PLA vs. PLA+ (Comparison and Decision on the Right One)

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The 3D printing market is dramatically changing with newer products, features and issues. PLA, the most popular and common filament across the 3D printing world, has got a newer version called PLA+ which is more competent and competitive in quality, strength, flexibility, temperature resistance and so forth.  

Professionals, however, have always been practically critical before they credit PLA+ for its special upgraded features because it has its own negative sides that might easily deter newcomers, hobbyists and low-budget entrepreneurs. 

This is what we are going to discuss in detail in this article.

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PLA vs. PLA+

What is PLA?

PLA is the abbreviation of polylactic Acid (otherwise called polylactide). This is the most popular type of raw material used in FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printers to print educational materials, prototypes and showcase models.

With some minor intrinsic cons its being biodegradable, better availability, low melting point, low cost and many other features have made it the first and only choice of more than 45% of the entire 3D print business.

What is PLA+?

PLA+ is actually some enhanced variants of PLA that have come into the market with the promise to eliminate or minimize some of the downsides of the conventional PLA and add some great features. They have the same fundamental composition as the basic PLA but with some additives.

The additives are not the same for all brands of the PLA+ that are found on the market because different companies have modified PLA with a different number and proportion of additives. That’s why not all of them have the same price, quality and dependability. 

Depending on the companies that are producing the upgraded versions the name also varies like PLA+, PLA plus or PLA pro. They all mean the same: upgraded version of the conventional PLA.

In our article we’ll call it by its most common name: PLA+.

What are the Special Features of PLA+?

It’s time we discussed the basic features of PLA+ that make the difference.

1. Strength

Overall strength of PLA+ has been enhanced to an admirable level making it really suitable for printing functional parts. Simple machinery parts like bearings, gears, pulleys printed with standard PLA are susceptible to break down any time after printing especially when you did not dry the filament.

PLA+ saves you from this problem to a great extent. The prints, being far less brittle than those printed with standard PLA, get more longevity.

2. Flexibility

TPU or Thermoplastic Polyurethane is known to be the most flexible 3D print raw material. ABS and PETG are also generally more flexible than PLA. But the enhanced PLA+ is moderately competitive to ABS and nearly equal to PETG when it comes to comparing flexibility.

This means you are going to have a fairly flexible print quality (best for automotive parts, medical devices or household appliances) if you use PLA+.

3. Temperature Resistance

PLA is well known for getting shaped at a lower temperature than other materials do. The temperature range for its melting is between 160oC and 180oC. This means if your printer creates more than 180oC PLA will lose its strength and the print is almost sure to get deshaped.

And yet the general heat tolerance of PLA is far below. If it is exposed to 60oC (149oF) or higher temperature for a long time it starts degrading. Producers of PLA+ have tried to solve this issue by giving it a bit more heat tolerance. It does warp, deform or sag but under higher temperature than that regular PLA’s give in. 

4. Moisture Sensitivity

One of the most disturbing problems with PLA is its tendency to absorb moisture. Once it has taken up moisture it becomes brittle and snaps easily. During printing you find strings, inconsistent intrusion lines and uneven surface of the prints. Sometimes there can even be bubbles that pop in the molten filament. 

You cannot think you’re safe even if you’ve had your print finished successfully with dry PLA. The print itself is always vulnerable to moisture. If you keep it exposed to wet weather it gradually gets degraded.   

Thanks to the variants of PLA+ which can prevent moisture almost entirely and thereby ensure that your print will not spoil due to breakage in the extruder— you get high quality print. 

5. Storing

As all the PLA+ materials don’t absorb moisture you have less concern storing them. For conventional PLA filaments you need to worry about the processes to dry them. But PLA+, being smart enough to protect itself from humidity, needs comparatively less care about storing. 

If you read our article about drying filament you’ll have a clear idea on how you need to store your precious filaments of all kinds.

Negative Sides of PLA+

Well, it is easily understandable that PLA+ is not without some natural discredits. Everything has their darker sides. But the good news is that with the advent of 3D Print business most of the downsides of PLA+ is gradually dying out.

At present, you will find the following features that you may not like.

1. Price

PLA+ is far more costly compared to its earlier plain version. Obviously, the extra advantages that PLA+ provides make it worthy. Because PLA+ has a number of variants (with different production formulae) produced by different companies, their prices vary. But one thing is common to all— they all are costly. 

Ease of Printing

2. Color

This is something that some would consider to be an advantage while others might think it’s clearly a downside: plain PLA is a little more glossy than PLA+.

There is another point that degrades PLA+: you get less color variation. While the basic PLA has over 250 color variations PLA+ has not got more than 50 meaning you have less color choice if you choose the upgraded version. But don’t worry, more colors will continue to be developed while PLA+ gets more and more popular.

The color factor, however, is not entirely dejecting. Just like the MIKA3D Shiny Silk Multicolor Rainbow PLA Filament, you can get TTYT3D Silk Shiny Rainbow PLA+ as well. This clearly proves that the color scarcity of the enhanced PLA is not everywhere. 

3. Miscellaneous Cons

  • PLA+ has a bad reputation of poor adhesion to the build plate. Though it does not happen with high rated printers and the adhesion quality can be improved, to some extent, by drying filament, it is recommended that you print with a brim
  • Some PLA+ have been reported to have caused clogging. To solve this problem you can increase printing speed and tune the retraction of your printer down.
  • One of the acclaimed features, temperature resistance, does mean that it needs higher temperature. This is the result of some of the additives they’ve used to improve it. 
  • Each company is producing PLA+ with a different formula, throwing you into another trouble: change of settings of your printer. 

Same Features

There are some fields where you are not likely to find any difference between the two versions of PLA. Here are some of them.

1. Apparent Print Quality

The outer surface of your print looks just the same with both the versions. The printing performance (as a whole) of both the materials is very similar and you should expect the same performance when switching from normal PLA to PLA+.

2. Biodegradability

It is one of the most acclaimed properties of PLA that it gets decomposed over time and, therefore, is less harmful for the environment. PLA+ essentially inherits this property and upholds the fame. In spite of all the superior qualities it has over the plain PLA, it is biodegradable and here, they are the same.

3. Post-Processing

Post-processing methods are all the same for both PLA and PLA+. You can have a clear conception about what you need to do after the printing is finished from our article, PLA Smoothing

Practical Differences (PLA vs. PLA+)

Some serious and enthusiastic people have done some testing of PLA and PLA+ under some conditions and practically showed the differences between them. Let’s see what they did.

PLA vs. PLA+

There were four tests.

1. Tensile Strength Test

Two hooks made of PLA and PLA+, a bucket and a crane scale were taken. The bucket was hung with the hook which was attached to the scale. They started adding weights in the bucket. After loading 40 pounds the PLA hook started to show signs of a stress fracture. However, it still sustained up to 56.5 pounds (25.6 kilograms) before it snapped. 

At the same test with PLA+ hook it started giving way after 51 pounds and continued to sustain up to 61.3 pounds (27.8 kilograms) before it broke down.

2. Smash Test

A 20-pound dumbbell was dropped from a 20-inch height onto the face of two hooks made of PLA and PLA+. 

After dropping the dumbbell on the PLA hook it broke apart at the corner, which got the majority of the beating. Upon closer inspection it was found that the infill was visible.

Moving on to PLA+ for the same test the impact was found almost the same because this one was also broken into two. Also the damage was apparently the same.

3. Twist Test

Here one side of the PLA hook was placed in between a bench vice, firmly fixed and the other end was twisted with a wrench. It broke, with little debris, after it was twisted more than 43o angle. 

The PLA+ hook was set under the same test which showed a lower degree of twistability, i.e., 33o. But it did not break clean off like the PLA hook. This means it has got a little bit more flexibility.

4. Real-Life Application

Two lapel mics were printed using PLA and PLA+. One that was made of standard PLA broke after a couple of weeks of use while the one made of PLA+ refused to break down or get damaged or stress fracture even after several months. 

What Are The Best PLA+ Brands?

As we have stated above, unlike the plain version of PLA there are a wide variety of PLA+ filaments marketed by different companies. Here are some of them:

1. eSun

eSun is one of the most acclaimed PLA+ producers in the market. They have tried to improve their product by improving layer adhesion, minimizing shrinkage, and making the impact resistance stronger.

2. Overture

Named Overture PLA Plus their product is far more impact resistant than the plain PLA. It is also moisture resistant (though not quite 100%) and therefore creates less bubbles. Minimized nozzle blockage is another good side of Overture PLA Plus.  

3. Jayo

Those who are searching for economical PLA+ with optimal quality Jayo’s product is their match.  With some bright colors, wonderful layer adhesion and reduced brittleness it is not very surprising that their PLA+ will please you with its quality print.

4. Duramic

With the least price among all the PLA+ filaments on the market their product features strength, less nozzle clogs and bubbles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which One Should I Choose?

It depends on your budget and type of your business. If you are a hobbyist or just starting a business or planning for small scale production you probably don’t need something robust. Standard PLA is quite enough for you. For finer and large scale printing business PLA+ will provide you more reliability.

Is PLA+ Stronger than Standard PLA?

PLA+ is obviously more impact resistant and durable. While PLA has higher tensile strength PLA+ is pretty elastic. Therefore, PLA snaps under overstrain and PLA+ can stretch to some extent.

Is PLA+ compatible with standard PLA printers?

Yes. PLA+ filaments have some different chemical and physical properties but it shares the same basic properties as the standard PLA. Using PLA+ is something like using better quality ink in the same inkjet printers. You’ll get a better print using the same amount of filament and the same printer.

Conclusion

The 3D business is booming and requirements are soaring everyday. So it is the best idea to switch from older versions to newer ones. For your information, eSun company has brought out ePLA ST (super tough)  that was proven far more elastic than PLA+. So when you need to produce something that needs flexibility, won’t you turn to ePLA ST?

Using PLA+ will be a perfect decision especially if you choose to go for large amounts of production and escape from worries that conventional PLA would cause (go over the advantages of PLA+ once again). For a smart and flawless printing PLA+ can be your best solution.

Shamim Ahmed
Shamim Ahmed
I’ve been an innovator in this space for years and am really excited to share my knowledge with you. I’m an entrepreneur and love helping others achieve their goals by teaching them how to build a business around the newest innovations in technology.

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