Material Matters is one of the recent articles that are regularly released on the materials featuring MakingSociety. It deals with prototyping to a complete product, machine manufacturing to boxes packaging and also what the client can do with these materials.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the PLA plastic is the post-petroleum world future of plastic. The PLA plastic is known to be a resin called the polylactic acid. It is the thermoplastic that is sourced from the recyclable resources. Depending on the location of origin, the PLA plastics are derived from various plants such as tapioca roots, starch in Asia corn in the United States and also sugarcane worldwide.
PLA products are distributed in everywhere. Containers and food packaging are the main users of the PLA plastics. They are safe for foods to be stored in them and are also recyclable. 3D printers’ users are utilizing the deposition modelling technique majorly uses the PLA plastics. The PLA plastics has the lowest melting point of 180 degrees Celsius and also has a faster cooling as compared to ABS and therefore they can cool fast and heat up as fast. Although the PLA is hard to use as compared to ABS, it smell better. PLA plastics can also be used in electronic casing and clothing fiber.
PLA plastics are produced through four main processes. These are metal-catlyze, direct condensation, the racemic combination of L- and D- lactides and the direct biosynthesis respectively. There are four main manufacturers in the world, the Netherlands PURAC biomaterials, United States NatureWorks, the Synbra and the Sulzer. The PLA plastics have various shapes like pellets, fiber and filament.
The PLA plastic are normally transparent or coloured. Depending on the client's needs, they can be opaque or translucent. The normally have a glossy appearance.
PLA has a very high sensitivity to the environment as compared to other varieties of plastics like the ABS. They lose a small colours if it is placed in water for a long period since colours melt at low temperatures of 180 degrees Celsius. They become deformed in hot temperatures. PLA plastics are harder compared to ABS and somehow flexible and therefore not much recommended to be used for clip and assembly designs.
The PLA plastics may be sanded and also machined. Those who use the 3D printing utilize the acetone sometimes to produce the good smooth finish appearance to their working parts.
PLA plastics are biodegradable but cannot be used in a compost pit. However, it is recycled in factories, or composting plants that have heating temperatures of over 60 degrees Celsius and digestive microbes are added and take about one to six months.