you have a gander at my thread on Secret Projects forum https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/1-72-scale-3d-printed-prototypes-and-proposed-projects.33287/ you can see the initial models in PLA and then my switch to resin printing. The Anycubic ECO is also bio based (I think a methacrylated glycidyl soy oil) which is claimed to be much lower toxicity, hazard and and certainly has less odour and handling issues than normal UV resins. Far more temperature stable as well as it is a thermoset rather than thermoplastic

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2 hours ago, Lost Cosmonauts said:

Starts to soften about 60degrees - you can make models with it but as above it is difficult to get a good surface finish despite filling. 

You generally get air entrapment even with the clear grades so clarity isn’t great and the surface lines/texture add to opacity

If you have a gander at my thread on Secret Projects forum https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/1-72-scale-3d-printed-prototypes-and-proposed-projects.33287/ you can see the initial models in PLA and then my switch to resin printing. The Anycubic ECO is also bio based (I think a methacrylated glycidyl soy oil) which is claimed to be much lower toxicity, hazard and and certainly has less odour and handling issues than normal UV resins. Far more temperature stable as well as it is a thermoset rather than thermoplastic

Yes, I thought this would be a more appropriate forum for discussing 3D print as a topic in its own right.

I didn't notice significant air entrapment in your transparent pieces there. Did you ever try polishing or lacquering transparent areas such as cockpit glazing?

Generally I find that solvent-based glues last longer in the tube/bottle than setting types such as cyanoacrylics, so I'd prefer a material that is compatible with them.

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2 hours ago, steelpillow said:

I didn't notice significant air entrapment in your transparent pieces there. Did you ever try polishing or lacquering transparent areas such as cockpit glazing?

 

Yes, those clear pieces are resin printed - the surface lines still show up but a clearcoat improves things a heck of a lot. Not as good as injection or vac form but ok

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