PLA på et blad

What is PLA?

Polylactic acid (abbreviated PLA) is a type of plastic that has become very popular partly because it can be produced cheaply from recyclable resources such as corn starch (and not petrolium/oil, like normal plastics). Plastics produced from biomaterials (such as PLA) are also known as bioplastics. In 2010, PLA was the second most used bioplastic in the world (by volume). However, it is the most commonly used material in 3D printing.

PLA is also popular because

PLA is also popular because it can be used for the production of many different things. In addition to 3D printing, it is also used in the manufacture of:


  • Plastic bottles
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  • Biodegradable medical devices (such as screws and plates that are expected to degrade within 6-12 months)
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  • Prototypes in pharma and other industries
  • .

PLA has a low melting point of around 160°C, which makes it ideal for 3D printing as you don't need to spend much energy on heating in the production process. However, it also has the disadvantage that it can limit the possibilities of use, as deformations will occur in the product if it is used in, for example, an oven.


How is it manufactured?

As mentioned earlier, PLA is made from recyclable and natural resources such as corn. The starch in corn is extracted from plants and turned into dextrose by adding enzymes. It is then converted into lactic acid using microorganisms, which can eventually be turned into PLA. This process results in PLA resembling petroleum-based plastics on a molecular level.

This is very positive.

The fact that PLA is made from recyclable resources is very positive, as traditional plastic production methods utilise oil, which is a limited resource. But of course, this raises the question of using food to make plastic instead of using it to feed the world population.

Is it that environmentally friendly?

Although there are elements of greenwashing, PLA is biodegradable and therefore a step in the right direction away from plastics made from oil. In addition to being plant-based, the production of PLA also emits significantly fewer greenhouse gases and uses much less energy in the production process.

Does that mean you can just throw it into nature without a second thought?.

Biodegradable should not be confused with compostable, as there are important differences between these 2 definitions and they are often misunderstood. A biodegradable material can break down under certain conditions. PLA can be 100% recycled if it is included in the recycling system. Although it is labelled as biodegradable, it will only degrade in nature under the right conditions and will, for example, only partially degrade over a period of 6 months at a temperature of around 60°C. However, it can be burned and only produces carbon, oxygen and hydrogen upon combustion

So you can't just throw it into nature and have a clear conscience. The best thing is still to include it in the recycling system


Why do we use it at WeShape?

At WeShape, we use PLA in our production because:

  • It is the most environmentally friendly alternative. Even though it is far from a natural product, it is still better for the environment than traditional plastic.
  • In addition, PLA also has some practical benefits, such as a relatively low melting temperature, which is an advantage in the printing process
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  • It's relatively inexpensive, which means it's also cheaper for our customers
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  • It is a reliable material, as there has been a high utilisation of PLA for a long period of time. This has meant that there has been massive investment in making high quality PLA, which gives good and stable prints in a 3D printer. . Is this something you can support? Then check out our products and see if you need a Mandalorian headset holder or some mounts/brackets for your smart home products.