Innovation (and business) happens when someone finds a way to fill a need. In the 3D printing industry this seems to be happening continuously at all levels. Within the booming desktop 3D printing sector this need is making PLA — the easiest, most biocompatible and most widely adopted thermopolymer for 3D printing — more resistant to stress, humidity and temperature. After working on it for a few months, that is what Design For Craft, the company behind the stick filament brand did. in partnership with Keytech.
Its new PLA HS, where HS stands for High Strength, was presented at Maker Faire Rome for the first time. “PLA is the base for the great global diffusion of desktop 3D printing because it is so easy to use,” said DFC’s Carlo di Mattia, “Beginning with this consideration we decided to improve its performances so that, loading it with a mixture of mineral powders, we obtained this HS version.”
The mineral reinforced PLA gives better results in terms of mechanical resistance, flexural strength and torsion. It is also much more resistant to thermal stress and less sensitive to hygrometry, that is the effects of the humidity in the air. In spite of all these properties, which make it comparable or even better than petrol-based ABS, the PLA HS does not warp during the print phase so it does not require a heated bed or enclosed print chamber.
The only difference, compared to regular PLA, is that it requires a higher temperature to reach its glass transition phase, between 200° and 210° C. To test the material’s heat deflection temperature, DFC first put it inside a washing machine cycle, finding it is comparable to high quality ABS, then used it to 3D print a real injection mold, which worked perfectly with casting wax as well as casting polyurethane and both polypropylene and ABS.
The idea of a PLA strong enough to hold and give a shape to molten ABS is, in fact, almost paradoxical, although we are rapidly getting used to these, as we like to call them, “paradigm shifts”.